Tag Archives: Michelle Obama

Meanwhile, On TumblR: FLOTUS Obama’s Speech, bell hooks, And The Equestrian

By Andrea Plaid

Since we launched the R’s “blue light district” back in January 2012–I affectionately call the Tumblr this because I work on it from the backend, which shows up on the screen as blue–we’ve been steadily growing: right now, we have 3,379 of you hanging out over there reading, liking, reblogging, and commenting  on what we’re curating, from all-Black Shakespeare troupes to cosplayers of color to our ever-blue Racialicious After Hours (NSFW).

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5 Questions For: MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, On Political Diversity And Being “Better Off” [#DNC2012]

By Arturo R. García; cross-posted from Raw Story

This year’s political convention season, says MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, got complicated. Although she is in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention this week, she missed going to Tampa, FL, last week for its Republican counterpart because real life got in the way. Hurricane Isaac’s path, which initially threatened the convention before tearing through New Orleans, meant the Tulane University professor and her family had to evacuate their home, which they subsequently lost.

“In a certain way, the personal drama, set against the backdrop of the convention, helps to remind us that the personal is political,” she told Raw Story Wednesday. “On the one hand, we were having our own personal issues about wind and rain and a hurricane, but the fact is, levees are political, and disasters–whether or not aid is going to come to your community–has to do with who is making those choices from a political position. And so, certainly it’s been hard, but it’s helped to crystallize why elections really do matter.”
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The Atlantic Article, Trickle-Down Feminism, And My Twitter Mentions. God Help Us All.

By Guest Contributor Tressie McMillan Cottom, cross-posted from TressieMC

Courtesy: kveller.com

This is one of those posts that can go nowhere but down.

There are things you simply cannot do in this life and slaying unicorns is one of them.

What do I mean by “slaying unicorns”? It’s an old Livejournal term. It means providing evidence that one’s sacred emotional belief or object is either not a) universal b) all that great or c) grounded in reality or supported by empirical evidence.

I am really, really bad about this. I tend to slay unicorns even when I only mean to make an observation or intend to honor my own truth or even when I just mean to get through the day. I end up slaying unicorns way more than I’d like. My hands are filthy with their rainbow blood.

So, I wanted to leave alone The Atlantic article about women having it all.

An initial tentative reaction about not seeing my experience as a black woman in the article provoked such passionate responses that my mentions on Twitter took two days to recover. And, I don’t mean the responses that disagreed with me. I mean I got tweets that charged me with not being a feminist or not understanding because I don’t have children and one lovely message that seemed to intimate that I was just too stupid to “get it”.

I decided to leave that unicorn alone.

But that did not mean that I did not want to make sense of it myself. After a great deal of thinking I think I can finally articulate my reaction and I owe much of that process to this tweet:

I’m a Reagan baby. You can’t say “trickle-down” to me and not evoke a response.

I went back and re-read The Atlantic article. I’ll try to take my thought process step-by-step in an effort to do minimal damage to the unicorn.

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Un-ringing The Bell: Elle France And Obama Style

By Fashion Correspondent Joseph Lamour

Thanks to the Obamas are in order, fellow African Americans! Black people–like me!–can look in a closet and not immediately reach for the saggy jeans and other “street wear codes.”

At least, according to Elle France.

For the first time, the chic has become a plausible option for a community so far pegged [only] to its street wear codes…

-Nathalie Dolivo, in French Elle
Tendance [Trend] – Black Fashion Power

Nathalie Dolivo, a writer for the magazine’s blog, seems to think that since the Obamas are so fashion-forward, they serve as a public forum to inspire African Americans to dress more fashionably in 2012. First of all, lady, this is the fourth year of Barack’s term. You’re a little late with this intensely racist idea, aren’t you?

That’s not even the worst of it. Dolivo goes so far as to coin the term, and this hurts me to type it, “black-geoisie”.  Now, we really should institute a “Sh-t Fashion Magazines Say” to add to the hundreds of others on YouTube. We have a wealth of material to work from. First we had Slave Earrings. Then we had the whole Rihanna, N*ggabitch debacle. To which Rihanna herself replied with a heartfelt “F*CK YOU”. And now this. It seems like American magazines are on their best behavior! Good work.

Dolivo uses a picture of Janelle Monae in the post to show how far we’ve come from over-sized pants, but Monae is a musician who’s particular style existed since her music was first released in 2003, well before this “black fashion renaissance” (Dolivo’s words, not mine) was to have taken place. And of course, much before public consumption as well.

