Tag Archives: biracial

Michelle Obama, feminism and the strong black woman

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’ve been following the media’s handling of race in its coverage of Barack Obama’s presidential bid very closely over the last few months. But right now I’m particularly riveted by the media coverage of his wife, Michelle Obama. Race, gender, and feminism are intersecting in fascinating ways. Here are some highlights.

As my fellow BlogHer Contributing Editor Laina Dawes wrote a few weeks back, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has criticized Michelle Obama’s light-hearted comments about her husband being “just a man” and not knowing how to put his socks in the laundry. Dowd felt that these remarks were “emasculating”:

Many people I talked to afterward found Michelle wondrous. But others worried that her chiding was emasculating, casting her husband – under fire for lacking experience – as an undisciplined child.

Just a few days ago, Michelle Obama resigned from her high-powered job as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals to focus on her husband’s presidential campaign.

Debra Dickerson, writing for Salon, declared that she is “in a feminist fury” about it:

Just as we watch curvy, healthy-looking singers and actresses like Lindsay Lohan become anorexic too-blonde hoochies before our very eyes, so we’re now in danger of having to watch the political version of that process: Any day now, Michelle Obama’s handlers will have her glued into one of those Sunday-go-to-meeting Baptist grandma crown hats while smiling vapidly for hours at a time. When, of course, she’s not staring moonstruck, à la Nancy Reagan, at her moon doggie god-husband who’s not one bit smarter than she is.

In response to Dickerson’s article, the new Gawker Media blog Jezebel (worst name ever, by the way) declared that Michelle’s “weird passive-aggressive comments” can only be explained by one thing: Barack obviously cheated on her:

…when Michelle Obama says stuff like “someday maybe he’ll deserve all the attention” or “he’s just a man” or calls him “the brother” even when she knows it makes the white folks uneasy is pretty simple: “The brother” fucked up! It wasn’t Gennifer or even Monica; it was probably just some one-night fling…

Mrs J, writing at Our Kind of Parenting, points out the Jezebel bloggers’ embarrassing cluelessness when it comes to African-American vernacular:

For the record, even if it makes white people uncomfortable, calling someone “the brother” (even if it is one’s husband) is not a diss. Especially when, in context, it is to say “The brother is smart”, as Mrs.O actually did recently (to an all black crowd)… This is a serious presidential candidate we’re talking about, ladies, not you’re effing ex-boyfriend. Save the cheap shots for someone else.

The Coup Magazine blog analyzes reactions to Michelle Obama in relation to the “Strong Black Woman (SBW) syndrome” and points out that Michelle is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t:

She can’t be funny. She probably shouldn’t work. After all, if she wants to counter the SBW stereotype and make her husband appear to be in charge, she cannot have a career. But when she quits her job, her motivation and commitment are called into question, and she risks losing credibility in the eyes of feminists. She can never have a hair out of place, appear aggressive, or ever be shown working out (one of her favorite activities), lest she characterized by someone as a “nappy headed ho.” In light of this constant and very public criticism, Michelle Obama can never quite be herself without being stereotyped as the aforementioned SBWa categorization that could potentially destroy her husband’s presidential campaign.

And finally, Malena Amusa, writing for Racewire, suggests that Michelle is integral to Barack Obama’s racial authenticity:

Her presentation is a well-engineered counter to Barack’s Black masculinity that has been attacked for being diluted. Michelle proves Barack’s Black authenticity by her being so home-grown, down-home, and straight-up on the issues. Further, if Barack had said some of the things Michelle has, he’d be lumped under the Black nationalist umbrella held up by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, and so many white people probably wouldn’t like him as much.

