Moscow's Birthday Card to Barack Obama. Is This Racist?

"A banner unveiled across the exterior of the U.S. embassy in Moscow," RuptlyTV, YouTube screen capture.

“A banner unveiled across the exterior of the U.S. embassy in Moscow,” RuptlyTV, YouTube screen capture.

In the United States, Barack Obama celebrated his 53rd birthday yesterday. In Moscow, an anonymous group of young people climbed atop the U.S. embassy and hung a banner mocking the American President. The sign, pictured above, read, “I see nothing, I hear nothing, and I speak the truth to no one,” featuring three caricatures of Obama, likening him to the “three wise monkeys” of the Japanese proverb. 

Photographs of the Obama sign amused many in Russia, where Washington's support for the new government in Kyiv has made the United States more unpopular than ever. The online conversation seems to have changed when your humble RuNet Echo editor started a debate about whether the banner was in fact a racist attack on the first African-American U.S. President. Indeed, Russian Twitter users are no strangers to jokes comparing President Obama to monkeys, such as Duma deputy Irina Rodnina's infamous retweet of a doctored photo of the Obamas looking hungrily at a banana. 

Tweets about the banner being racist attracted reposts from dozens of people, including the Guardian's Shaun Walker, the Carnegie Endowment's Andrew Weiss, and even Estonian President Toomas Ilves. Dozens more, usually writing from Russia, contested the idea that the sign is racist, arguing that jokes about the “three wise monkeys” are common in political satire.


  • Vasily Kiryanov

    No, i don’t think it is somehow purposely racist. “Wise monkeys” caricatures often depict different polititians and public people all over the world. Why president Obama must be except? Only because he is ‘first afro-american president’? Well that’s problem of american racism that he is the first one…

  • Mark

    Kevin, are you not making a racist accusation yourself and not the Russians? If some Russians are comparing obama to a monkey, that’s not racism. The banner does not mention anything about Obama being in African American nor is there anything implying racial discrimination. You are the one that is implying that primate’s are comparable or resemble a certain race when you state this is racism.

  • Ed

    Most the people I see fixated on this being ‘racist’ are conservatives. Many of them claiming it shows Obama with a banana and they seem delighted. It’s sad many conservatives are so full of hate that they now embrace Putin and Russians poking fun at the POTUS.

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