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article imageA German Take On Obama's Win: Onkel Baracks Hutte, or Uncle Barack's Cabin

By Carolyn E. Price     Jun 10, 2008 in Politics
German newspaper Die Tageszeitung is said to have a "leftist social sensitivity" so how bizarre is it that after Barack Obama's win over Hillary Clinton last Thursday, the headline they chose for a picture of the White House was 'Uncle Barack's Cabin'?
Controversy continues to swirl around Barack Obama in the wake of his historic and much celebrated victory in the Democratic Presidential candidate primary run, and this time it is not coming from his church or from his wife.
Last Thursday, news outlets around the world reported to their readership on Obama's victory over Hillary Clinton after their long and protracted fight to win the title of presumptive nominee for the Democratic party's Presidential Candidate in 2008. I know that editors around the world probably struggled to find that elusive grab that would draw readers in. However, the editors at the Taz really outdid themselves with Uncle Barack's Cabin.
The caption under the photo read:
The White House in Washington: Will Barack Obama be the first black president to move in there?
OK that's not so bad, but why the reference in the headline to Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel written in 1852 entitled Uncle Tom's Cabin.
The expression Uncle Tom is a pejorative one that is used in reference to a black person being subservient to a white one. For the life of me, I cannot imagine how a black man winning the Presidency of the United States of America would make him somehow subservient to white Americans, do you? Apparently, I am not the only one.
The executive director of the American Academy (described as a private center which promotes trans-Atlantic relations) in Berlin says that the cover left him speechless. Gary Smith told the Spiegel Online:
'Uncle Tom' is a racial slur, and the Taz editors clearly sacrificed substance and principle for an unreflected laugh. A journalism that prides itself on treating stereotypes with irreverence needs to think harder about its own deployment of stereotypes and racial allusions. There are countless ways to address the issue of race in this year's election more intelligently.
Taz editorial staff defend their choice by saying it was meant to be satirical. Deputy editor-in-chief, Reiner Metzger is quoted as saying:
The headline is intended to be satirical. '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. 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.
As the Times Online asks: Unfortunate or offensive?
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