This Whole Foods Obama chicken ad misfires badly
In Manhattan's notoriously liberal Upper West Side, residents' complaints force the organic grocery chain to pull an ad they considered racist.
It's the home of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Natural History, Barnard and Juilliard.
It's just not the kind of place where Whole Foods (WFM) can put up an illustration of President Barack Obama touting the grocer's chicken special and expect folks to shrug it off as anything but racist. Yet the Whole Foods on 97th Street and Columbus Avenue put up just such a caricature earlier this week before receiving a flood of complaints.
A Whole Foods spokesman told The Huffington Post that the location ditched its caricature of the president selling organic chicken "once it was brought to our attention by a shopper that it may be perceived as offensive." Judging by the neighborhood's reaction, that's an understatement at best.
"There are certain things that have been used to put down black people," neighbor Woody Henderson told NBC 4 New York.
The same Whole Foods spokesman said the store's artists created various pop-culture images to promote sales and events, and that the image wasn't meant to be offensive. Were the depiction of President Obama selling Whole Foods' 365-brand cereal, it might not have offended anyone. However, the specific combination of the image and the product being sold didn't sit well with folks on the Upper West Side's streets.
"Even if he's not the president, you're going to have an African-American promoting the sale of chicken?" Jason Nunez of the Bronx asked NBC. "They can do better than that."
This hasn't been the first culture clash for Whole Foods and its clientele. Back in January, CEO John Mackey went on National Public Radio and compared the new health care law to fascism. He's also unsettled his notoriously left-leaning consumer base by identifying himself as a libertarian in 2005 and questioning employees' right to health care in 2009.
While slip-ups like the Obama ad may fly in places like Kentucky, where a man who put a mannequin of the president eating a watermelon on his front lawn didn't see how it could be construed as racist, the Upper West Side isn't a great place to play the "Who, us racist?" game.
"I don't think you can find a more pro-Democratic neighborhood," Whole Foods neighbor Jeffrey Schaper told NBC. "They're sort of shooting themselves in the foot."
The real problem is that we are all racists to some degree. It is human nature to gravitate to those most like yourself, not just in appearance but in life experience and perspective. This isn't malicious or by design. It just is what it is. This is why we need to be careful about generalizations and caricatures. While some stereotypes might be generally applied to one group or another, to assume that everyone within the group fits the stereotype is wrong.
Racism still exists. There are people who hate other people because of skin color or religion or ethnicity. This is also why we have to try to break out of the stereotypes and the assumptions. While everyone may share certain genetic similarities, this does not mean they share opinions, perspectives or biases. Some white people may hate black people, but not all white people hate black people. But we must never, by silence or fear, accede to racism and hatred. Hating someone else solely on the basis of color, ethnicity or religion is wrong. It leads to violence, and in extreme cases, to genocide. So we must always stand up against it. And we must never assume that it is no longer a problem. So long as there are human beings there will always be people who hate. So we must always we vigilant and prepared to stand up against stereotypes and hatred.
Simply wonderful...I love Whole Foods, enjoy frequent visits to Manhattan, and count myself as an economic conservative and social libertarian...can't stand the big government mindset of liberals like Obama. In addition to fantastic food, it's things like this that keep me loyal to Whole Foods...despite my frequent visits there where everyone looks like an unbathed hippie, seems overly fascinated with hemp-based clothing, and tries to shove their liberal politics down my throat.
People will use anything to cause a stir. Should I be offended if they use an Italian persons picture in a Ravioli ad? Mexican person when promoting tamales? Sadly this ad was most likely not even used on account of the presidents ethnicity, but his status and office. This stir is nothing but an over reaction by the few who look for a problem with everything and are happy with destroying everything for the rest of us.
It is amazing how the media will stick up for Obama and let him yet away with s----t. Look back at the things they wrote and say and the drawings and the jokes they made of Bush. But the media did nothing to stop or defend him. You cannot tell me that Obama is not in protection with the media. I say whats good for Bush is good for Obama. Shut up and take it you stupid Obama lovers!
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has created an anti-Obama culture in his company. Whole Foods seems to forget that a majority of its customers are Democratic party voters and may not necessarily be upper-middle-class people who vote for anyone who opposes new taxes. This appears to be a simple mis-step on the part of the offending store, but thanks to Mr. Mackey the entire company is on watch status. It's an insult that Mackey goes on speaking engagements and takes book-authoring credit as well.
All consumers who believe in the president would do well to stop the pricey trips to "Whole Paycheck" and use those savings to support something (or someone) more worthwhile.
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