The boxes of Obama Waffles for sale at the 2008 Values Voter Summit were certainly racist and offensive, and conference organizers did the right thing by shutting down the sales booth in their exhibit hall.
It was alternative journalists, including those working for Political Research Associates and People for the American Way, that first alerted the mainstream media to the offensive caricatures on the boxes with online posts from the conference.
While reviewing the caricatures, this post will also analyze the "humorous" text on the waffle box, and compare it to the content of conference speakers at the Values Voter Summit. Was the Obama Waffle box an anomaly in this Christian Right event?
The booth was open for business around noon on Saturday when the story broke. Boxes of Obama Waffles for selling for $10, and business was brisk.
Here are photos of two of the advertising panels at the booth. It was hard not to see the stereotyping.:
Is there a White racist subtext woven into the history of the Christian Right? While many Christian Right leaders have made efforts to involve Black pastors and stressed racial reconciliation, there is little talk of racial justice that would require institutional changes in America.
Religion scholar Randall Balmer revealed in his recent book that the energy to build the Christian Right in the late 1970s, often attributed to anti-abortion sentiments, was actually triggered by fears that segregated White Christian private schools would have their tax exempt status revoked by Jimmy Carter's Internal Revenue Service. Read more here.
Other racist stereotypes about Blacks were featured on the Obama Waffles box; the
Rev. Jeremiah Wright made an appearance on the side:
The caricature of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright includes "Popular Sayings: 'God***America' and "Made in the US of KKA"
There is a side panel recipe for "Barry's Bling Bling Waffle Ring" that features a "Recipe Rap" that begins with "Yo, B-rock here droppin' waffle knowledge" with the rest of the ditty written in such an irritating White caricature of Black rap that even a White 1920s vaudeville blackface crooner would be embarrassed.
The Obama Waffles box also includes stereotypes (reflecting fears) about Mexicans...
Under the caricature of Obama as a Mexican, there is a recipe card for "Open Border Fiesta Waffles." The recipe card depicts a perforated border between the U.S.A. and Mexico. The text under this says the "greatest danger of all is to allow walls to divide us."
At the Values Voter Summit there was a breakout session on "The Double Threat To Our National Security: Illegal Immigration," featuring Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a group calling for a high security border fence between the U.S. and Mexico.
The workshop pulsated with fears that immigration by Mexicans was bringing in waves of crime and disease--and perhaps a few terrorists.
The recipe card on the Obama Waffles box including ingredients such as goats milk and jalepeno peppers, and advises as a "Tip: While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language." The "Recommended Serving" is "4 or more illegal aliens."
Conference lead-off speaker Lou Dobbs, a vociferous anti-immigrant polemicist, posed for a picture at the booth while holding a box of Obama Waffles. He is reported to have said "My wife will love this," or something similar. Hard to confirm since the original photo and quote have vanished from the Internet.
There also were stereotypes (reflecting fears) about Muslims...
The box top features Obama with stereotypic Muslim headgear and the admonition: "Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles."
At the Values Voter Summit there was a breakout session on "The Double Threat To Our National Security: Radical Islam," featuring Frank Gaffney, President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. According to Right Web:
Gaffney says that today's main threat to peace and security is "Islamofascism," which is a terms he says "makes clear that the war is about much more than Iraq and Afghanistan" and includes those countries--namely, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and South Africa--which provide direct or indirect support for the Islamofascists "in their death struggle with us" (Jim Lobe, "Neo-Con Superhawk Earns His Wings on Port Flap," February 26, 2006). Read more here
Gaffney's presentation at the Values Voter Summit echoed these xenophobic assertions.
The side panel recipe for "Barack's Belgium Beauties" suggests that "Environmentally conscious consumers should pay two ozone-offset carbon credits to Al Gore's GreenWorld Fund. On the bottom of the box, is a "Clip&Save" coupon for "8 Al Gore Green Perks."
At the Values Voter Summit, there were suggestions that global warming was an over-rated concern, if not a liberal hoax.
Throughout the conference, speakers brought up criticisms of Barack Obama similar or even identical to the text on the Obama Waffles box, ridiculing Obama for talking about being a "citizen of the world," or misspeaking about "57 states." Stopping abortion was a central issue at the conference, and the box text, written as if by Barack Obama, reads "When Michelle and I mix up a batch for our family, we only use eggs gently coaxed from their mothers to assure the hen her freedom of choice."
Both John Kerry and Michelle Obama had a role to play
The mainstream media missed the real story of the Obama Waffles...that the text on the box was offensive, but so was the content of the Values Voters Summit itself.
Election year disclaimer: This post reflects my personal views, not the views of my employers, and is posted on my own time.