Sociology professor Orlando Patterson, who studies race, sees racism in Hillary Clinton's 3AM ad. Now this isn't more pedestrian foolishishness suggesting that the portion of the sleeping child's pajamas reading "Good Night" is a subliminal "Nig"[ger]. No, that sort of conspiracy-mongering is for professors at land grant state colleges. Dr. Patterson is on the faculty at Harvard University.
The racism is in the child's hair, not her pajamas. Specifically, her hair is a racist symbol because it is blonde.
every ad-maker, like every social linguist, knows that words are often the least important aspect of a message and are easily muted by powerful images….
The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father — or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black — both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.
This last sentence, or digression, says more about Patterson than it does about the ad. Mainly, it says that Orlando Patterson is a bean-counting obsessive who probably insists that Family Matters was a funnier sitcom than Seinfeld because Urkel was black while Kramer was whatever it was that Kramer was.
Patterson throws in an obligatory reference to Birth of A Nation, but even he can't quite bring himself to make the logical conclusion that Hillary Clinton's ad suggests that Barack Obama rapes prepubescent blonde girls. So I will say it for him: Hillary Clinton's 3AM ad suggests to a gullible white public that Barack Obama rapes prepubescent blonde girls.
Or perhaps it doesn't.
I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.
I didn't attend Harvard, and so I'm probably wrong, but the implicit danger in the phone ad – as I see it – is that the person answering the phone might be a very young man, with no practical experience at anything, someone who could not be trusted to tie his shoes. It's reverse-ageism, not racism.
Perhaps if Professor Patterson studied the sociology of age, he could see this. I'll suggest that in a parallel universe, where parallel Hillary Clinton's Republican opponent is parallel Colin Powell, she dares not run this ad.
In fact I don't know why she ran the ad in the first place, considering that if she wins the Democratic nomination it's going to be run right back at her with one minor edit, the face of the person answering the phone, by John McCain.
Perhaps a Harvard man could explain that riddle to me.