In Donald Trump’s America, race-baiting has become the new norm for conservatives. Even George W. Bush popped out of retirement for a moment to comment on this phenomena, saying that “bigotry seems emboldened.”
Fox News is largely to blame, both for the empowered bigotry of Donald Trump, and for creating a willing mass of conservative Americans to believe anything they hope is true, regardless of sourcing or journalistic standards. If you pay close attention, Donald Trump parrots Fox talking points almost word-for-word at times – and live-tweets Fox & Friends, his (presumptively) favorite show.
This morning, for some insane reason, “Fox & Friends” thought it would be appropriate to dress a black child up as a watermelon in an incident that many feel was overtly racist. While the racism inherent in such a display may have been accidental, the fact remains that on a national show, professionals should understand optics and perception. If you assume they do understand optics and perception, the incident becomes directly malicious, and, indeed, overtly racist.
Here’s the video:
Racial stereotypes based on watermelon have existed for well over a hundred years. Much like blackface and minstrel shows (which also included racist depictions of African-Americans being simple minded idiots who are happy as long as they’ve got some watermelon), understanding the deeply offensive nature of the association requires understanding history and possessing empathy, two things lacking in the Fox News crowd.
The stereotype fell out of vogue in the 1970s, only to make a roaring resurgence with the nomination and election of President Barack Obama.
The history of the watermelon stereotype is one of degradation and dehumanization. Could the child’s costume be perfectly innocent? Yes, it could. Do we have a responsibility to understand the history of our nation, and what certain symbols mean to communities? Yes, we do. This was incredibly insensitive and inappropriate at best, and disgustingly, outrageously offensive at worst.
It’s hard to believe that Fox doesn’t know this. It seems far more likely that it was a race-baiting attempt. If people call it offensive, and conservatives feel obligated to explain why no, it’s not racist, this is perfectly okay, then Fox has successfully created another situation where Americans are arguing about identity politics instead of concentrating on Trump’s (and the Republican Party by extension) incompetence.
Here’s a good video explaining why this association is not cool, courtesy of MTV:
Featured image via Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images