Chia Pet Obama

19 04 2009

Hmmm… since we supposedly live in a post-racial nation I suppose it’s okay to market and sell these:


Yup, that’s right – a Chia Pet Obama.  It’s a “special edition” and the plant on his head grows out and looks just like a green ‘fro, which exoticizes his hair.   The box says:

On the side of the Chia Obama planter are his famous words:


Can you grow one?


It’s been out on shelves and for order online since the beginning of this month.  After some customers complained that this product is racist some Walgreens in Tampa and Chicago pulled it from their shelves.  However it is still sold online here.

The Chia Obama has been incorporated in conversations and debates about how to talk about Obama without being racist.  It also ties into discussions about marketing Obama or capitalizing off him without being racist or employing racist stereotypes.  What bothers me is when people worry so much about how not to seem or be racist.  If you have to prelude your sentence(s) with “I’m not racist, but…”, “Not to be racist, but…” or “This might sound racist and all, but…” then chances are what you’re about to say is racist.

Now that racism is less blatant and overt and more covert, institutionalized and internalized, it is more difficult to call people (or companies) out on racist remarks or actions because people may dismiss your objection as you being “too sensitive, what’s the big deal?”  Besides, no one wants to be labeled as a big bad racist.  There is also the assumption that since we are “beyond racism” or “post-racial” that whenever someone says an insensitive racist comment they “don’t mean it”.

From Hate on Me:

The “I’m Down” syndrome has swept across America. The entire country is suddenly “down,” and not just “down” with black folks, but everyone feels like they are no longer a racist and feel fully confident asking you how you got that golden tan. Was it a weekend getaway to South Beach?

People were scared this was going to happen with the election. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t subscribe to school of thought that fears a black man being elected president is bad for minorities. I just think that Americans view their country, and themselves, a little differently now. “Hey, I’m not as racist as I thought I was.”

…See, American racism has gone through its own adorable life cycle.


Racism will not just disappear just like that.  Nor will ignorance.  And I think it’s important for everyone to examine their own privilege and understand how that affects their relationships with people and institutions, especially the power dynamics inherent in every relationship that are often invisible.  It’s especially important for everyone to question assumptions that they’ve internalized and normalized.



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