A Daycare Called Cuba: Iberia Ad More Than “Sexist”

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine

“It was completely trivial” said a spokeswoman for Iberia Airlines’ new ad. I suppose that should be expected, but it never ceases to amaze me that some people consider the degradation of historically oppressed groups as “trivial,” “fun,” or “just a joke.” Maybe that’s because our society has a history of accepting stereotypes as truths, so veiling them in humor is its feeble attempt to disguise the simple fact that it can’t distinguish between one or the other. It may also be a result of the belief some hold that we are all equals and treated fairly. If this condition of equality is a given, then debasing one group or another is not expected to cause harm, embarrassment, or any real long-term affects. Maybe Spain’s national airline felt that they were engaging in harmless fun, simply teasing their colonial little brother Cuba, but not everyone shared Iberia’s interpretation. Ruben Sanchez, a spokesperson for Facua, a Spanish consumer rights group, found the commercial to be sexist and generally offensive to Cubans. Facua called for the advertisement, which is part of a set of commercials for Iberia’s website, to be pulled. Iberia complied. They apologized, stating that the ad was not meant to offend anyone, and removed it from television on May 16th. But considering that someone had thought up the commercial and allowed it to air in the first place, the damage had already been done.

When I saw the ad for the first time, I thought beyond sexism. Before me was a representation of women of African descent that has somehow lasted for more than three centuries. I saw an animated articulation of the remnants of European colonial dominance over a Caribbean nation and its women. There was so much to take in from such a short clip that I wanted to slow down and think about it in parts. I watched the video again, this time in silence. After muting the volume, I began to mentally catalogue the images I saw. Before the clip commenced, a tableau appeared of a fair-skinned baby in a rocking chair surrounded by two brown-skinned, dark haired, large lipped women frozen mid-dance, holding maracas and wearing bikini tops with Daisy Duke cutoff shorts. Once the video unfolded, it seemed. . . fairly harmless, but three things stood out to me:

1. The color contrast between the baby and his adult playmates.
Both women featured in the commercial have brown skin, one a shade slightly darker than the other, and the men who provide musical accompaniment for the commercial are also varying shades of brown, from light to dark. This contrast is common in tourism advertisements, particularly those in Europe and the United States (with the exception of the recent Bahamas vacation ads). The tourist is almost always white and the “natives” are always brown, black, or yellow. Last time I checked, people of color also go on vacation, but maybe advertising executives don’t want to confuse the consumer audience by featuring them as tourists alongside people who look just like them. Funny enough, this never seems to be a problem in white-on-white ads encouraging people to go to European countries. Continue reading

Is the MLB neglecting African-American talent?

by Racialicious sports correspondent Luke Lee

The latest issue of Sports Illustrated features Cleveland Indians’ outfielder Grady Sizemore who is known for possibly being the best all-around young player in the game today and for his soon to be ownership of the Derek Jeter “most beautiful/popular man in baseball” crown (Seriously. The Indians sell “Mrs. Sizemore” t-shirts at the ballpark).

But anyways, to be honest I had no idea that he was multiracial Black and White like Mr. Jeter but it’s an interesting coincidence because as quiet and low-key as Sizemore is (the anti-Jeter, in that sense), one of his hopes is to “inspire other black athletes to play baseball.”

Unfortunately the article doesn’t dig deeper on that issue but it’s important nonetheless because it’s something that Black baseball players have been saying for years. Many even felt that the recent Jackie Robinson remembrance was a joke considering how little the MLB was doing today in terms of bringing baseball to Black communities in America while building academy after academy in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, to name a few.

But speaking of baseball academies in the DR, teams like the Indians and New York Mets have started to lead the charge in “social responsibility” (at least a little bit) in terms of providing potential recruits with a basic grade school education.

Don’t get your hopes up though, because the writer and even the New York and Cleveland brass are very honest in their intentions because this isn’t any sort of “look at the poor situation there, we’re just doing this without any ulterior motive!” kind of deal.

Rather, “It heightened our ability to understand and know the players we were evaluating, signing and developing…We wanted them to think analytically. Increasing aptitude is a competitive advantage.” admitted a Cleveland official.

Tragic mulatta Jezebel in ‘Slow Burn’

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’m a fan of thrillers, but this movie looks kinda awful, judging by the trailer (thanks to Kimberly for the tip!). Here’s a summary from Slant Magazine:

The wackest film of 2007 stars James Todd Smith—LL Cool J if you’re nasty—as Luther, a record store employee who walks into a police station to defend the honor of his dead homie, Isaac (Mekhi Phifer). Luther claims to have some “short in his brain” that messes with the way he processes smell. This is meant to explain why he is prone to saying such lovelies as, “First night she walked in, I still remember it. City smelled like grapefruit.” But what explains his propensity for stretching out his metaphors? Later, when he relates how mixed-blood assistant DA Nora Timmer (Jolene Blalock) walked into a room stinking of tangerine—”ripe and ready to be peeled.” It gets worse: At some bourgie party where Isaac is confused for someone else, Nora (whose daddy was the cocoa and whose mama brought the milk) fills the room with her scent of mashed-potato, which doesn’t stop any of the men from wanting to be her—wait for it—gravy!

