Obama Waffles – Racist or Fair Satire?
Activists at a conservative political forum snapped up boxes of waffle mix depicting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as a racial stereotype on its front and wearing Arab-like headdress on its top flap.
Values Voter Summit organizers cut off sales of Obama Waffles boxes on Saturday, saying they had not realized the boxes displayed ”offensive material.” The summit and the exhibit hall where the boxes were sold had been open since Thursday afternoon.
The box was meant as political satire, said Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, two writers from Franklin, Tenn., who created the mix. They sold it for $10 a box from a rented booth at the summit sponsored by the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.
David Nammo, executive director of the lobbying group FRC Action, said summit organizers were told the boxes were a parody of Obama’s policy positions but had not examined them closely.
Republican Party stalwarts Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were among speakers at the forum, which officials said drew 2,100 activists from 44 states.
While Obama Waffles takes aim at Obama’s politics by poking fun at his public remarks and positions on issues, it also plays off the old image of the pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima, which has been widely criticized as a demeaning stereotype. Obama is portrayed with popping eyes and big, thick lips as he stares at a plate of waffles and smiles broadly.
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 sort of thing is quite juvenile. But racist? Aside from the bit about illegal aliens, there’s not much ammunition for the charge.
Cartoon images, especially satirical ones, always exaggerate people’s physical characteristics. That’s what makes them cartoons. But the cartoon images of both Obamas depict them as attractive people.
The main distortion in Barack Obama’s drawing is to over-exaggerate his slightly oversized ears. That’s not a racist stereotype; it’s making fun of him as an individual. His nose is quite slim. His lips are rather dark but not particularly large. This is hardly Barack as Sambo. No giant afro — even though there are old photos of him sporting one — no giant lips, no huge nose.
The Michelle Obama cartoon is even more flattering. She’s wearing a rather odd expression on her face but she’s well coifed — in straightened hair — has a very thin nose, and thin, light-colored lips. Indeed, she has no African American characteristics, stereotypical or otherwise, except brownish skin.
Barack Obama is running for president. He’s black. (That’s his self-proclaimed identity despite being half white and being raised almost entirely by his white mother and grandparents.) Because of the former, he’s going to be the target of satire. Because of the latter, the satirists are going to be vulnerable to charges of racism.
But let’s not be silly about it. The images on the Obama Waffles box are quite benign. Compare them, for example, to some of these:
Black Republicans get satired, too:
Okay, some of those are racist. There’s a line that can’t be cross that, like the late Potter Stewart, I can’t quite define but I know it when I see it. The Obama Waffles are safely on the other side.
I should note that they’re not particularly funny. Good satire is based on a strong kernel of truth and Obama doesn’t have a reputation as a flip-flopper. Why should he, after all: He’s only taken public positions on most controversial issues in the last two years. Stacy McCain is right: This is just a recycled joke from 2004.
I’m sure that if Hillary had won the Democratic nomination, Whitlock and DeMoss would have marketed “Hillary Waffles” — and then would have been accused of promoting sexist stereotypes, no doubt.
More troubling, though, is that he’s almost certainly right about this:
Is it possible to caricature a black man without being accused of “racial stereotype”? (Note to editorial cartoonists: If Obama is elected, you’ll have to endure four years of this crap.)
Either that or we’ll figure out more clearly where the lines are.
Box art courtesy Samantha Chang at The Improper.