When I saw this cartoon, I shook my head. If there ever was an example of a simultaneously "neutral" and "provocative" editorial cartoon that stinks of racism then this is it.
Rape allusions? Check. Allusions to the myth of the black rapist? Check. Intentional provocation? (and denial...check out the comments section on the site that posted it) Check. Denial of racist intentions while all the while wallowing in racial provocation? Double check.
What has become more and more evident in the response of the mainstream media to the Tea Party brigands, as well as to the racially infused animus against Obama on the Right, is that Conservatives have won the Language Wars in this country. Quite smartly, the Right-wing made "Liberal" into a dirty word in the 1980s. Offered up "new-speak" such as "reverse racism." They, with the help of the Right-wing propaganda machine, have redefined "Progressives" as "fascists." And of course, the Right co-opted the language of colorblindness to serve a radically conservative agenda that reinforces the status quo of white privilege and white power. In the height of their absurdity, if one is to believe the logic of the Right-wing echo chamber, in the Age of Obama it is white men who are now victims of Jim Crow 2.0.
In total, these views embody an understanding of reality that is more than dumb. Quite frankly, it is both pitiable and stupid. Nevertheless, this bubble is comforting and intoxicating for those who live within it.
The coup de grace to this genius play on the part of the Right-wing in the Language Wars was the introduction of the concept, "the race card." Now, any discussion of racial inequality is itself racist. Those who call out obvious racism--see the Tea Party and their behavior as of late--are in fact "racists." If one is to pursue this logic, I am in fact a racist for daring to interrogate the ugliness and racial invective present in the Obama as Rapist of Liberty Cartoon.
I have given up in trying to understand those Conservatives who defend the Tea Baggers, who are unwillingly to denounce the bigots in their midst, or play the game of deflection and reversal ("well maybe there were a few bad apples in the bunch, but you libs are the real racists for calling it out!" or my favorite "prove that John Lewis was called a nigger! Prove it! You are just trying to discredit us! We Tea Baggers are the real victims of racism in this country!").
In total, the mental gymnastics that many Conservatives have resorted to in defense of the Tea Parties is a sign of a deep psychopathology.
Racism is their illness. It comes in many forms and varieties, but racism is nonetheless a sickness of the mind and of the soul. To understand their illness we must categorize and study it. In the genealogy of white racism there are the deniers; those who just don't see people of color as equals (we are quite literally invisible to many of them); those who are angry and resentful; those who traffic in the soft-bigotry of low expectations; and the willfully ignorant. The Right-wing populists and their enablers (with their know-nothing ethos) have members that are sick in all of these ways. In total, the idea of a Black man in the White House sickens them on an existential, psychological, and spiritual level. For Black Conservatives who defend the Tea Baggers, there sickness is also a profound one that is one part racial Stockholm syndrome enabled by a deeply internalized white racism.
Do not commit the common error in reasoning that this is "just about "race." No. Those who are sick with racism make poor choices generally--and are willingly to sacrifice the common good politically, socially, economically for all Americans--as a function of their illness.
A suggestion: listen to noted psychologist Dr. Na'im Akbar and reflect on the protests, language, and vitriol of the Tea Party, Palin brigades. Tell me, do his observations on the nature of white racism not fit their behavior perfectly?