Her blackness, along with that of her husband the president, is a source of pride for many of us, who are also black. Her grace, her wit, her intelligence, her commitment to a range of issues, her roots in the working class, her descendancy from enslaved ancestors ... oh I could go on and on about why this particular black woman (me) gets a bit teary eyed over the fact that at age 65 this is something I thought I'd never live to see in the country built on the backs of many of my ancestors.
This isn't the first time I've felt compelled to write about FLOTUS. I've spoken to the importance of her not only being a strong black woman, but also about her actual skin tone. In "The social significance of Michelle Obama's skin color," I addressed that issue from a black perspective.
I am not alone in responding to the racism that floats up and stinks like steam from slimy sewage found in bigoted minds and swirls around this president and his wife.
This last week's outrage about how FLOTUS dealt with a heckler a a private fundraising event, is only one example of the target she has been, from the beginning of the Obama family's occupancy of the "white" house. Other writers here have cataloged a laundry list of Republican and right-wing smears.
Al Sharpton covered the issue, on an MSNBC panel as I knew he would.
It's easy to point a finger at right-wing racists. Their brand is obvious, open, and is no longer a matter of having to listen for dog-whistles.
What is far more painful, for me, is to turn my eyes toward those who should ostensibly be part of our broad progressive coalition of folks who whether knowingly, or unknowingly, are so ensconced and pillowed by privilege that they too join in spouting openly derisive, and racist "critiques" which only serve the agenda of those who are out to oppress all of us.
This, my friends, has got to stop.
Racism from the left and picking up and running in wedge formation with the right-wing agenda is counter-productive and destructive.
Whether it is wedges between and among women who call themselves feminists but who forget that there are multiple feminisms, and "women" as a default category doesn't mean "white," or whether it is from those who identify as LBGT and allies and often forget that there is no such thing as "the blacks and the gays" (as if these groups are mutually exclusive) the end result is the same.
Some of y'all are fallin' for the okie doke, and in this relatively mild rant today I'm calling you (if this applies to you) out on it.
The rest of my rant will be below the fold. Please join me.
I've spent quite a few days and angry nights reading comments in the blogosphere responding to the heckling of FLOTUS.
Supportive remarks were many, especially from black women, who are sick and tired of the "uppitty negress" tone of other commenters.
Black women it seems are fine, as long as we stay in our place. Our "place" historically has been as mammies, and nannies, and sexual paramours, but never ever in the White House unless it is in a maid's uniform.
Ironically, I had just finished reading, in Black Kos, an article from The Atlantic about "The Mammy Washington Almost Had"
"In 1923, the U.S. Senate approved a new monument in D.C. "in memory of the faithful slave mammies of the South."So just as the Academy Awards in Hollywood seem content to continue the meme of black women as mammies (read: The Mommy/Mammy issues in The Help) who are under the thumbs of white women of privilege, the tone and tenor of negative remarks seem to resonate from a place where Michelle Obama needs to be put in her place. It certainly isn't a place of respect as first lady, or as the speaker behind a lectern at a private fund-raiser being given the courtesy of delivering her 20 minute address about our children uninterrupted.
During this recent contretemps over Mrs. Obama putting a swift stop to being heckled, many of us openly criticized the heckler, not just for her heckling, which was bad enough, no matter what cause she thought she was advancing, but for her response that was reported afterwards.
The heckler, Ellen Sturtz, was interviewed and was reported as saying:
“Basically, I was asked by the first lady to be quiet, and I can’t be quiet any longer. ... I was surprised by how negative the crowd seemed to be. It was actually a little unsettling and disturbing,” said Sturtz.Surprised? Really Ms. Kurtz? Scared? Why on earth would you bring the word scared up? Ohhhh, right. Mammies don't talk back but angry sistahs might just snatch off their earrings and go all ghetto on your behind. After all, Michelle Obama is from the Southside of Chicago. What did you expect?
“She obviously thought she was going to make an example of me or something. I wasn’t scared at all,” she added.
I'm old school about dealing with hecklers—learned at the feet of Jackie “Moms” Mabley, back in her day.
FLOTUS did what she deemed best, and frankly this would have been a non-issue, except that everything she does, and is, from her new haircut, to her arms, is fodder for the outragaholics.
We all know there are reams of sociolinguistic studies about power, gender, privilege and speech, and who gets "interrupted" by whom. Men interrupt women. White women historically have interrupted (and punished) black women for "sassing back."
Michelle Obama is not only classy, she can be sassy. This plays into another co-existing meme about us: "The Angry Black Woman." Mrs. Obama, who walked over to the interrupter, and dealt with her swiftly and assertively (to the cheers of the others gathered at the event) put a stop to the rudeness. She is now being excoriated for having done so. What complicates the matter, is that the interrupter is described in headlines as "a lesbian," and activist for her group, Get Equal.
Many of us who have openly disagreed with the tactic utilized by this woman are now being called "homophobes" by certain privilege deniers. Makes no matter that some of us who have been supportive of FLOTUS are LBGTQ's. 'Cause our color seems cancel our voices out. Makes no difference that we also oppose workplace discrimination.
To top it all off, CODEPINK got into the act, with a tweet (since deleted) and then they issued a formal umm "apology" (oh how I hate all these so-called apologies) couched in nice women's studies language.
We would like to apologize for our recent actions that displayed an undeniable insensitivity to persons of color, especially women of color.So, in keeping with the tradition of awards giving I am giving them, jointly with Ellen Sturtz, my first annual "Pink Pacifier Award."
As an organization, we strive to speak truth to power and stand for human rights for all. We respect intersectionality and strive to stay aware of the many forms of privilege among our group. We would like to make an unequivocal apology to Michelle Obama, Alicia Keys, and everyone who took offense to messages we posted on Twitter.
