Waffle racism (updated)

Obama wafflesThe biggest news measured by volume and my own personal opinion coming out of the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit was the infamous Obama Waffles. The incident is certainly the most memorable. While many news outlets covered the incident, I am going to focus on the Associated Press's account from Saturday. Here is the lead:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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.

That's a fairly brutal indictment in the lead: people attending the conference were willing to plunk down ten bucks for lousy waffle mix that the organization's spokesman said "crossed the line" into racism. See here how the evangelical publication/news outlet World magazine framed the perspective. Note that World's self-professed mission is to cover news from from the perspective of their interpretation of the Bible:

It's OK to say that Barack Obama waffles on the issues, but to humorously make that point with a box of Obama Waffles is not OK. In fact, it's racist.

OK, so it may be difficult to see where World is coming from on that one, but they certainly make clear whose fault it was for ending all of the exhibitors fun:

But then a member of American Atheists brought the exhibit to the attention of an Associated Press reporter covering the event. When the AP reporter started asking questions, the FRC told the exhibitors to dismantle the exhibit.

So is this story about a Christian group versus atheists?

The big thing no one seems to want to talk about is what this insensitivity to racial issues means about the values of the people attending the Voter Values Summit. There is plenty of suggestions that it's not positive (such as the fact that the exhibit remained up for a day and a half and 200 $10 boxes were sold), but no one is coming right out and talking about it. Perhaps it is the summit organizers admission by the that the boxes crossed the line and their strong condemnation of the subject matter?

My sister Sarah Pulliam, who published the first article (by 15 minutes) on the waffle stand on the Christianity Today Politics Blog, was the only of these three news outlets to mention that the religion angle in the waffle stand was more than just the fact that it was being held at an evangelical organization's convention: obama waffle selling

Men from Tennessee traveled to the Values Voter Summit to sell yellow boxes of waffle mix that portray a caricature of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama with a Muslim-like headdress and says "Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles." The cover of the box portrays a caricature of Obama's face next to waffles, which three protesters from American Atheists found offensive.

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 barbie 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.

Apparently, despite the waffle mix makers protests, questioning Obama's declared religious affiliation is still a relevant question in this race. Perhaps that's another angle that's worth exploring further.

I am opening myself up to accusations of bias here, but the CT coverage of this issue has more perspectives, more photos(!), the best description of the waffle mix and more coverage of this issue than any other news outlet. Pulliam also deserves credit for reporting in detail on the box's fine print.

UPDATE: How does this effort at what the makers of these waffles apparently believe is political satire compare to The New Yorker's now infamous Obama cover?

Photos taken at the Voter Values Summit by Christianity Today online editor Sarah Pulliam

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