By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem
Editor’s Note: In this feature, we’re bringing back some of our favorite stories from Racialicious history. This week, in honor of the First Lady’s 50th Birthday, a 2008 piece defending her as she entered the national spotlight
Should white feminists be taken to task if they don’t defend Michelle Obama from the misogynistic attacks sure to continue coming her way as the presidential campaign unfolds? Not necessarily, say Corinne Douglas and Jacquelyn Gray, who wrote an editorial called “The Cost of Silence” at the Root.com.
In the article, Douglas and Gray argue that black women remained silent when Hillary Clinton suffered a litany of misogynistic attacks. Therefore, white women can’t be held accountable if they refuse to defend Michelle Obama from the evils of sexism. Douglas and Gray write:
The misogynistic savaging of Hillary Clinton was one of the most inexcusable elements of the primary campaign, and the silence from black women in the face of those attacks, because they supported Obama, was, at least, a tactical mistake. It is entirely unacceptable to go along with unfair attacks against women simply because you disagree with the particular woman under attack.
But here the authors make a number of assumptions. For one, not all black women supported Sen. Obama. High profile black women such as California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and author Maya Angelou supported Hillary Clinton. There were also black women, such as writer Rebecca Walker, who backed Sen. Obama while exposing the sexism targeted at Hillary Clinton. Walker, the goddaughter of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, even pointed out the ways in which Obama himself exhibited sexist behavior. Political commentator Donna Brazile is another example, as she was adamant about being a representative for both women and blacks during the primaries and did not publicly back either Clinton or Obama during that time. As for those black women who were not vocal about the sexism Sen. Clinton experienced, the assumption can’t be made that they did not speak out simply because she was Obama’s opponent.
Politico’s magazine has a cover piece on Michelle Obama called “>”Leaning Out: How Michelle Obama Became a Feminist Nightmare.” Or, it could have been titled “random feminists are disappointed.” As per usual, the piece is long on other people’s opinions about how Michelle Obama is single handedly failing the cause and short on actual analysis and historical context.
The piece opens by sharing a story about a new political initiative that Michelle Obama is involved with, with writer Michelle Cottle implying that Obama’s focus on people and not policy is not enough:
Speaking last week at Bell Multicultural High School, a couple of miles north of the White House, the first lady touted the importance of a college degree, citing her own journey from a one-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s South Side to Princeton as evidence of how far hard work and good schooling can take you. “I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story,” she told the predominantly low-income, heavily minority student body.
Cottle goes on to explain that Obama’s visit to Bell Multicultural is part of a push for a campaign to encourage college completion. Cottle then complains that Obamas efforts with youth outreach are distressingly focused on actually talking to the youth, instead of digging deep and hitting hard at policy from the White House Garden.
This example is an interesting one to criticize, to say the least. Nothing is mentioned about DC’s unique space in public education debates, now forgotten after the heyday of high profile reformers. Not much is said about why there may be a focus on minority graduation rates from college, or why Bell Multicultural might be the perfect kind of place to launch an initiative focusing on low income students and college enrollment. No, no, Cottle would like us to understand that Michelle Obama is failing feminism because she insists on being motherly.
In Cottle’s own words:
Turns out, she was serious about that whole “mom-in-chief” business—it wasn’t merely a political strategy but also a personal choice.
Oh, the horror. Continue reading
By Guest Contributor Marly Pierre-Louis
I’m an activist and, one way or another, wherever I am, I always find my way to movement work, or it finds me. So when my partner and I uprooted our lives in Brooklyn for him to pursue a job opportunity in Amsterdam, I was excited to get involved. I figured since we’d be living here for the indefinite future, might as well jump in the mix. What were the issues? Who were the oppressed? And what were they fighting for? I met with organizers and did my research. Initially, I was disappointed at what seemed like a lack of collective struggle and as a result a lack of movement work. I didn’t detect a culture of resistance. But surely there was conflict in a society that celebrated a figure like Zwarte Piet.
In fact, there’s been more activity than ever before concerning Zwarte Piet, particularly in the last couple of months. In the Dutch mythology, every year Sinterklaas, more of a religious figure than our Santa Claus, rolls through the Netherlands from his home in Spain. Accompanying him are his servants known as Zwarte Piets or Black Piets. These characters are white adult men and women with their faces painted Black, red lipstick, gold hoop earrings and a black curly wig. Zwarte Piet is clumsy, subservient and unintelligent; a regular coon. In October, Quinsy Gario, a prominent anti Zwarte Piet activist who was arrested in 2011 for protesting the Sinterklaas parade (Trigger Warning: Police violence) while wearing a T-shirt that read, “Zwarte Piet is Racisme (Black Piet is racism)”, publicly denounced Zwarte Piet on a popular Dutch talk show, as racist and hurtful. Dutch Twitter went MAD, and an ugly, racist underbelly of the worst kind was revealed:
(Trigger Warning for pictures under the cut)
By Arturo R. García
I struggle to find words even for the images that we see on the news coverage. And I struggle to find words to describe how I feel about the losses. Up to this hour, I agonize, waiting for word to the fate of my very own relatives. What gives me renewed strength and great relief is that my own brother has communicated to us, and he had survived the onslaught. In the last two days, he has been gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands. He is very hungry and weary, as food supplies find it difficult to arrive in that hardest-hit area.
