Obama Waffles September 13, 2008

Obama Waffles

***UPDATE***: This is an email from one of the protesters, Rick Wingrove, explaining why atheists need to be present at these types of summits:

An exhibitor at the Values Voters Convention in Washington DC this weekend was selling an item called Obama Waffles. It is a stunningly racist caricature of Barack Obama. The front of the box has a grinning Obama serving food. There is a menacing caricature of an angry Michelle Obama on the back. The top features a Muslim Obama with the instructions to point the box towards Mecca.

I confronted the seller, then complained to event staff and directed several cameras and reporters to the booth. By the end of the day, the event organizers made the guy close his booth and leave.

The first reaction of everyone I showed this box to was jaw-dropping shock. I confronted former presidential candidate Gary Bauer about this affront. He refused to condemn the product. If these represent the values of the “Values Voters”, I know all I need to know about their values.

Rick Wingrove

At the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. this weekend, a vendor was kicked out for overt racism wrapped in the guise of satire:

Protesters from American Atheists eventually got them removed:

Eric Herrman from American Atheists said the box was racist because it conjures up images of Aunt Jemima, the woman portrayed on a syrup bottle.

“Let’s say we sold a pig lipstick product, we probably have to leave for the same reason,” Herrman said as he handed out literature outside the Hilton Hotel. “A caribou doll would be considered so sexist.”

Herrman and two others from the organization said they sent reporters down to look at the waffle mix. When they found out that the vendors were asked to leave, they high fived each other.

The high-five is quite tacky, but yay for being successful.

The guy who created the product sees nothing wrong with it:

Bob DeMoss, who created the product and said the boxes have been called racist before, packed up his boxes this afternoon.

What’s wrong with Aunt Jemima? I always looked at that as a symbol of quality. Betty Crocker or Emeril’s are made up characters. They don’t get it.” he said. “It’s unfortunate; they have their freedom of speech and it’d be nice if we had ours.”

DeMoss said that some have been offended by the top of the box.

“Does he have Muslim roots or not? That’s a legitimate question. That might offend somebody, but you know what, that’s part of the political satire and we’re raising the question,” DeMoss of of Franklin, Tennessee said. “I’m not questioning where his soul is today, he denies he has any Muslim roots at all. There seems to be contrary evidence to that.”


At least the director of Family Research Council Action (David Nammo) is speaking out against the waffles:

“We strongly condemn the tone and content of materials that were exhibited by one of the vendors at this weekend’s Values Voter Summit. The materials represent an attempt at parody that crosses the line into coarseness and bias.”

“The exhibitor contacted our reviewer just days before the Summit by email and described material that sounded like it was devoted to political flip-flops on policy issues. When the content of the materials was brought to the attention of FRC Action senior officials today, they were removed and the exhibit was dismantled by the vendor at our insistence. It is our responsibility to fully vet materials that are offered at any event we cosponsor, but we are deeply dismayed that this vendor violated the spirit, message and tone of our event in such an offensive manner”…

I don’t care so much about the waffles. But for the creator of the product to seriously think Obama is still a Muslim? That’s incredible to me.

How on earth can some people swim in that much ignorance and not even know it?

(via Christianity Today)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jeremy

    I honestly have no idea how that is racist. Maybe it’s because I don’t live in the hyper-racial-sensitive US…

    In poor taste? Definitely. Exhibiting “coarseness and bias”? Definitely. Downright perplexing? (Why is Obama depicted as Muslim?) Definitely. But racist? I just don’t see it…

  • Yeah, I don’t care so much about the waffle/Aunt Jemima tangential maybe-kinda-sorta racism much either. The idea that they seriously think that their parody has valid points (“lol, flip-flopping” and “closet Muslim!!!1!!!1!” specifically) is what is truly offensive about this piece. At this point, having been exposed to the lobotomy patients who still believe this crap, it seriously makes me want to gouge my eyes out.

    America, I weep for thee…

  • Mike Taylor

    The creator, (not to be confused with the Creator)of the product knows that Obama is not a Muslim but is playing to those who have doubts as to what might be true; sewing the seeds of hatred through comic relief.

  • I don’t see how American Atheists should be proud of themselves for squelching free speech — even ideas they find disgusting.

    Maybe you can explain that to me, Hemant.

  • I don’t see how American Atheists should be proud of themselves for squelching free speech — even ideas they find disgusting.

    Maybe you can explain that to me, Hemant.

    I don’t think they were trying to prevent free speech at all.

    They were trying to stop hateful speech — and the Christians running the event agreed that the product had no business being sold at a convention, especially one promoting “values.”

    I’m sure the atheists had issues with *plenty* of other things being said at the Summit. But I can’t imagine them trying to squelch what was being said there. They were peacefully protesting.

  • Daniel

    Maybe I am reading that wrong, but did DeMoss just say that Emeril is a made up character?

