A picture, it is said, is worth a thousand words. But to residents of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the image shown at the left conveys only one word: racism. NBC Bay Area reports that the sign, which inexplicably uses a likeness of Barack Obama to hype a one-day sale on “whole organic chicken,” appeared outside a Whole Foods store though Wednesday. On Thursday the sandwich board was pulled after — in the words of a Whole Foods spokesman — “it was brought to our attention by a shopper that it may be perceived as offensive.”
The shopper in question was Woody Henderson, who told reporters, “There are certain things that have been used to put down black people — watermelon, fried chicken.” But the ad mentions only chicken, not the method of cooking. So is a linkage between just-plain uncooked chicken and black people racist? Yes, said Jason Nunez of the Bronx, who offered, “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.”
Another neighbor, Jeffrey Schaper, is quoted as saying, “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.”
Mediaite’s Matt Weinstein, who describes the drawing of Obama as a “crude caricature,” brings up the name of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Even though Weinstein surmises that the decision to feature the image at one New York location (the chain has 331 stores nationwide) was” likely made without input from … Mackey,” he does remind readers that the CEO made news in January when he criticized Obamacare as “fascism.” (Likely made with input?)
Not everyone agrees that the sign was racist, but most see it as connoting something. I find it merely confusing. Is the implication that the president is a huge fan of chicken? A web search of his edible likes and dislikes suggests he is partial to Planters Trail Mix: Nuts, Seeds & Raisins, roasted almonds, pistachios, water, Dentyne Ice, MET-Rx chocolate roasted peanut protein bars, veggies (especially broccoli and spinach), handmade milk chocolates from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle, and spaghetti and meat balls. He dislikes mayo, salt-and-vinegar potato chips, asparagus (which he’ll eat if no other vegetables are available), and soft drinks. Chicken is not mentioned in either list.
Was the sign intended as some sort of put-down — an intimation that Obama “is chicken”? And again, if so, how?
Suffice it to say it is not the first time a president’s likeness is used in product advertising. The slideshow found here contains advertisements featuring the image of Obama’s immediate predecessor. And many of them are unequivocally demeaning.
As for Woody Henderson, a video of the NBC report states that he is not sure whether he will boycott the Whole Foods sale on chicken. He would be foolish not to take advantage of the offer. At a buck ninety-nine a pound, the price is hard to beat.
Howard Portnoy has written for HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, and The George Espenlaub Show.
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