By now we’re used to politicians hitting below the belt when running for elected positions, especially in their political ads.
But how far is too far?
The race for governor is underway in the state of Louisiana, and the New Orleans branch of the NAACP is quite upset with U.S. Sen. David Vitter. The civil rights organization called on him to stop airing a television ad telling viewers that his Democratic rival, Rep. John Bel Edwards, would release thousands of “dangerous thugs” from prison if elected.
Morris Reed is president of the chapter. He accused Vitter’s campaign of “race baiting” and seeking to “strike fear in the hearts of the white community,” according to The New Orleans Advocate.
The advertisement seeks to tie Edwards to President Barack Obama by invoking remarks he made last month at Southern University about the need to stem the growth of the state’s prison population.
President Obama has advocated for the release of thousands of federal prisoners. The ad warns that, like the president, Edwards will also set thousands of convicts free.
The narration is accompanied by imagery that plays off of a popular stereotype regarding “thugs.” An image of a Black man wearing a do-rag and a white man sipping a beer is shown as a narrator says, “5,500 dangerous thugs, drug dealers…back into our neighborhood.”
Reed took offense to the ad’s inclusion of the word “thug.” He described the term as a slur comparable to the N-word.
“It attempts to polarize, in our opinion, the races in our state, by driving awedge between the Black community and white community and attempting to frighten the white community about the possible release of a large number of inmates from the prison system,” the former prosecutor and Criminal District Court judge said. “We don’t think we should blanket the entire prison community as thugs.”
It’s not secret that many Americans associate the word “thug” with a Black, male, baggy pants wearing individual. Creating an ad that plays on the fear possessed by many Americans during a time of tense racial tension does us all a disservice.
Click here to view the ad.