November 12, 2013
You may have seen some headlines like this recently:
The controversy swirls around a tweet sent out by Home Depot, a large nationwide hardware chain. Here is the original, since deleted post:
It is stupid on a lot of levels, not the least of which is how it somehow is meant to promote either Home Depot or College Gameday, which it sponsors. It is just a vain attempt to create a viral video and get their name out there. Again, it promotes neither hardware or college football, but I guess the name of the game is simply getting your name out there for any reason at all.
It really is a stupid picture, and the knee jerk reaction is to call it racist. I get it. Two black men and a gorilla. The racist symbolism is clear and obvious. Plus, looking at the “gorilla’s” hands, it is clear that the man in the suit is white. If one of the other guys put on the suit, the picture would show one white man, one black man, and a gorilla, which, while still stupid, might have avoided some of the racism claims. (Although you would still have the issue of a black man dressed as a gorilla, which some could still take offense at.)
But is this racist? Sure, it evokes racism, it even abuts racism. It brings the issue of racism immediately to mind.
But it is not racist. To be racist, it would have to equate the black men with the gorilla. It does not. The caption clearly reads “which drummer is not like the others?” It is not equating the black men with the gorilla.
The tweet is clearly stupid, and it is insensitive for so obviously bringing the specter of a racist stereotype image into what is meant to be a funny picture. But it is not racist. It is not insulting the people in the picture or people of any race. To immediately call this racist is a knee-jerk, though understandable, reaction.
Home Depot is guilty of being insensitive, and of being oblivious to what they are posting, but I think Home Depot stops a bit short of being racist.