You Barack It, You Buy It

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The day after America elected a black man president, a bundle of Washington Post newspapers were going for $400 on eBay. The L.A. Times made a cool 600K in Barack Obama merchandise. The ailing newspaper industry briefly got its swagger back when people realized that they couldn't frame their computer.


Unfortunately, that is not where Obamaphernalia ends. Right now, as I type this essay, I am wearing Obama socks. Knotted at my neck is an Obama tie. I'm wearing Obama underwear, an Obama sweater, Obama flip flops and Obama cuff links. I'm munching on my Obama 'Os cereal.

OK, so I am not wearing those things, but the point is I could be.

The other point is WTF?

The King family has long been criticized for its gangsterous guarding of MLK's image.

They sic their legal dogs on anyone who deigns to use Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s image on T-shirts. News media? Fifth-grade civics class? Pay up or they'll see you in court.

When the family sued to get a cut of the King-Obama merchandise, some of us doubted the family's claim that it's not about the money, but rather maintaining the integrity of the brand. No more.

We finally get it. Some suit, somewhere out there, should be protecting the legacy of our first black president from the Obama thong. In fact, his first act as president shouldn't be to straighten out the war or restart the economy, it should be to get his name off the thong. It should be a bill, and Congress should pass it immediately.

I understand that we are a microwave culture that processes moments in minutes. I was in D.C. when ex-mayor Marion Barry was caught smoking crack, and I was there the next day when everyone and their Uncle Claudell had a "The Bitch Set Me Up" T-shirt.


But I have never seen anything like the Obama madness. I mean the Obama cereal promises, "a spoonful of hope in every bowl." Even the most famous image of Obama, the face cast off into light looking both determined and focused painted in red, white and blue with the words, "Hope" and "Progress" is not immune. Stamped underneath is an image of its creator, the one-time graffiti artist, Shepard Fairey.

Obama is a man, not a demi-god, and having his face on everything from cereal to plates is borderline weird. I don't blame people for making this stuff since we are a consumer-driven culture, and everyone is looking to make a fast buck. I am more worried about the person who wants to eat a ham sandwich off a Barack Obama dinner plate. That is odd.


If you want to know why our economy sucks, look at anyone who would spend $10 on a 24-karat-gold-plated commemorative Barack Obama coin. That person should be flogged, publicly. I am all for branding, in fact I understand it to be part of marketing 101, but too much ice cream can cause weight gain. We are stuffed full of Obama, and he hasn't even been sworn into office yet.

Consumerism is one thing, but killing the spirit of the election and plastering the man's face on everything from hats to thongs is overkill. Before the election, Obama even joked with radio personality Big Tigger about it all. When Tigger asked Obama how it felt to be a cultural icon, Obama laughed and said, "I have put a lot of brothers in business. I have seen the shirts."


We've all seen the shirts. Now stop it.

Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a regular contributor to The Root.