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Is Today’s Google Doodle Racist? By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Only one of two possible scenarios is correct.  Either a young Google programmer decided to see if he could get away with showing an African American athlete chase after a watermelon themed track, or a terribly unlikely random coincidence occurred where a track was drawn that has a rounded green and white outside with red on the inside with dots that look like watermelon pits.

If it is the former, then what Google has allowed here is terribly offensive.  It would be offensive at any time but especially so during a week when the nation is suffering from a murder of Sikh worshipers by one who epitomizes intolerance and racism – this Google Doodle in unconscionable.

Most of the people surveyed for this article felt that it could not have been a coincidence.  There is just too much detail.

Racists have a history of portraying African Americans seeking and pursuing watermelons.  How did this association first develop? Dr. David Pilgrim, the Curator of the Jim Crow Museum, at Ferris State University, according to an article by sociologist Lisa Wade on the subject, explains that the defenders of slavery in this country utilized the watermelon as a symbol of simplicity.  “African Americans,”  the argument went, “were happy as slaves.  They didn’t need the complicated responsibilities of freedom, they just needed some shade and a cool, delicious treat.”

The article by Ms. Wade refers the reader to a website called  Abagond which has a number of these racist illustrations in its collection.  They are reproduced below.  The last one has “apparently benevolent” white people providing African Americans with all they need.

Google should either remove this Google Doodle immediately or change its details and apologize.  They should then investigate which of the two scenarios is true.

Racism, even as a “harmless joke”  has no place in our society.

A spokesperson for the communications department of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP, when asked about the Google Doodle this morning decided to “pass on commenting on the issue.”

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Posted by on August 7, 2012. Filed under In This Week's Edition,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

14 Responses to Is Today’s Google Doodle Racist? By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

  1. Alan

    August 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Are you serious?

    1. He looks Indian to me, not African American.
    2. He’s sporting a pompadour. (see #1)
    3. Many tracks are red.
    4. Most grass is green.
    5. Many tracks are lined…using white paint.
    6. One of the programers is Asian American, and judging my the traditional last name of the other, I am assuming Jewish. Put them together and you dont quite get the White Man’s Conspiracy you are searching for.
    7. This is 1 in a series of Google Doodles. Are the others racist because they are varying shades of brown, tan, yellow?

    Get over yourself. This is ridiculous.

    • Ethan

      August 7, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      Alan, the “get over yourself” line is pretty classic in situations where racism is called out.

      Maybe instead of drawing something that could be seen as offensive or racist, they could have just drawn something less ambiguous.

      if a bunch of folks notice something and say “Oh hey, this seems racist” it’s probably a good idea to just remove it – unless you don’t care that others are hurt by your actions. From your “get over yourself” line, it seems like you could care less that people interpret you or your actions/words as racist. Sounds like some toe-the-line white privilege to me.

      PS-non white folks can be racist as well.

      • Alan

        August 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm

        You’re partly right. I dont care how people interpret my actions. If they interpret something i say or do as racist or hate-based, that is a problem with how THEY think. I dont concern myself with such nonsense. I associate with adults, and as adults, i expect those around me to be able to rationalize rather than jump to wild conclusions. But based on your suggestion, we should bow down to anyone who takes any offense to even the most innocent statements or actions. I said “get over yourself” because it sounds to me like this guy is just trying to strike up a controversial converstion purely for the hell of it. Oh, and by the way…using terms like “white privilege” is a great way to come off as one of closet racists you referred to.

  2. Jennifer

    August 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    This article should be named Three Blind Mice as it is a fairytale, and perhaps wishful thinking.

    How you got to this conclusion, is beyond comprehension as nothing in that cartoon or picture closely resembles any kind of watermelon, black person, let alone racism.

    If it is a slow news day, just go to CNN and find something to write about, this is an outrage.

  3. Well Said

    August 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Great Article,

    If it is close enough to be interpreted as a racist remark, it should not be on the web.

    The first second i saw it, i was thinking of a black man and a watermelon and that is the point .

    Google should have some kind of valued and be more sensitive to this issue and to people that are offended by it

    • well yes

      August 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      WELL SAID, WELL SAID….Part of the job requirement should be “culture sensitivity” classes when servicing millions from various demographics. SCOLD WHOEVER APPROVED IT AND FIRE THE DOODLER. ANYBODY WHO DISAGREES NEEDS “CULTURE SENSITIVITY CLASSES AS WELL. PEACE AND LOVE.

  4. Chutzpah

    August 7, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    in case you didn’t notice, its strictly a track and Field picture in the spirit of the Olympics.

    The only offensive picture in this article, are the ones that are added at the end of the article. that is pure racism.

  5. BatSheva

    August 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Rabbi Hoffman, once again you wrote a beautiful piece.

    Spot on and great observation.

  6. B&H Shipping Dept.

    August 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I have 3 blacks working in my office, and none of them found it offensive. So if they are good with it, then i am good with it.

    • nay star

      August 8, 2012 at 9:12 am

      It is possible that your 3 black coworkers / employees simply didn’t want to get into it with you. Trust and believe the job security of the B&H three is much more important than a doodle. Blacks have been conditioned to live the outside life and the home life- you will never see the real them. Then again, if they aren’t American Blacks they may not get it. Furthermore, you cannot dismiss other peoples’ feelings because the three Blacks you know don’t agree.

  7. Ruchie

    August 7, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    My initial reaction when I saw the Google doodle (BEFORE I read this article) was, “Why is a black man running on a watermelon?” I DO NOT think Google was being racist. I just think the combination of images definitely gave the wrong impression.

  8. Sarah

    August 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    I also immediately saw a watermelon when I looked at the page this morning – couldn’t believe it so I googled “google racist watermelon” and found that others online saw the same thing. It’s possible the image was an oversight by google and an innocent mistake, but yes, I think it’s suspect and also possible it was someone’s sick joke. Many of us clearly see a watermelon image and black man, whether it was intentional or not. If naysayers don’t see it, fine, others clearly do.

    And what do you think of this from Vogue magazine from a few years back?
    http://harryallen.info/?p=363
    Even the dress is the same.

    PS: B&H Shipping Dept? What a creepy statement.

    • Alan

      August 8, 2012 at 9:20 am

      WOW….I hadnt seen this back when it was around. That is pretty blatant. Even if there wasnt any racial motivation…its still pretty outlandish. I would totally concede that that was a big No-No on the part of Vouge. I just dont see it with the Google Doodle.

  9. swrfuy

    August 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Definatelly racist.I was very shocked
    p.s am white and a southerner