So, I have to get in on this whole mess. To summarize: an Israeli born New York City fashion designer made a series of overpriced t-shirts capturing his professed hatred for Barack Obama, which proclaim such as "Obama is my slave" or "I killed Obama" or "Obama = Hitler". The first I heard of it was a NY Metro story about one of his customers, a white woman, who was beat down by a group of black women offended by the shirt, and who is now suing the designer "for everything he's got."
Many unanswered questions in the article:
1. Why exactly does this guy hate Obama so much?
2. How is Obama a slave?
3. In what way is Obama similar to Hitler?
4. Who is interested in wearing these statements across their chests?
5. Who would pay $69 for an ugly t-shirt?
6. Why does the article answer none of the pertinent questions?
Now, the problem with news like this is that it leaves a lot of open room for personal interpretation and blank-filling. For example, I've been led to assume that the slave comment comes from a belief that a black man would be a better slave than a president or the presumption that Obama is descended from African-American slaves. Either way, I would assume that the maker of the shirt was either racist or ignorant and dismiss him out of hand. But the statement is cryptic, and other interpretations may be possible. Someone might think the shirt is edgy and ironic, a way of (misguidedly) confronting unspoken racisms and hiply reappropriating negative terms, a la "Obama is my n-word." But surely, we have to ask ourselves what consumer would not assume that the shirt, leaving a lot of room for interpretation, would invite some anger from black Americans. Is the state of our race dialogue so degraded that this consumer would NOT know that?
The Hitler statement as well. Not really understanding the provenance of the thought -- how is a moderate American senator of mixed Kenyan and Ohian blood who grew up in Hawaii and became a law student and community organizer anything like a conflicted Austrian would-be artist with megalomaniac tendencies and the desire to impose strong ideologies on a frustrated nation in his quest for power (to describe him mildly)? A friend suggested it was Obama's ability to inspire worshipful reverence and absolute loyalty in a confused and addled youth. Another suggested it was his willingness to dialogue with Ahmedinajad, which has struck some Israel supporters the wrong way.
Now I think even speculating as to the meaning of such cryptic, open-ended statements opens the door to some interesting thought progressions. I've learned a lot about certain peoples' sensitivities and prejudices -- it's turned into something of a word-Rorschach.