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Opinion: Breakfast of chumps

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In addition to featuring an abbreviated Who’s Who of prominent conservatives, last weekend’s Values Voters Summit at the Hilton Washington offered aisles of conservative merchandise -- including a box of waffle mix that now sits on my desk in The Times’ D.C. Bureau. I didn’t purchase ‘Obama’s Waffles’ out of ideological solidarity or even a fondness for waffles. Rather, I wanted proof that the Values Voters had undervalued good taste. Not becuse the purveyors of the waffle mix took swipes at Obama on the box -- I admit to chuckling over the slogan ‘Change you can taste’ -- but because of the gag product’s echo of a ‘real’ African-American purveyor of breakfast food.

I’m referring, of course, to Aunt Jemima. (Obama/Jemima -- get it?) The African-American icon for pancake and waffle mix and, later, syrup, is regarded as a beloved figure by her manufacturers. But she makes some consumers uneasy because she evokes black domestics of a bygone era. Recognizing that fact, Quaker Oats in 1989 gave her a makeover, putting her on a diet, removing her headband, and adorning her with pearl earrings and a lace collar. (This may have been overcompensation; who wears pearl earrings while preparing waffles? It’s like putting Uncle Ben in a top hat and tails.) Even with her new look, however, Jemima as even a satirical role model for Obama is abysmally insensitive if not insulting.

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That was recognized even by the sponsor of the summit, FRCAction, the legislative arm of the Family Research Council. In a statement issued the day after I bought my box of Obama’s Waffles, FRCAction conceded that the product represented ‘an attempt at parody that crosses the line into coarseness and bias.’ When the waffles were brough to the attention of FRC officials, the statement said, ‘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.’ At least they didn’t waffle.

Photos of the Obama Waffles box courtesy of AP Photo/Evan Vucci.


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