An e-mail sent by a Republican aide, entitled Historical Keepsake Photo, features portraits of the first 43 American presidents in a variety of dignified and statesmanlike poses. The succession of white faces, however, comes to an abrupt halt in the final and 44th panel which displays just a pair of cartoon eyeballs set against an entirely dark background.
Little more than six months since the US elected its first black president and Barack Obama declared “change has come to America”, hopes that the country is finally overcoming a racist past are being tempered by evidence that parts of it — sections of the Republican Party in particular — remain aghast at the notion of a black First Family.
While most of the country shifted towards Democrats in November, a striking swath, stretching from rural western Pennsylvania, extending southwest through Appalachia and encompassing most of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, swung against Mr Obama. Sherri Goforth, who works as a legislative assistant for the Republican leadership in the Tennessee state senate, was given a written reprimand this week but allowed to keep her job after being identified as having sent out the e-mail with the presidential portraits.
Asked if she understood that the depiction of Mr Obama was offensive, Ms Goforth was quoted as saying she regretted sending it to the wrong e-mail list. “I inadvertently hit the wrong button,” she said. “I’m very sick about it and it’s one of those things I can’t change or take back.”