Marilyn Davenport, a Tea Party activist and member of the Orange County, California, GOP central committee, is under fire for sending a racist email about President Obama to conservative colleagues. The email reads, “Now you know why no birth certificate,” followed by the image below depicting the President as a chimpanzee.
The email perpetuates the birther myth, which seems only to be gathering steam despite having been refuted several times. As Garrett Epps writes for The Atlantic, “The drip-drip-drip of “birther” propaganda is part of a general, persistent assault on the legitimacy of immigrants and non-whites in American culture. Lurking behind the rhetoric of ‘I want my country back’ is a simple refusal to recognize the citizenship, or even the humanity, of anyone but white males.” This dehumanization is reflected in the depiction of the President as an ape, an image echoing historical associations of black people with brutes that were used as “evidence” of white racial superiority:
[ht Sociological Images]
The racist trope of black people as monkeys is universally familiar in American culture. There’s virtually no way someone repeating this trope would not be at least somewhat aware of its racist implications or history. On top of all that, this is not the first time Davenport has been implicated in racist behavior:
Michael J. Schroeder, an Orange County resident and former chairman of the California Republican Party, also said he was disgusted.
“This is a three strikes situation for Marilyn Davenport,” Schroeder said. “She was a passionate defender of former Newport Beach city councilman Dick Nichols who stated that he was voting against putting in more grass at Corona del Mar’s beach because, he said, there were already ‘too many Mexicans on the beach.’ She was also on the wrong side of the fence with the Los Alamitos mayor and his White House watermelon patch picture. Now, she has managed to top both of those incidents by comparing African Americans to monkeys. She has disgraced herself and needs to resign. If she doesn’t, the Republican Party must remove her.” (The OC Weekly)
So you might be as astounded as I was to read that Davenport is claiming there’s nothing racist about the email, and engaging in derailing “I am not a racist” bingo in response to news coverage of this incident:
Reached by telephone and asked if she thought the email was appropriate, Davenport said, “Oh, come on! Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a racist. It was a joke. I have friends who are black. Besides, I only sent it to a few people–mostly people I didn’t think would be upset by it.”