I could be wrong, but this looks to me like another blackface performance, right? It’s possible the actress Jolene Blalock is mixed, but they are definitely slathering on the bronzer here and it looks fake as hell.

[If you’re reading this in an RSS reader or Feedblitz email and can’t view the video, please click on the post title.]

Barack Obama is AWB: articulate while black

by guest contributor Philip Arthur Moore, originally published at TheThink

Why do I keep finding news articles about Barack Obama that conspicuously mention how “articulate” he is?

Reality check: ‘Barry’ Obama attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and was the first ever black American to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review. His educational biography is impressive, to say the least, and when he stormed into the national spotlight at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (part 1, part 2), we should have taken note of how “articulate” Obama was with the English language (his native language, by the way) and moved on. Instead, writers, taking adjectives from the same play book and arranging them just slightly differently, are harping on how well Barack Obama can speak about as much as they harp on how well George W. Bush mangles the English language (which, incidentally, is also his native tongue).

Take, for example, the following news snippets that have come out in the past several days alone:

“Barack Obama and the Pertinent Precedents” (Townhall.com, January 18, 2007):

The way in which he resembles George W. Bush — his thin resume — is not one that will help him. It may be cancelled out, though, by the ways in which he conspicuously contrasts with the outgoing president — notably, being thoughtful, articulate and seemingly open to opposing views. Bush is the commander in chief. But it’s Obama who gives the effortless impression of command.

“Much buzz, many questions over Barack Obama’s bid” (Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 2007):

But his biggest advantage could be his persona – young, attractive, articulate, a fresh face.

“Iowa Blogger Thrilled At Obama’s ‘08 Ambitions” (KCCI 8, January 17, 2007):

“We have someone in Obama who is a wonderfully articulate speaker, and we should never underestimate the importance of public officials being able to move people,” Goldford said. “The danger for somebody like Obama is: he rouses such high hopes. I mean, it’s the puppy love. The crush phase.

“Obama may find his newness both help and hindrance in campaign” (The Financial Express, January 18, 2007):

Obama’s appeal as an articulate, intellectual, multi-racial candidate prompted supporters such as fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to urge him to run in 2008. So far, Obama’s easy-going charm is the only thing most voters know about him.

Continue reading

Kelly Hu plays high school valedictorian turned masseuse

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

kelly hu dara lee in case of emergencyHorrendous. Angry Asian Man reports on a new sitcom that brings us a stereotype double whammy:

I’ve been seeing commercials for this new ABC midseason comedy In Case of Emergency, starring Kelly Hu. As reported here previously, she plays Dara Lee, a once-high school valedictorian, now a hooker in a Korean massage parlor. WONDERFUL. Indeed, it is possible to portray not one, but two opposite Asian stereotypes in one role. And man, don’t get me started about the red dress they have here wearing in the photo here. For the curious, the show is scheduled to premiere on January 3rd.

Nicole Richie was white in 2003, black in 2006

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

black and white cookieFunny stuff, from MollyGood:

Three years ago, Nicole Richie was arrested for heroin possession, so following this morning’s DUI arrest, The Smoking Gun was kind enough to compare the changes in her booking sheets from 2003 and 2006. Wheee. The picture accompanying the 2006 sheet is her mugshot, while the 2003 pic is just a photo of Nicole from around the same time.

Here is how she’s changed (I mean, other than her drug of choice). In three years, Nicole Richie has:

1. Shrunk one inch.
2. Lost 5 lbs. (That’s all? Seems fishy.)
3. Changed which race she identifies with (White in 2003, Black in 2006).

Well, at this rate, when she’s arrested in 2009 she’ll be a 5’0”, 80 lb Latina.