Mr. President, these last two days, there are moments when I feel that I should rally behind climate advocates who peacefully confront those historically responsible for the current state of our climate, these selfless people who fight coal, expose themselves to freezing temperatures or block oil pipelines. In fact, we are seeing increasing frustration, and thus more increased civil disobedience. The next two weeks, these people and many around the world who serve as our conscience will again remind us of this enormous responsibility. To the youth here who constantly remind us that their future is in peril, to the climate heroes who risk their life, reputation and personal liberties to stop drilling in polar regions and to those communities standing up to unsustainable and climate-disrupting sources of energy, we stand with them. We cannot solve problems at the same level of awareness that created them, as Dr. Pachauri alluded to Einstein earlier. We cannot solve climate change when we seek to spew more emissions.
Mr. President—and I express this with all sincerity, in solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home and with my brother who has not had food for the last three days, with all due respect, Mr. President, and I mean no disrespect for your kind hospitality, I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this COP, until a meaningful outcome is in sight; until concrete pledges have been made to ensure mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund—we cannot afford a fourth COP with an empty GCF; until the promise of the operationalization of a loss-and-damage mechanism has been fulfilled; until there is assurance on finance for adaptation; until we see real ambition on climate action in accordance with the principles we have so upheld.
– Naderev “Yeb” Saño, climate change commissioner for the Philippines, 2013 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
(Via Democracy Now)
In the wake of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan, we’ve opened up this space for our readers to share relief resources, and to pass some along ourselves.
Thanks, first of all, to DJ and longtime activist Kuttin Kandi for compiling this list of trustworthy relief groups. (Note: Be very wary of the Red Cross). Among the groups she mentions:
On Tuesday night, the filmmaking duo National Film Society held an online telethon encouraging fans to donate to these groups:
Also, Guidestar and Charity Navigator are providing their own listings of recommended groups to which you can donate.
Readers, are there any events/charities in your area related to the cause?
By Guest Contributor S. Nadia Hussain, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine
Gregory Cendana arrested in Washington DC during Oct 8th’s action for immigration reform. Photo by Soyun Park/AAPI Immigration Table.
On October 8, Gregory Cendana, the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) was arrested, along with two hundred other activists and eight members of Congress in our nation’s capitol. In photos from that day, he is seen being led away in handcuffs with a pride flag tied around his neck like superhero cape and a handwritten t-shirt — with the words “Not your Model Minority” scrawled on the front. Cendana is Asian American and his actions that day stood as a testament to the diverse communities that are impacted by the lack of immigration reform.
Immigration is often framed as an issue impacting mostly Latino populations. According to the Pew Hispanic Center — though the modern immigration wave from Latin America has made up 50% of US immigration, migration from Asia makes up a substantial 27%. Outside of Mexico, the leading countries of origin of immigrants are India, the Philippines and China. Asians make up 13% of the US undocumented population. The US Office of Homeland security estimates that as of 2009, the largest undocumented Asian populations are 270,000 immigrants from the Philippines, 200,000 from India, 200,000 from Korea and 120,000 from China.
Photo courtesy of ctrouper on Flickr
By Guest Contributor Black Women for Wellness and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice
As the rest of the country is busy restricting safe and legal access to abortion with mandatory waiting periods, costly clinic restrictions and by targeting doctors, California has become a beacon for reproductive justice and health.
Last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 154, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, which now authorizes trained Nurse Practitioners (NPs), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) to provide first-trimester abortions under the terms of their licenses (these same providers can already offer abortion with medications). The governor also signed AB 980, which allows abortion facilities to meet the same standards as primary care clinics. With nearly half of California counties lacking an accessible abortion provider, these new laws will help alleviate challenges that many women in our communities face when trying to access abortion services.
Women in rural areas often have to travel long distances to obtain care. This can mean taking extra time off work and finding extended childcare. At the same time, community clinics in urban areas (particularly communities of color) are overburdened, with as many as 1 provider to 2,000 patients in some areas. Women who need an abortion might have to wait a week or longer to get an appointment and then still might spend all day waiting to be seen. Again, this means taking more time off work or studies. Delays can complicate risk and second trimester procedures can be more cost-prohibitive for many poor and uninsured Black women and Latin@s.
And while there’s still a common misconception that abortion is a white woman’s issue, these new laws are particularly important wins for communities of color.