Racist monkey caricature of Barack Obama sends emotions flying

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The owner of a bar in the US state of Georgia has designed a T Shirt depicting Senator Barack Obama in the form of a popular heroic monkey cartoon character known as Curious George. Critics have accused the Michael Norman designs — which have stirred widespread uproar — of pure racist stench. An accusation Mike Norman defends himself against.

The US democratic primaries is being rocked with yet another racist issue. The owner of Mulligan’s bar in Georgia, has designed and commercialised a T Shirt that represents Barack Obama. Some say it is nothing to write home about: since it is not the first.

Mike Norman claims that the intention behind linking the Curious George drawings to the democratic presidential candidate were innocent.

“He looks exactly like Curious George”

The T Shirt depicts a picture of the primate sporting a banana in its hand and a broad smile with an “Obama in 08” inscription below. Emotions have been flying high for some time now and demonstrations to denounce the racist cartoon while calling for its withdrawal from the market have been organised in Marietta, Mike Norman’s town. The Latino alliance for human rights as well as the Rev. Dwight Graves took part in the demonstration.

According to Mike Norman, linking the cartoon character to Obama is not racist, “we no more live in the 1940’s. Look at him. The haircut, the ears… he looks exactly like Curious George”. The head of the South-East Anti Defamation League, Bill Nigut, on the other hand, clearly states that Mike Norman is guilty of “shocking” and demeaning stereotypical insults to the African-American community.

George Bush as a monkey

Reactions to the controversy started by the Mike Norman T Shirt vary from one internet information site to another. Some do not consider the act to be racist while others say that President George Bush’s gestures are often compared to a chimpanzee’s, with the site Bush or Chimp hinting on the subject. The outgoing president has even been cartooned as “Uncurious George”, and termed as “probably, the worst president of all time”.

Michael Norman, though, could pay dearly for his T Shirt idea. Richard Blake, spokesperson for Houghton Mifflin, publishers of the Curious George adventures, told the media that “The use of the cartoon is offensive” and does not represent Curious George’s values. He also indicated that the publishing house will examine the case closely and consider all options, including a court action.

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