Homespun BLM products including cookie kits, garden gnomes raise concerns of exploiting movement

A few weeks after nationwide protests erupted over the police killing of George Floyd, Julie Muller looked for something positive she could contribute to the movement from her Houston home.

The 67-year-old white woman, who has been selling homemade cookie-decorating kits online since March, decided to offer one with a Black Lives Matter theme. The kit comes with cookie cutters imprinted with former President Barack Obama’s face, sprinkles and icing in red, black and green — the colors of the Pan-African or Black Liberation flag.

Other examples of homespun BLM merchandise include wine stoppers and even garden gnomes — objects more often associated with white suburbia. The white sellers insist they are not trying to make light of racial issues or widen their profit margins. But to many onlookers, the sales through the crafts marketplace Etsy may straddle an uncomfortable line between supporting the movement and exploiting it.

Muller’s three children were the first to warn her she might appear to be capitalizing on racial unrest. But that’s partly why she wanted to act.

Julie Muller, who sells cookie decorating kits on Etsy, poses in her kitchen Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Julie Muller, who sells cookie decorating kits on Etsy, poses in her kitchen Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

“I’ve been thinking about what’s systemic racism and what is racial profiling,” Muller said. “It’s more about doing my part. What can I offer?”

The protest movement ignited by Floyd’s death in May under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer compelled businesses large and small to declare publicly that they were “woke” to the pain of Black people. Manufacturers soon began making BLM T-shirts, face masks and signs.

It’s not surprising that independent merchants wanted to express solidarity too, said Patti Williams, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

To demonstrate sincerity, sellers should commit to making these items permanently to show their efforts are not just an attempt “to jump on a fad,” she added.

There’s also potential for the items themselves to be seen as offensive or tone-deaf.

Sugar cookies with the likeness of President Obama are displayed as part of Julie Muller's cookie decorating kits which she sell on Etsy, on Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Sugar cookies with the likeness of President Obama are displayed as part of Julie Muller’s cookie decorating kits which she sell on Etsy, on Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Ashleigh Boutelle, 45, of Twin Peaks, California, custom paints garden gnomes as a side business. After making gay pride gnomes, he decided in July to try painting a Black Lives Matter gnome. The yellow-and-black-clad gnome — a nod to the colors used on a Black Lives Matter website — wears a “BLM” hat. He also painted it with a darker skin tone.

“I was just trying to be very careful and present something that you might say is neutral,” Boutelle said. “Hopefully, someone who sees it is not offended.”

He has since gotten a few orders for either Black Lives Matter gnomes or African American gnomes. Boutelle hopes people don’t question his sincerity because his support is displayed on a mythical figure with a pointy hat.

“I like the idea of offering it to

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Homespun BLM products include cookie kits, garden gnomes



Sugar cookies with the likeness of President Obama are displayed as part of Julie Muller's cookie decorating kits which she sell on Etsy, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. One of the cookie-decorating kits she offers has a Black Lives Matter theme. Amid all the Black Lives Matter themed T-shirts, face masks and signs appearing in recent months, some unconventional merchandise has been popping up on online crafts marketplace Etsy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


© Provided by Associated Press
Sugar cookies with the likeness of President Obama are displayed as part of Julie Muller’s cookie decorating kits which she sell on Etsy, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. One of the cookie-decorating kits she offers has a Black Lives Matter theme. Amid all the Black Lives Matter themed T-shirts, face masks and signs appearing in recent months, some unconventional merchandise has been popping up on online crafts marketplace Etsy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

A few weeks after nationwide protests erupted over the police killing of George Floyd, Julie Muller looked for something positive she could contribute to the movement from her Houston home.

The 67-year-old white woman, who has been selling homemade cookie-decorating kits online since March, decided to offer one with a Black Lives Matter theme. The kit comes with cookie cutters imprinted with former President Barack Obama’s face, sprinkles and icing in red, black and green — the colors of the Pan-African or Black Liberation flag.



