It was between four and five a.m. when the city of Prague and the bulk of Europe rejoiced over Sen. Barack Obama's victory over Sen. John McCain for the presidency of the United States. Throngs of expats and locals alike gathered in cafes and bars and a few even brought bottles of champagne to the Charles Bridge to celebrate.
There are already more than enough compilations of front page layouts from Nov. 5 to last a lifetime, and dead-tree media lovers found false hope in the long lines in front of the New York Times building of people wanting a memento of the historic election. (This just in: a bit of nostalgia does not replace hundreds of millions of long-gone advertising dollars.)
A quick survey of a "non-stop potraviny" in Prague (a 24-hour CVS/bodega/newsstand) netted three separate magazines with the President-elect on the cover. The first was innocuous enough:
The second one less so:
My girlfriend translated the headline: "Black Kennedy." And the third?:
The 'fro and the lettered teeth notwithstanding, that's a pretty terrible illustration of the man. A quick look around the latest Czech census seems to find that there aren't enough citizens of African descent to be included in the demographics breakdown. Be that as it may, that's no excuse for a cover that, for all intents and purposes, represents several major stereotypes—which many would call racist.
Much of Europe was proud to endorse the Democratic nominee—which seemed to be a good case of projection, since no country in Europe has elected a minority head of state. But regardless, I'm going to give the magazine the benefit of the doubt here. As an American political junkie and public school graduate, Obama's race and issues of race in general aren't unfamiliar to me. I don't think Respekt belied its name, but if this is how the Czech Republic sees America's next president, they have a pleasant surprise in store.