Frank Niemeir/AJC

Pam Lindley of Marietta holds up the T-shirt in question as about a dozen people protested outside Mulligan’s bar in Marietta Tuesday. They object to the establishment selling a Curious George t-shirt that says ‘Obama in ’08.’ The bar has caused controversy in the past with its billboard messages.

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A 2008 study found that the crude historical depictions of Blacks as ape-like may have disappeared from mainstream U.S. culture, but research presented in a new paper by psychologists at Stanford, Pennsylvania State University and the University of California-Berkeley reveals that many Americans subconsciously associate blacks with apes. Enter this week’s racist offense against Black people.

Meet Marietta, Georgia bar owner Mike Norman. Mr. Norman thought it’d be cute to sell T-shirts that feature a look-a-like of cartoon chimp Curious George peeling a banana, with “Obama in ’08” written underneath.

Mr. Norman says that there is nothing wrong with depicting Blacks as moneys and that after watching Obama, he began to see similarities between the him and Curious George.

It is precisely at this point that I’d like to remind you the reader that according to some, America doesn’t have a race problem.

I can’t say it any plainer than this: anytime a white man, especially a white man in the South takes to comparing Blacks to moneys, it is racist.

You can sugarcoat it, claim freedom of speech all day and all night, it is still racist.

And even if I didn’t want to believe that his intentions weren’t racist, after reading his comments in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it’s pretty crystal clear.

Norman acknowledged the imagery’s Jim Crow roots but said he sees nothing wrong with depicting a prominent African-American as a monkey.

“We’re not living in the (19)40’s,” he said. “Look at him . . . the hairline, the ears — he looks just like Curious George.”

He said he noted physical similarities between the Democratic frontrunner and the cartoon monkey while watching a Curious George movie with his grandchildren.

So you see, like with Chares Knipps’s blackface routine, which he clearly acknowledges is offensive to Blacks but continues to perform anyway, Mike Norman knows that portraying a Black man, any Black man, but especially, Sen. Obama as a monkey is blatantly racist. And the fact that Blacks in Marietta have attempted unsuccessfully to communicate this message to him is further proof of said racism.

For years, Blacks have been portrayed as monkeys, apes, and gorillas. The latest haven been athlete Lebron James on the cover of Vogue Magazine with supermodel Giselle Bundchen. Shot by controversial photographer Annie Leibovitz, James is portrayed with his mouth wide open and teeth exposed holding a trophy, so to speak. The image is being compared as the modern day interpretation of LeBron James as “King Kong” and Giselle Bundchen as “Fay Wray.”

Darkly images gained their popularity here in the U.S., then worldwide, in entertainment, children’s literature, mechanical banks and other toys and games of all sorts, cartoons and comic strips, advertisements, jewelry, textiles, postcards, sheet music, food branding and packaging, and other consumer goods.

For the paper “Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences,” research was conducted over six years at Stanford and Penn State. It involved mostly white male undergraduates. In a series of studies that subliminally flashed black or white male faces on a screen for a fraction of a second to “prime” the students, researchers found subjects could identify blurry ape drawings much faster after they were primed with black faces than with white faces. The researchers consistently discovered a black-ape association even if the young adults said they knew nothing about its historical connotations. The connection was made only with African American faces; the paper’s third study failed to find an ape association with other non-white groups, such as Asians. Despite such race-specific findings, the researchers stressed that dehumanization and animal imagery have been used for centuries to justify violence against many oppressed groups.

“Despite widespread opposition to racism, bias remains with us,” co-author Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford associate professor of psychology who is black, said. “African Americans are still dehumanized; we’re still associated with apes in this country. That association can lead people to endorse the beating of black suspects by police officers, and I think it has lots of other consequences that we have yet to uncover.”

I’m not going to argue over whether or not this is a freedom of speech issue, but I will argue that Mike Norman’s selling of this T-shirt is inherently racist as are his comments and those of his supporters. He knows, I know it, and you know it. I am sick and tired of racists like Norman and Knipps’ trying to hide behind the cloak of freedom of speech. If you’re bold enough to sell T-shirts depicting a Black man as a monkey or dress up in blackface and mock Blacks, then be bold enough to own up to it. The time for political correctness ended a long time ago and America could use a dose of reality.

I would also argue that if Mike Norman thinks that Obama even remotely resembles Curious George, he might want to have his eyes checked and possible rechecked. There are no similarities between Obama and Curious George expect through the lens of someone racially bias towards Blacks.

Just like only someone who’s racially bias towards whites could open a box of saltine crackers and see similarities between that cracker and a white man like Mike Norman.

Exhibit A – T-shirt being sold in Marietta, Georgia by Mike Norman

Exhibit B- Lebron James on the cover of Vogue Magazine, April 2008

Exhibit C – Darky” iconography frequently adorned the covers of sheet music from the 1870s through the 1940s

Exhibit D – Types of Mankind, 1854, by Josiah C. Nott and George Robins Gliddon used misleading illustrations to suggest that “Negroes” ranked between “Greeks” and chimpanzees