Julie Muller, who sells cookie decorating kits on Etsy, makes cutout cookies for her Black Lives Matter kits Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. Amid all the Black Lives Matter themed T-shirts, face masks and signs appearing in recent months, some unconventional merchandise has been popping up on online crafts marketplace Etsy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


© Provided by Associated Press
Julie Muller, who sells cookie decorating kits on Etsy, makes cutout cookies for her Black Lives Matter kits Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. Amid all the Black Lives Matter themed T-shirts, face masks and signs appearing in recent months, some unconventional merchandise has been popping up on online crafts marketplace Etsy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Other examples of homespun BLM merchandise include wine stoppers and even garden gnomes — objects more often associated with white suburbia. The white sellers insist they are not trying to make light of racial issues or widen their profit margins. But to many onlookers, the sales through the crafts marketplace Etsy may straddle an uncomfortable line between supporting the movement and exploiting it.



This Sept. 21, 2020, photo provided by Ashleigh Boutelle in Twin Peaks, Calif., shows Black Lives Matter gnomes and gay pride gnomes he painted and is selling online. Amid all the Black Lives Matter themed T-shirts, face masks and signs appearing in recent months, some unconventional merchandise has been popping up on online crafts marketplace Etsy. (Ashleigh Boutelle via AP)


© Provided by Associated Press
This Sept. 21, 2020, photo provided by Ashleigh Boutelle in Twin Peaks, Calif., shows Black Lives Matter gnomes and gay pride gnomes he painted and is selling online. Amid all the Black Lives Matter themed T-shirts, face masks and signs appearing in recent months, some unconventional merchandise has been popping up on online crafts marketplace Etsy. (Ashleigh Boutelle via AP)

Muller’s three children were the first to warn her she might appear to be capitalizing on racial unrest. But that’s partly why she wanted to act.

“I’ve been thinking about what’s systemic racism and what is racial profiling,” Muller said. “It’s more about doing my part. What can I offer?”

The protest movement ignited by Floyd’s death in May under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer compelled businesses large and small to declare publicly that they were “woke” to the pain of Black people. Manufacturers soon began making BLM T-shirts, face masks and signs.

It’s not surprising that independent merchants wanted to express solidarity too, said Patti Williams, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.



Julie Muller, who sells cookie decorating kits on Etsy, mixes up cookie dough Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. One of the cookie-decorating kits she offers has a Black Lives Matter theme. Amid all the Black Lives Matter themed T-shirts, face masks and signs appearing in recent months, some unconventional merchandise has been popping up on online crafts marketplace Etsy. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


© Provided by Associated Press
Julie Muller, who sells cookie decorating kits on Etsy, mixes up cookie dough Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Houston. One of

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Despite two near kitchen fires, cookie baking night creates lasting memories | Momaha

The problem was immediately visible. In my haste to create a delicious snack the size of a human head, I failed to notice that our pizza pan was dappled with venting holes. Lots and lots of venting holes. Venting holes that caused dough to drop down onto the bottom of the oven, creating a hot minefield of miniature chocolate chip cookies, ladybug-sized cookies that were charred and crispy and full-on sizzling.

I quickly turned off the oven, shoved my arm into an oven mitt and scooped the teeny scorched cookies out onto the kitchen floor.

Problem solved. We would just have to wait for the oven to cool, and then I could wipe down the bottom before re-attempting our behemoth cookie.The kids stopped waving pillows and I sat down on the couch. Whew – that was a rush, right?

It smelled kind of good, though, like burnt cookies and berries.

The minute I turned my gaze to the kitchen, the smoke alarms started going off. Smoke was pouring from the stovetop, far more smoke than before. Whaaaat? I ran into the kitchen to see that in my haste to turn off the oven, I’d accidentally bumped the knob that turned on one of the back burners. The back burner that now had a bottle of berry-flavored Tums half-melted onto it because apparently I’d knocked them there when I’d been rushing to turn off the oven.

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