Earlier this month, I noted that CPAC, the premier political event for America’s conservatives, had not one but two white-supremacist dipwads as honored guests and speakers. Today, I’m continuing a Minnesota-focused discussion of political bigotry in action, as practiced by ALEC’s Mary Kiffmeyer, her fellow Republicans and her conservative allies at Minnesota Majority.
On Monday morning, TakeAction Minnesota, along with State Representative Rena Moran (65A) held a press conference condemning racially-derogatory imagery being promoted on a pro-photo ID website run by Minnesota Majority. Organizers of the press conference say the online images on WeWantVoterID.com imply that African-Americans and Latinos are looking to cheat Minnesota’s elections system.
Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota, one of the organizations leading the campaign against a photo ID amendment, took aim at the online message. “These images are racial-profiling of voters at its ugliest, designed to drive fear and racial division throughout Minnesota in order to help pass a photo ID amendment at the legislature and on the fall ballot. They’re wrong and they should be removed from public view immediately.”
The online banner depicts images of an African-American male dressed in a black-and-white-striped prison suit, and a person dressed in a blue mariachi costume, alongside other outlandish Halloween characters including a white-sheeted ghost, a ghoulish skeleton and a cartoon superhero. The online banner’s message reads “Voter Fraud: Watch How Easy It Is To Cheat In Minnesota’s Elections.”
State Representative Rena Moran, whose represents a racially-diverse district in St. Paul’s Frogtown, Near North End neighborhoods said she was “sickened” at the images and called the photo ID amendment they are attached to nothing less than a “21st century Jim Crow law.” Moran said she believes “those that seek to fan the flames of racial division and fear hurt Minnesotans who are already hurting too much. These images are nothing more than scare tactics used to make sure people of color are further marginalized from public life.”
A portion of the banner graphic appears at the top of this post. The person wearing the ghostly bedsheet is of course Minnesota Majority visual code for “spook”, meaning “Negro”. Taken with the black dude in prison stripes and the mariachi guy, that makes three racist references of varying subtlety. One could be written off as chance, two could be coincidence, but three? Three?! Hell, ESPN just fired a fellow for making one racist reference — and here we’ve got three crammed into one ad by a group that keeps insisting their motivations aren’t racist.
Somehow, I don’t think a professional ad or website design agency is responsible for this thing. A professional ad agency would have, unless ordered otherwise by their client, made sure to avoid any type of ethnic/racial references — instead of a white-sheeted “spook”, a mariachi guy, and a black guy in prison costume (and the wildcard zombie and the superhero-costumed entity thrown in for giggles), they’d all be trenchcoat-wearing spies along the lines of Mad magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” cartoons.
But no. This is what MM wanted, this is what they got, and it’s racist dogwhistling to their base.
UPDATE: Bear in mind that the Voter ID proponents have a long history of bigotry and racism. Mary Kiffmeyer, ALEC’s point woman in Minnesota and who is in tight with her political allies at Minnesota Majority, once defended Minnesota Majority’s writings on “racial purity” thus:
The last time Mary Kiffmeyer appeared in the mainstream press, she was defending writings about “racial purity” on the Minnesota Majority website:
Kiffmeyer said the page dealing with health care and its mention of racial purity must be understood in context. That phrase, she said, is simply descriptive.
“That’s a genetic term,” said Kiffmeyer, who is a nurse by training. “It does matter when you are doing medical studies.”
Drew Emmer, the communications director for the organization, said Kiffmeyer is the organization’s executive director and Jeff Davis, who has been active in pushing for a Minnesota anti-gay marriage amendment, is the president. [St Paul Pioneer Press]
Minnesota Majority quickly moved to edit those writings, but here’s the original text — and remember, it’s this text that Kiffmeyer defended:
FACT: The U.S. health care system serves the most diverse racial and ethnic population of any country in the world. This fact adversely affects every statistic by which we are compared to other countries. Black women, for a variety of reasons, are more prone to underweight babies than are Caucasian and Asian women. It is not surprising that Sweden has a lower infant mortality rate, or that Japan has a longer life expectancy than the United States does. They are nearly racially pure: we are not.