The post has since been removed from Elle France’s website. Without an apology, I believe the magazine is hoping they can deny the post was published–or published in error, at least , if caught (too late for that!). Elle, you can’t un-ring a bell.

‘He had the courage to day unpopular things’: No praise for courting controversy

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said

This post is not about Christopher Hitchens. It is just that eulogizing of the writer has me pondering the adulation we give people and ideas believed to be outside the bounds of “political correctness.”

Hitch was a polarizing figure: He could be a louche wit and raconteur, an exceptional writer, a tireless advocate for the Godless, a moving chronicler of the end of life and also a pompous sexist, racist warmonger and Islamophobe, drunk on privilege (and whatever else). I’ll remind that Hitchens was the guy who argued that women are inherently not funny, who attempted to paint Michelle Obama as a black militant on the strength of a college thesis about the alienation black students often feel on majority white campuses, and who said of the war in Iraq: “The death toll is not nearly high enough… too many [jihadists] have escaped.”

Now, despite all that, many folks were fond of Hitchens–at least that is the impression I get from comments on Gawker, Salon, Slate and the like. How does one square abhorrent pronouncements by a man whose work can also be admirably challenging and engrossing? Apparently, it is by evoking the rather vague and puzzling commendation: Well, even if I didn’t agree with him, he had the courage to say unpopular things. I keep hearing this in relation to Christopher Hitchens and I wonder: Is the will to say detested things praise-worthy, in and of itself?

At the root of the discussion is the myth of “political correctness,” which I wrote about a few years ago in this space:

Disdain for “political correctness” is often positioned as a concern that some important truth is not being spoken for fear of offending someone. But that concern is nothing but smoke and mirrors. To invoke “political correctness” is really to be concerned about loss of power and privilege. It is about disappointment that some “ism” that was ingrained in our society, so much that citizens of privilege could express the bias through word and deed without fear of reprisal, has been shaken loose. Charging “political correctness” generally means this: “I am comfortable with my privilege. I don’t want to have to question it. I don’t want to have to think before I speak or act. I certainly don’t wish to inconvenience myself for the comfort of lesser people (whoever those people may be–women, people of color, people with disabilities, etc.)” Read more…

Since the (conservative-driven) idea that some “Stalinist orthodoxy” prevents good Americans from speaking freely has taken hold, I notice more amorphous applause for people who say controversial things no matter what those controversial things are. Content matters. It is indeed commendable to speak truth to power, or to stand up for right in the face of wrong. But just to say unpopular shit? Why should anyone get cookies for that? Most people would not charge half the human race with a chronic lack of funny, because the statement lacks nuance (As Echidne capably points out here.) and because they have heard of Lucille Ball and Fanny Brice and Moms Mabley and Tina Fey, not because they are cowards in fear of the PC police.

It is not a virtue simply to say controversial things. You know who else says controversial things? Michelle Bachmann. Are we to laud the good Senator for her courage to speak against death panels, despite the fact that, you know, none exist, have existed or were planned to exist? The very idea is silly.

Every unaccepted pronouncement isn’t hidden wisdom. And every speaker of provocative things isn’t a genius. Saying someone has the courage to say the unsayable is meaningless without analysis of what exactly is said.

Image courtesy of Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

Plan B: Anti-choice Group Puts President Obama on Billboard

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Hat tip to reproductive-rights activist Shelby Knox for this:  today the anti-choice group Life Always, the group behind the billboard that was taken down in New York City due to the melding of online and offline activism, reveals its latest billboard in a press conference in Chicago.

According to Life Always’ press release, about 30 of these outdoor ads will be place around Chicago’s South Side, where President Obama served as a community organizer and where First Lady Obama grew up.  So, since using the image of a darling little Black girl stirred up a fiasco instead collective guilt over not wanting to carry a fetus to term,  the group decides to go for double-barrel sentimentality with the placement of this message: the soft spot that some Chicagoans have for their  hometown heroes and connecting the termination of a pregnancy to the nationalist trigger-word of “genocide.”

To further push the racial-guilt sappiness, Life Always Board Member Reverend Derek McCoy, one of the attendees at today’s press conference said, “Our future leaders are being aborted at an alarming rate. These are babies who could grow to be the future Presidents of the United States, or the next Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington or Maya Angelou.”

::Direct laser side-eye::

What would be great is if any or all of these celebrities–especially the POTUS and the FLOTUS–publicly told the anti-choice group to get their names out of the group’s mouth because they’re not feeling the anti-choice  message.

