Politics & Media
Nov 13, 2008, 05:17AM

Obama Abroad

Here's the view of our president-elect from the Czech Republic.

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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.

  • Interesting report from abroad, although I doubt Respekt was making any derogatory statement. Just lost in the translation, I think.

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  • I'm sorry, but that third cover had me in stitches. That looks like something out of a political Japanese manga. People in our country give too much credit to foreigners because we're surrounded by a lot of racism ourselves, but as this shows, people in Prague can be just as bigoted and racist, if not more so, than us here in America.

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  • Hey cuz, It's Jeff. Good stuff man! Just thought I would say hello. Let me know when you are going to be taking that summer drive......wait summer is over. Anyhow, good stuff though.

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  • I have to agree with Hunchback, it looks like a very serious case of lost in translation. The afro really got me wondering.

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  • I agree with Kodak. I don't think there is anything lost in translation here. Racism exists everywhere, but I've found that in Europe, racism almost seems more common. There are many seemingly intelligent Europeans who are not shy about sharing their racist views. I know we have our problems with racism in America, but I truly believe that we can at least have a mature national dialogue about race in this country, not to mention elect an African American president.

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  • Could be Phil, but that hasn't been my experience, certainly not in London or Denmark or Italy. France is another story, however, since there's been such an awful job of assimilating the huge influx of immigrants.

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  • Hey guys, you have no idea what Respekt style of illustration is or what kind of magazine it is - so please first of all learn a bit about it and then judge. They have Pavel Reisenauer as the author of covers for the magazine since 1990 I guess and this guy actually makes fun of stereotypes! This can no way can be call racist (as if you would call Swastika Eyes by Primal Scream fascist, since you see swastika in the title) and Respekt is very reasonable magazine, which was supporting Obama pretty much. So before judging, please mind the context.

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