Monday, February 11, 2008

Obama and his mother on TV

Apparently Barack Obama is now running a TV ad in Ohio in which he proclaims his support for universal health care and links this commitment to the story of how his mother died of cancer at 53. One can legitimately debate whether or not the health care plan he has proposed would actually provide "universal coverage," as the ad claims, but in some ways I think the most important feature of this ad actually has to do with something else.

The ad shows Obama's mother holding him when he was a little kid, and the visual message here is genuinely powerful. Obama is conspicuously emphasizing that he was the child of a mixed-race marriage and grew up in a multi-racial family--and the ad treats these relationships as though they were entirely normal and unproblematic. Many Americans (both white and black) are still uncomfortable about black-white marriages and about the idea of black children being raised by white parents. By confronting those anxieties head-on, this ad sends a trans-racial anti-polarizing message that is in no way less powerful because it is unspoken.

See it HERE.

(Incidentally, the reports I have read indicate that Obama is running TV ads about his health care plan in both Ohio and Texas. I'm not sure whether or not this particular ad is showing in Texas, too ... but I hope the answer is yes.)

--Jeff Weintraub