West Jordan company says it is a 'cute and cuddly toy'
Yes we can . . .create very offensive toys.
The Internet has erupted this week with indignation directed toward a West Jordan couple who apparently created "The Sock Obama," a traditional sock monkey with black hair and a suit, a take-off on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
The company selling the monkey is registered to David and Elizabeth Lawson of West Jordan, according to Utah Department of Commerce records.
According to the Web site, its makers created the "cute and cuddly toy" because they were proud of Obama's achievements and to introduce children to the political process.
"We hope you love the Obama toy as much as we do," the site says.
But love is not the reaction many are having.
"I was really very surprised to see something like that because it is pure racism and it's extreme," said Jeanetta Williams, president of the regional chapter of the NAACP. "We thought racism was being healed with a viable candidate who happens to be African-American. But then to see him mocked with that kind of caricature is surprising . . .I just hope other people, not just African-Americans, would be as outraged by this."
No number was listed for the couple and there was no response to an e-mail sent through the company's Web site on Friday.
However, in a statement released to various outlets, the creators of The Sock Obama said they were "saddened that some individuals have chosen to misinterpret our plush toy."
"It is not, nor has it ever been our objective to hurt, dismay or anger anyone. We guess there is an element of naivete on our part," they wrote. "We simply made a casual and affectionate observation one night, and a charming association between a candidate and a toy we had when we were little. We wonder now if this might be a great opportunity to take this moment to really try and transcend still existing racial biases."
Charles Henderson, a black Democrat running for the Utah House of Representatives, was amazed that the makers could claim ignorance to the racial undertones of their toy.
"When have you ever seen another presidential candidate depicted in such a manner? This has been around for 100-plus years, how can you not be aware of that?" he said. "It just blows me away that this would happen. Here we are in 2008 and some people still haven't gotten it."
Misty Fowler, the chairwoman of the grassroots group Utah for Obama, said she doesn't believe the portrayal of Obama represents the average Utahn's views.
"The sock monkey as Senator Obama is obviously a racist thing, but whether their motivation was a racist one or is unintentional naivete, I don't know," she said. "I've talked to quite a few other Obama supporters here locally, but it's something we're just trying to ignore because it's not worth our time."
Special Thanks to The Denver Post