  • lynn

    If I were a Muslim I would find it very offensive that everyone seems to think it would be a horrible thing if Obama were Muslim.

  • Emeril is definitely real.

  • This guy probably thinks that Obama is a Muslim because he is listening to the local Nashville conservative talkshow hosts. They stir up the topic at least once a week and make a joke or comment about it at least once a day. I really feel sorry for the people that get their news from these guys because it is so full of lies and misinformation.

    I’d also say there is a good chance the guy is racist as well. It’s pretty common here (I live in the Nashville area) although it tends to hide just under the surface for the most part.

  • I don’t know, I kind of thought the waffles were funny, like some sort of political cartoon meta-parody thing. Oh man, the whole “Is Obama a Muslim?” thing is so ridiculous.

  • Like a couple of others I don’t understand how this is racist. How would you draw a caricature of ANYONE without it being racist? After all caricatures are all about enhancing prominent facial traits, and they tend to be connected to race.

    So. The waffles are stupid. If everyone interpreted them like miller above everything would be fine, but we know that won’t be the case. So, they’re stupid. But I completely fail to see how they’re anymore racist, or even hateful, than any other caricature. Sorry.

  • cipher

    I don’t know that he believes Obama to be a Muslim. He seems to be implying that even to have Muslim ancestry is an offense.

    Bauer – a waste of space. A Napolean complex if ever there was one.

    What’s a “caribou doll”?

  • Louis Doench

    “Betty Crocker or Emeril’s are made up characters”

    Ummmm Dude….
    Emeril is a real person.
    Trust me, I’ve met him.

  • cipher

    Emeril is a real person.
    Trust me, I’ve met him.

    Did he say, “BAM!”?

  • How on earth can some people swim in that much ignorance and not even know it?

    Hahah. What an ironic question!

  • Yes, it’s tasteless (I bet the waffles are too), but I’m not buying the “racist” part. People always drag that one out whenever the person being skewered is a minority. It dilutes legitimate charges of racism, and should be avoided.

    The thing is merely stupid. The Muslim charge is false, and belongs in the same file folder with moon hoaxers and the “Proctor-&-Gamble-are-satanists” crowd. But there is nothing racist in it.

  • SarahH

    Ugh, ugh, ugh. I cannot believe that people are still repeating (and believing) the Muslim rumors. And I’m also disgusted (although less surprised) that the people perpetuating them seem to think it would be some horrible stain on his character if he was a Muslim.

  • Ellen Birch

    I was one of the Atheists manning the table we had outside the conference. We were not “protesting,” we were there with information on separation of church and state, which most “values voters” don’t recognize. We got a box and everyone we showed it to had the same exact reaction- jaws dropped.

    We told the press and the organizers (who didn’t seem to be concerned). You need to read the entire box – it’s not just the caricatures, it’s the text, including a disgusting “rap.”

    By the way, until we saw the exhibit on Saturday, no one had complained, even though it was there on Thursday and Friday.

    And how is high-fiving a win for decency tacky?

  • The christianists continue to claim Obama is a Muslim. That was also the clear message on the Obama Waffles box, AND the clear message of the vendor when he was interviewed. NOW, when called on it, they have morphed the claim into a question about his “Muslim roots”.
    Why is that any more relevant than asking a chrisian about their Inquisition roots or their witch burning roots or their KKK lynch mob roots.

  • cipher

    Mmmmm… Obama waffles [drool]

  • Sudo

    Free speech > hate speech

    When an artist mocks religious beliefs, is that hate speech or free speech?

    Is it ok to desecrate a communion wafer to prove a point, protected under free speech?

    How about dipping a crucifix in urine and exhibiting it as art?

    Are the jokes and barbs thrown at the religious on late night talk shows and the routines of comedians (George Carlin anyone?) protected as free speech or does that qualify as hate speech?

    Can’t have it both ways. If you’re all for movies like Religulous, desecrating wafers, and whatever else, then you should have no problem with some idiot mocking Obama.

  • I think it is silly to try to make this into a race issue. As far as I can tell, the product isn’t racist and isn’t intended to be racist. There seems to be a natural assumption that attacks on women or people of color is automatically racist, but I find that to be a highly misleading and unfair standard.

    The boxes shouldn’t have been removed because they were racist, but because they are frickin’ stupid and espouse outright lies and ignorance. That much, at least, is evidently demonstrable.

  • Iztok

    If you’re all for movies like Religulous, desecrating wafers, and whatever else, then you should have no problem with some idiot mocking Obama.

    One is some sort of an object, other is a person. Big difference.

  • I was one of 4 Atheists who set up an information table outside the Values Voters Conference in DC on Saturday. We were not technically protesting, just discussing Separation of Church and State with anyone who walked up to our table.

