So, a little late to the ball here, but I only just came across reports of indignation over a leftish German paper’s decision to illustrate Barack Obama’s clinching the Democratic nomination with a big front-page photo of the White House headlined: “Uncle Barack’s Cabin?” The tasteless headline itself I’m basically willing to believe was not so much racist as unreflective. I don’t think I’d grant the same benefit of the doubt if this were a U.S. paper, but I can imagine someone in Berlin just thinking it was clever to invoke a famous novel linked with American progress on racial equality, without immediately grokking all the connotations of suggesting someone is an “Uncle Tom.” But the editor’s attempt at a defense—while bolstering the “obliviousness” theory—is incredibly lame:
Editors at Taz defended their decision to run the headline on Thursday. “The headline is intended to be satirical,” deputy editor-in-chief Reiner Metzger told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ is a book that all Germans know and which they associate with issues of racism. The headline is supposed to make people think about these stereotypes. It works on many levels.”
He said that the issue of race surrounds Obama in the presidential election campaign. “The fact that he is African-American plays a constant role in the campaign, but no one talks about it explicitly. One can play with that fact.”
Yes, if there’s one issue the mainstream media has just scrupulously avoided, it’s the role race plays in the presidential campaign. Perhaps the paper should consider hiring someone who speaks English to do their reporting on U.S. politics?