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Racist Parade Float

Racist Parade Float

A three-judge panel awarded this "parade entry" an honorable mention prize, according to local news reports. It is depicted as entered in the 39th Annual "Odd Fellows Fourth of July Parade," the annual affair in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The Nebraska Democratic Party called the incident one of the “worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the presidency that Nebraska has ever seen,” as cited in the Omaha World-Herald, the local newspaper.

By midday Monday, Norfolk city officials were making an effort to "clarify that while the City issued a permit for the... parade, it did not sponsor nor coordinate the event."

While the owner of the float reportedly has not been identified, this is not the first time it's been seen.

The Montana GOP Convention, two years ago, similarly exhibited an outhouse with the same sign, featuring implied bullet holes. A fake birth certificate reportedly was placed inside the structure as a stand-in for the Sears catalogue.

Some Nebraskans, parade spectators, described the entry as "racist," according to the same Omaha newspaper.

As you can see in the photo, the float portrayed President Obama as a zombie with a green face, standing outside a wooden outhouse with a sign that read “Obama presidential library.” The figure is clad in denim overalls atop a suit coat.

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When G.W. Bush left office, plenty of liberals enjoyed a cartoon that circulated at the time, noting he would need a presidential library as a place to keep his comic books. But no one foisted that as a three-dimensional image into the common grounds of a parade, certainly not on the day designated to celebrate all things American.

Obviously, some wish to communicate their vision that things that are "American" and worth celebrating are selective and exclusionary of other Americans and their achievements. Indeed, the message of that parade entry -- and moreover, that it won an award -- is a clear message that some accomplishments should be demeaned as charicatures, converted to menacing images of an "other" who does not belong, and as an ultimate insult, ridiculed on Independence Day.

We were prepared to heap shame on Norfolk, Nebraska, and opine that it's little wonder they are a backwater in a fly-over state. But not so fast.

We were prepared to heap shame on Norfolk, Nebraska, and opine that it's little wonder they are a backwater in a fly-over state. But not so fast.

"This incident and the controversy it caused does not reflect the character and spirit of our city or our state, and we hope to demonstrate that to all who are open to giving us the opportunity," said Norfolk Mayor Sue Fuchtman.

She also said, "We recognize and respect our citizens' differing political beliefs and their rights to express them freely; however, we are disappointed that the occasion of this family-friendly celebration of America's birth was used in a way that disparaged the office of the president."


It appears Mayor Fuchtman clearly recognizes the incident has the power to characterize her entire community.

She said, "As an open and inclusive city, we have a responsibility to foster an environment of free exchange but also one of civility, courtesy, and decency. We are a community of people who work hard, help our neighbors, welcome newcomers, and teach our kids the value of respect and responsibility."

The mayor didn't include a specific slap-down of the three parade judges who awarded the entry a prize, but the subtext seems to be there.

Larry Wines