Sunday, September 14, 2008

Food & Politics Memo: Political Activists-Writers Insult U.S. Food and Grocery Industry With Their 'Obama Waffles' Mix

Two political activists-writers from Franklin, Tennessee USA this weekend insulted all the hard working Americans who toil daily in all sectors of the food and grocery industry.

The two writers, Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, set up a booth over the weekend at the conservative political summit held by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council in Washington D.C., where they sold a waffle mix with packaging depicting Democratic candidate for President of the United States Barack Obama in blatantly racist ways.

The front of the box of "Obama Waffles" (pictured at left) depicts the Presidential candidate with a huge grin, big lips and ears, and popping eyes next to a plate of waffles and the text "Change You Can Taste." The racial stereotype plays off the old, long-gone image of the pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima, which is considered a negative racial stereotype.

On the top of the box, Barack Obama is pictured wearing a Muslim turban, next to text that says: "Point box towards mecca for tastier waffles."

Senator Obama, who is a Christian, has been the victim of numerous false smears, mostly on the Internet and on conservative talk radio, saying he is a "closet Muslim" and not really a Christian.

A caricature of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of the Chicago, Illinois church Senator Obama attended for two decades, is portrayed on the side of the waffle box as a missing person next to sayings (he made in a widely played video) including: "God damn America" and "Made in the US of KKA." Obama broke ties with his former pastor. (We don't find that racist. They are among the things he said.)

On the back of the box, Obama is depicted in stereotypical Mexican dress, including a sombrero, above a recipe for ''Open Border Fiesta Waffles'' that says it can serve ''4 or more illegal aliens.'' The recipe includes a tip: ''While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language?'' (This seems in the acceptable bounds of political satire, although it's taste is questionable. It's the front of the box image and the top of the box image and text that are racist.)

In addition to their booth at this weekends event in Washington, D.C., the two writers have set up a website where they're selling the waffle mix via the Internet.

The two writers wore white chefs aprons and sold the waffle mix for $10 a box in their food show-style booth on Saturday. According to accounts from people attending the summit, the two were doing a brisk business selling the novelty waffle mix to summit participants until the organizers, who had approved the pair's participation along with other vendors at the summit, shut them down on Saturday afternoon, saying they were not previously aware the writers were selling "offensive material."

The box was meant as political satire, Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, the two writers who created the mix, told the U.S press today in Washington, D.C, adding their was no racist intentions in depicting Obama on the front of the box.

We like political satire. But the "Obama Waffle" mix is far from mere political satire. By including the African American stereotype image on the front of the box, along with the picture of Obama in Arab dress, the two writers knew full well what they were doing, despite saying there is no racial or religious motivation on their part. They were tapping into an undercurrent of racism and religious questioning that exists among some segments of the American electorate, intentionally using that undercurrent to reinforce a negative stereotype for partison political reasons.

Had the two writers, who we suggest stick to writing and not food product creation, used many of the same messages they did, such as the text about immigration on the back of the box, and completely avoided any photographic images of a racist nature, it would be political satire. But they didn't.

It would be no different than if someone created say a John McCain laxative cereal novelty product, filling the package with images of the Republican candidate for President constipated and near death, creating an ageist depiction in order to play up on the concerns among some segmnents of the U.S. electorate about electing a 73-year old who has had cancer and suffers from serious injuries (he can't raise his arms above his head) from his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

If there are any other so called political activist-writers out there considering similar food-oriented novelty items like the "Obama Waffle" mix, we encourage you to find another industry to piggyback on.

America's food and grocery industry is busy trying to produce, manufacture, distribute and sell products to consumers at a fair price in an environment with some of the highest food inflation and other economic challenges the country, consumers and the industry has experienced in many decades. They don't need 'no stinkin' political activist-writers mucking up their industry with racist food products, novelty or not.

The two writers from Tennessee have a right to create and market the waffle mix. But the two specific (front and top of the box) graphic images on the boxes are not only in bad taste but obviously racist. A little bit of creativity on their part could have created a better novelty waffle mix without the racist overtones. Guys: 'Don't quit your day jobs.'

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