According to Huffington Post Chicago, other leaders joining Rev. McCoy include “former 2nd Congressional district GOP candidate Rev. Isaac Hayes, Rev. Ceasar LeFlore, [sic] and Pastor Stephen Broden, an anti-choice activist who ran for office as a Republican in Texas last year.” The press conference for the first billboard, to be hung in an empty lot at 5812 S. State Street, Chicago, will be held at 11AM.

To be invisible or exoticized: The NYT’s article on Michelle Obama’s family history

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

The Obama family’s ascendancy to the White House and the national spotlight causes quite a conundrum for black folks who pay attention to how black lives are discussed by media and the mainstream. On one hand, suddenly people notice that black people exist, particularly the black middle class, black bodies, black hair, black families, black professional women, black marriages… After years of being ignored, it feels kinda good to be visible. On the other hand, suddenly people notice that black people exist, particularly the black middle class, black bodies, black hair, black families, black professional women, black marriages…And all of these seemingly mundane things are now treated as fascinating discoveries. They are weighed and breathlessly reported by media, and analyzed and remarked upon by consumers of media. After hundreds of years as part of American culture, blackness is still seen as “other”–sometimes exotic, sometimes dangerous, sometimes strange.

Lots of black women have round butts!

Black people have funny hair!

Black churches sure are different!

and now…from The New York Times

Black descendants of enslaved Africans have triumph, tragedy and non-black ancestors in their histories!

In an NYT article published yesterday, Rachel L. Swarns and Jodi Kantor share Michelle Obama’s family history as uncovered by the newspaper and genealogist Megan Smolenyak. The article zeros in on the story of one of Michelle Obama’s female ancestors named Melvinia:

Of the dozens of relatives she identified, Ms. Smolenyak said, it was the slave girl who seemed to call out most clearly.

“Out of all Michelle’s roots, it’s Melvinia who is screaming to be found,” she said.

When her owner, David Patterson, died in 1852, Melvinia soon found herself on a 200-acre farm with new masters, Mr. Patterson’s daughter and son-in law, Christianne and Henry Shields. It was a strange and unfamiliar world.

In South Carolina, she had lived on an estate with 21 slaves. In Georgia, she was one of only three slaves on property that is now part of a neat subdivision in Rex, near Atlanta.

Whether Melvinia labored in the house or in the fields, there was no shortage of work: wheat, corn, sweet potatoes and cotton to plant and harvest, and 3 horses, 5 cows, 17 pigs and 20 sheep to care for, according to an 1860 agricultural survey.

It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm. Continue reading

Dispatches from Nappyville: WTF, NPR? Way to totally mischaracterize discussions about black women, hair and Michelle Obama

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

That Farai Chideya is no longer holding it down at NPR’s “News & Notes” is abundantly clear. Yesterday’s “News & Notes” segment–” The Obama Effect on Black Women’s Hair Issues–was some serious insipid nonsense. Since the dawning of the Obama era, I’ve sensed a disturbing trend in coverage of black women’s issues by mainstream media. Having a black First Lady seems to have inspired the media to take some notice of the unique lives of African American women. Good. Problem is, the gently increased coverage is shallow and inconsequential, and often has the feel of detached voyeurism–academically peering at the exotic world and strange habits of black women (oddly, this is so, even when the work is presided over by black women). A product of these travel guides to Blackchicksylvania is the “Lawd, us black wimmin’s hair sho is complicated” story, which usually includes the meme that Michelle Obama’s hair is a hot topic among black women. And so goes the “News & Notes” piece by Allison Samuels, featuring celebrity stylist Marcia Hamilton.

Listen.

Says Samuels, “We now have an African American president, with an African American wife and two African American daughters. So now we talk a lot about hair–things we probably didn’t talk about when we had First Ladies who were not African American. So, the conversation has gone from one end to the other. Should Michelle wear more natural hair? Should she cut her hair? Should she have a perm? Should she press and curl? Why do we have such an obsession, even now, in 2009, with black women and hair?”

First, I would love to know where these purported conversations about Michelle Obama’s hair are taking place. Where is this obsession with her tresses flowering? So far, I’ve seen several articles about the phenomenon (I believe Salon has peddled it, too.), but have yet to experience it among any, y’know, actual black women. As far as I can tell, in real life, no one is riding Michelle to bust out the cornrows at the next State dinner. (According to Samuels, black female bloggers are calling for Michelle and her daughters to be champions of black hair. Why’s everybody got to blame the bloggers these days? I’m plugged into the top black blogs and haven’t seen any such discussion percolating. Hmmmm.) Continue reading