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Dec. 12 2009 - 3:15 pm | 880 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Michael Steele Strikes a Thug Pose With His White Interns

Michael Steele poses with an RNC intern. Photo via Talking Points Memo.

Michael Steele poses with an RNC intern. Photo via Talking Points Memo.

This Talking Points Memo photo gallery has been circulating the Interwebs in heavy rotation for the past day or two. In it, Michael Steele poses individually with the interns of the Republican National Committee, striking a different silly stance with each person.

When I saw the first few photos, I was nervous. Steele and the interns seem to be mimicking thug/rapper stances – in one, he and an intern lean against each other, arms crossed, trying to maintain a menacing look and avoid laughing. But as you flip through the gallery, the photos get less gangsta and more silly.

TPM labels the gallery “Best Boss Ever?” and indeed, there is something endearing about the head of the Republican Party not just learning an intern’s name, but actually taking the time to do something funny with each of them like this. But, as someone over at PostBourgie pointed out, “I’ve decided that the interns are actually mocking him in the photos and he doesn’t realize it. So I feel sad for him. Then mad at him.”

Whether Steele is actually in on the joke, the stunt looks like a continuation of what he promised would be an “off the hook” PR campaign to re-package the Republican party to young people. On this front, Adam Serwer at The American Prospect has good perspective:

I always thought there was a possibility that Steele was using Republicans’ desire not to be seen as racist in order to win the RNC race, but had every intent of driving them away from the racialized ignorance of “The Magic Negro.” But he’s still acting like he needs to win the approval of the people who elected him by reminding them how cool he is. …

Obama didn’t market himself to Hip-hop, heads were inspired by his example, despite, or perhaps because of, his rather insightful criticism of the culture. Steele is just assuming that being black makes this approach credible. It doesn’t.

It also goes without saying that of the 20 or so interns appearing in the photos, only one or two appears to be non-white. Take what you will from that in regard to whether Steele’s ascendance was purely a for-show move to make the party seem inclusive when, a year later, it doesn’t seem to be.


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    I'm a Los Angeles-based writer and editor focusing on pop and politics, race and culture, and where Gen-Yers fit into it all. My writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Christian Science Monitor, WashingtonPost.com, the San Francisco Chronicle and People magazine. Among other things, I'm Oregon-born, hip-hop-addicted, and weirdly optimistic that the journalism business will stay alive.

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