After a one-week run, the Chia Obama was pulled from Walgreens stores in Chicago and Tampa on Friday over fears of racism, according to tbo.com.
The newest Chia Pet creation was a ceramic replica of President Barack Obama’s head and came in two models featuring different expressions: “happy” and “determined.”
Robert Elfinger, a spokesman for Walgreens, said Tuesday in a company statement “We decided to pull the product because it didn’t fit with our corporate image. We also didn’t want to be subject to any misinterpretation over the product. People could interpret it through a political viewpoint or other viewpoints and we want to avoid that situation.”
Fear of racism toward the president seems to have gotten out of hand. The Chia Obama exaggerates none of the president’s features, and the fact that its plant hair resembles an afro — like that of every other Chia Pet — is certainly not racist.
The Chia Obama is merely a reflection of his popularity. Obama has appeared in several comic books, including the cover of an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, and has inspired two new comics from Chicago-based comic publisher Devil’s Due, according to the Chicago Tribune. One, titled Barack the Barbarian, depicts the president as extremely muscular, wearing a loincloth and wielding a bloody battle axe. Obama also has his own line of action figures from Jailbreak Toys.
Joe Pedot, creator of the Chia Obama and president of Joseph Enterprises, which sells Chia Pets, was taken aback by Walgreens’ decision. He told the Tribune the clay bust was “totally patriotic” and “pro-American.”
“If someone calls me racist, I get livid,” he said. “I’m a Republican and voted for Obama.”
Pedot said he still plans to sell the Chia Obama online and is looking for stores to carry it.
“The stores love it. Our sales increased 50 percent day to day for the one week it was in the stores,” he said.
Walgreens’ competitors will do well to pick up the Chia Obama. Freedom of expression must not be limited by the unreasonable fear of accidental racism. If Obama’s likeness can appear in comic books and as action figures, there is nothing wrong with giving him a grass afro.