We’ve seen this before, right? Okay, so it hasn’t happened more than once in American history; but, the novelty of having an African-American president hasn’t worn off. And why should it? Barack Obama’s most significant political success to date, came as a consequence of successful branding. Yes, it took more than a few eloquent speeches to secure his position as the world’s most powerful man. But if you don’t believe me, just ask Ad Age. In case you’re wondering, they’re the people the people who voted him the Marketer of the Year back in 2008.
So having said that, is it any surprise that Obama’s image has been used to hock everything from gold coins to fried chicken all across the country? Seriously, you slap Obama’s name or face on anything and people will definitely take notice. Of course, this can be a good or bad thing for any budding entrepreneur. Case in point, check out what happened at an upper Manhattan Whole Foods Store in New York City this week:
An Upper West Side Whole Foods has removed a sign that used a drawing of President Barack Obama to advertise a sale on chicken after complaints that the ad was offensive.
The sign outside the supermarket on Columbus Avenue and 97th Street featuring an apparent caricature of Obama advertising an upcoming sale on whole organic chicken outraged neighbor Woody Henderson.
“There are certain things that have been used to put down black people — watermelon, fried chicken,” he said.
Jason Nunez of the Bronx said, ”Even if he’s not the president, you’re going to have an African American promoting the sale of chicken? They can do better than that.”
Residents and passersby agreed the man in the sign looks like Obama but not all thought it was derogatory.
“Obviously it looks like the president, but I don’t think it’s racist,” said Joseph Joshua.
A spokesman for Whole Foods said store artists create a variety of pop culture imagery to promote sales and events. The sign advertising the chicken was put up earlier in the week but taken down “once it was brought to our attention by a shopper that it may be perceived as offensive,” said the spokesman.
“There was no disrespect meant at all,” the spokesman said.
Henderson thinks the chain should take more responsibility. Another neighbor, Jeffrey Schaper, said, “I don’t think you can find a more pro-Democratic neighborhood. They’re sort of shooting themselves in the foot. It is pretty outrageous.” (source)
Personally, I don’t find the use of Obama’s image in this context to be insulting. Why? Because I happen to use the very same image as one of my avatars on my Twitter account. Of course I can understand how this may be offensive to some black people — the ones who are primarily still afraid to eat fried chicken or watermelon in public. But the truth is that Barack Obama eats fried chicken; and, him being black has nothing to do with him being predisposed to enjoying an occasional succulent piece of yard bird. And guess what5? White people do so as well. For me, however, I see a photo of Obama eating chicken as a powerful image that flies in the face of racist individuals. Naturally, these are folks who are still very much resentful of the notion that their birthright has been stolen; you know, racist attention-seeking idiots like Donald Trump and his fellow knuckle-dragging birther ilk.
For me, the image of Obama eating chicken — an image lifted from a very popular photo of Obama and Rev. Al Sharpton dining in Harlem seen above — says “Yes, I’m black, I’m proud and like it or not, I am the Presiodent of the United States.” I don’t know, but that’s what the above photo says to me. But then again, it’s not like I’m one of those racism-chasing bloggers. I’m sorry if the image of Obama eating chicken is annoying to some, but I don’t see it as racist — at least, not in this context. But hey, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m not always correct, right Besides, black folks aren’t eating organic chicken anyway — unlike Obama, most can’t afford to.