Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is Mexican caricature the Bible Belt's new insult?

Negative tone has been rejected by some Christians, but continues nonetheless

Less than one month after the Hispanic Nashville Notebook called for evangelicals to get it right on Hispanics and immigration (see here), Bob DeMoss and Mark Whitlock, two well-known Christian writers from the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tennessee, are selling a product they call "Obama Waffles," in which Barack Obama appears in caricature in a Mexican sombrero, and references are made in jest to multiculturalism, foreign languages, and "illegal aliens."

Also this month, advocates of the proposed English Only foreign language ban superimposed the faces of their perceived political enemies onto a poster of the movie The Three Amigos, in which the characters are wearing Mexican mariachi uniforms (story on the Nashville Scene blog here).

Why would these caricatures be of concern for a Christian? Here's what I said last time:
In an environment in which Hispanics and/or immigrants are the subject of politically generated suspicion and scorn, it certainly isn't right for Southern Baptists and other evangelicals to gin up more suspicion and scorn.
Put another way, you don't use in a political barb the imagery of Mexicans and/or immigrants (even unvisaed immigrants), when mere association with them is the joke, if you are a Christian hell-bent on loving your neighbor as yourself. The negativity of it is wrong, and good conservatives have both warned against this kind of tone in the past (see Leslie Sanchez quotes here) and also asked for forgiveness for it in Nashville's LP Field (see Sam Brownback quote here).

At the Values Voters Summit where the Obama Waffles were sold, the organizers eventually ejected DeMoss' and Whitlock's booth and condemned their product as having improper "tone and content" and having "crosse[d] the line into coarseness and bias":
Family Research Council Action executive director David Nammo released the following statement:

"We strongly condemn the tone and content of materials that were exhibited by one of the vendors at this weekend's Values Voter Summit. The materials represent an attempt at parody that crosses the line into coarseness and bias."

"The exhibitor contacted our reviewer just days before the Summit by email and described material that sounded like it was devoted to political flip-flops on policy issues. When the content of the materials was brought to the attention of FRC Action senior officials today, 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."

"The Values Voter Summit represents a coming together of many long-established organizations that work across denominational and ethnic lines to celebrate and promote the family and a culture of life. We reject any communications that divide and distract us and frustrate these principles. Bishop Harry Jackson's High Impact Leadership Coalition, Gary Bauer's American Values, and Alliance Defense Fund join us in rejecting this material."

Source: Christianity Today


When asked why Obama was pictured in a sombrero, DeMoss and Whitlock gave the following explanation to the American News Project (video here):
"Positions on the, the border... We're havin' th-, him, erase the line between the U.S. and Mex-"
As of September 25, neither DeMoss nor Whitlock had responded to a Tuesday, September 16 e-mail request for an interview (sent to

Apology to Lou Dobbs

DeMoss and Whitlock have repeatedly defended their Obama Waffles product as "humor." To the extent that they have apologized for anything, it has been not for the box itself but for something else: having posted a picture of Lou Dobbs on their web site without Dobbs' permission. According to the story on (here), "the caption of the [since removed] post read:
"Lou Dobbs: 'My Wife Will Love This!'"
Images of Obama Waffles box: American News Project; Image of "Three Amigos": Nashville Scene

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