    During a slow period, while all the Values voters were inside listening to Sean Hannity harangue Barack Obama for an hour, I wandered down to the vendors area. Most of the stuff there was the same old christianist propoganda. There was lots of christian nationalist literature, lots of Palin gear, some McCain gear, and lots of anti-Obama material. The same old stuff, all pretty disgusting, but hard to get too excited over because, sadly, we are just so used to seeing it. But my jaw dropped when I spotted that big Obama Waffles poster.

    It seems from the comments that some readers were unable to recognize the racism. The same people would also probably miss, or refuse to acknowledge the racism embodied in the word “uppity”. I prefer to think that this may be due to a lack of historical perspective.

    Having grown up in a racially segregated small city in the Texas panhandle in the ’50s and ’60’s, I immediately recognized the type of racially derisive caricature, known as “pickaninny” art, that was common in those days. There was nothing subtle or innocent about it. Some of the kids here have never seen it so they don’t recognize it. Many of the younger readers were born after MLK was shot and don’t know how awful things were in those days. We had every reason to hope that such things were part of an extended and ugly and shameful period in America that had been thrown on the trash pile of history.

    Sadly, no.

    Count on good solid christian republicans to bring it back to rear its ugly head at the ironically named “Values Voters” convention.

    Values? Not any values I need in my life.

    BTW – we also showed this box to a number of black attendees and passers-by to see if we might be off base in seeing racism. Everyone we showed the box to had the same reaction – drop-jawed shock and unanimous agreement that it was indeed flagrantly racist.

  • Rick, it might also be because some of us aren’t even from the US. I’ve seen this debate before and I recognise that there may be something to the “historical perspective” argument – but for how long will that argument be valid? WHEN will it start being ok to draw caricatures of non-caucasians? Just askin’.

  • As the members of the Spanish Olympic Basketball team discovered, having a little fun with the facial characteristics of people with a different genetic makeup can be offensive, even if no offense was intended.

    A caricature like you might get at Six Flags is not the same as one that may be used to exaggerate ethnic differences in a country and in an election where racial bigotry has already reared its ugly head.

    Intent has a lot to do with what is OK. This can be notoriously difficult to assess. Unless you have previous history.

    Republicans have a track record for cynically exploiting the lurking racism in this country. It is certainly not lost on them that an embarrassingly large percentage of Americans have openly admitted to being so bacwards, ill bred, and hateful that they would never vote for a black candidate. Period.

    I am not sure it is ever OK for serial race baiters to go old school as if there were a statute of limitations on stupidity.

    Of course, anyone is free to make any statement or use any kind of art they want but the choices may betray ignoble intentions, reveal ethical shortcomings, and lead to fully justified criticism.

  • Hey Lynn. I noticed you said, “If I were a Muslim I would find it very offensive that everyone seems to think it would be a horrible thing if Obama were Muslim.”

    I am a Muslim. I’m not so much offended by the implication that if Obama were Muslim he would be unfit to lead as I am worried about our future in the U.S. It makes me think we have a long way to go before we get the acceptance that others groups in America have. I don’t want any special privileges for Muslims but I think everyone in the U.S. should be able to run for office if they feel they are good candidates.

  • Gah. I live in Franklin. As if Dave Ramsey weren’t reason enough to leave this state…

  • absent sway

    The image is racially charged because of the stereotype of servile black domestics. Aunt Jemima is associated with minstrel shows. Without this old stereotype, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to the seller to associate sophisticated, powerful Barack Obama with cheap breakfast foods.

  • Polly

    As to why being Muslim might be a drawback in a president: well isn’t it obvious?

    A Muslim might allow terrorists to waltz into our country even if they’re KNOWN terrorists to train to take over airplanes and fly them into buildings!
    A Muslim might try to introduce theocratic, anti-science curriculum into our schools.
    A Muslim might take away our liberties without us even realizing it by eating away at our privacy and suspending habeas corpus. Because, you know, they don’t love freedom like we do.
    A Muslim might start using federal money to promote his own religion above others through social programs.

    No, we certainly wouldn’t want that.

  • Applauds Polly


    The difference between free speech and hate speech is in rhetorical effect.

    Hate speech has as its object the purpose of motivating people to treat some group or person differently for traits that they cannot control or are allowed leeway for by freedom of conscience.

    Actually, I don’t think this is hate speech necessarily, except for it’s wingnut-wurlitzer promotion of the “How-do-we-know-he’s-not-a-secret-Muslim-Wouldn’t-that-be-a-disaster” meme and the religious and race-based hate intrinsic to that.

    However, hate speech is also about context. And in this case, I think the box (which I haven’t been able to see very well–stupid work computer) is just the tip of the iceberg.

    And while I’m not some kind of cartoon expert, I’d say the one on this box does resemble the “pickaninny art” that should have passed along with the Civil Rights Act. Aunt Jemima doesn’t look like that, not since her latest makeover in the nineties, anyway.

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