July 4 parade float depicting Obama presidential library as outhouse draws cheers, controversy… Racist?

A Fourth of July parade float that depicted a figure standing outside an outhouse labeled the “Obama Presidential Library” has created a stir on social media and is also receiving criticism in Norfolk, Nebraska.

The float, in Norfolk’s annual Independence Day parade, was on a flatbed trailer being pulled by a blue pickup truck. The figure was dressed in overalls and standing next to a walker outside of the outhouse. The hands and head of the figure were greenish and appeared to be zombielike; the hands were pressed against the sides of the figure’s head. Miniature American flags were atop the float and on the truck.

Neither the float nor the pickup identified a sponsor; a sign in the windshield said it was entry No. 29.

Liz Guthrie of Pierce, Nebraska, took a photo of the float that has been widely circulated on social media.

From where she watched the parade, Guthrie said she could hear the crowd laughing and clapping as the float passed by.

Norfolk resident Glory Kathurima said she attended the parade with her 9-year-old daughter. As a black woman living in Norfolk, Kathurima said she found the float to be an offensive depiction of the president. She emailed Norfolk Mayor Sue Fuchtman as well as the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce and the Norfolk Daily News to voice her disapproval. She also wrote to the Norfolk Odd Fellows Lodge, which coordinated the parade.

Kathurima said the float seemed to be calling the president stupid, and the message seemed clear: “I don’t like Obama.”

The World-Herald also received several emails from people expressing concern. One email, from a person who said she had grown up in northeast Nebraska, called it disrespectful that such a display would be allowed in a parade that celebrates America’s history. The Nebraska Democratic Party also issued a statement, calling it one of the “worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the presidency that Nebraska has ever seen.”

Norfolk City Councilman Dick Pfeil also voiced his displeasure with the float.

“The City of Norfolk doesn’t condone that,” Pfeil said.

The councilman noted, however, that it was up to the Odd Fellows to approve the floats. A representative of the Odd Fellows did not return a phone message from a World-Herald reporter Saturday evening.

However, parade committee member Rick Konopasek told the Lincoln Journal-Star that the float wasn’t meant to be any more offensive than a political cartoon. He also said the outhouse float was the most popular one in the parade, and the three judges awarded it an honorable mention.

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