By tweeting about how Michelle Obama “should have” responded to Ellen Sturtz’s interruption, we behaved in such a way that reflected a long history of white women dictating how Black women should behave. Our actions were not in keeping with our own values as an organization. While yesterday’s interruption was not a CODEPINK action, it is exemplary of CODEPINK tactics, and the way we responded to it was insensitive and thoughtless.
In honor of whining when you get put in your place, along with realizing you should be targeting what comes out of your mouth in places where you really might make a difference, and not alienating a huge segment of us who are on the same side.I'm not done with awards this week. Bear with me. They are related. I'm giving this next award, and dedicating it to my Sister, shanikka—who writes for Daily Kos, who has been very ill, and is now on the mend. This ones for you m'dear. If I had my druthers she would be writing this. She is the author of the seminal post Facts Belie the Scapegoating of Black People for Proposition 8, which I still link in everything I write about on this issue, and I use it in the classroom.
This one I'm naming the "Trojan Hoarse Award." Yes, it's spelled hoarse, for the loud, crude, and hopefully hoarse voices of the right-wing homophobes fighting desperately to stop marriage equality from getting enacted, and the chorus of those who pose as liberal or left activists (doing the work of the right) who at the drop of a set-back, blame "the blacks".
This award goes to groups and individuals who seek to oppress those of us who are fighting for equality by using tactics to divide usFor best actor driving a left wedge between "teh blacks and the gays" I applaud the outstanding performance of John Aravosis. This isn't the first time he's been under the spotlights. Angry Black Lady had plenty to say a while back in Clueless About Race: John Aravosis.
I'll let Monica Roberts, my Sistah from TransGriot explain. In Marriage Equality Fails In Illinois-Cue The 'Blame The Blacks' White Gay Chorus, where she takes him to task for his blogpost: Illinois fails to pass gay marriage bill, black caucus reportedly a problem, Monica says:
John Aravosis of Americablog wasted no time in this blog post fanning the hell-fire flames of gay bigotry against African-Americans...Thanks to ChitownKev, for calling our attention to this news article on the real deal in Illinois.
Well John, congratulations. You and the Sun Times have just done NOM's shady work for them by setting off white gays justifiably pissed that SB 10 failed against the Black community cis, trans and SGL that is skeptical about gay marriage as a whole.
The Black community has noted your failure to work intersectionally with other groups inside and outside the LGBT community on issues of concern to them, but hypocritically demanding 100% fealty on the issue of marriage equality. It has also noted your failures to deal with the racism in the TBLGIQA community and observed that far too many LGBT orgs have leadership ranks that look more like the Republican Party ranks than the ethnically diverse American population.
Did it not occur to you vanillacentric privileged gays that Illinois also has downstate WHITE Democrats who range from squishy to adamantly opposed about this issue and a politically powerful Roman Catholic Church that worked the halls in Springfield just like those conservative Black pastors you're pointing the finger at?
Also wrong are gay marriage advocates who blamed the defeat on black legislators knuckling under to pressure from conservative clergymen in their districts. Because if you look at who was in favor of the bill, and who was opposed, African-Americans would have cast a higher percentage of “yes” votes than whites. Eleven of the 20 black House members were prepared to vote yes, four were committed to vote no, and five were undecided.Why have I chosen a condom to symbolize the award? Because opponents of marriage equality are also the same homophobic and sexist crew who want stop reproductive health rights, and who don't want funding for HIV/AIDS prevention.
Why a Trojan? Well remember the old Trojan horse story?
Who has bought and paid for attempts to stop and defeat marriage equality initiatives ?
Who is behind the driving a wedge issue of black blaming?
I've written about this before, when we were dealing with Maryland, in Stop blaming us "blacks" (NC marriage equality).
Do we have to go back and revisit this each time we get to a state where there is a black population? I sure as hell hope not. Of course there was "crickets" about Maine, simply because of Maine's demographics:
At the 2010 Census, 94.4% of the population was non-Hispanic White, 1.1% non-Hispanic Black or African American, 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.0% Asian, 0.1% from some other race and 1.4% of two or more races. 1.3% of Maine's population was of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin (they may be of any race)Perhaps when we get to Montana it will be blame the Native Americans—if legislation doesn't pass there. (snark)
According to the 2010 Census, 89.4 percent of the population was White (87.8 percent Non-Hispanic White), 6.3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native, 2.9 percent Hispanics and Latinos of any race, 0.6 percent Asian, 0.4 percent Black or African American, 0.1 percent Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 0.6 percent from Some Other Race, and 2.5 percent from two or more races. The largest European ancestry groups in Montana are: German (29.3 percent), Irish (16.4 percent), English (13.1 percent), and Norwegian (10 percent).Are we going to have to go through this crap in each and every state as we fight to change the map?
Let's put our voices together to go after the real culprits. On wiki there is a
List of opponents of same-sex marriage in the United States
At the top of my list is NOM, infamous for their "wedge" Trojan horse tactics.
In March 2012, NOM memos dated to 2009 advocating strategies of pitting the African-American and homosexual communities against each other, of discouraging Latino assimilation into a culture accepting of same-sex marriage, and of painting President Obama as a "social radical" were released by a federal judge in Maine and published by the Human Rights Campaign. The internal NOM documents state that they seek "to drive a wedge between gays and blacks" by promoting "African American spokespeople for marriage", thus provoking same-sex marriage supporters into "denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots", and to interrupt the assimilation" of Latinos into "dominant Anglo culture" by making the stance against same-sex marriage "a key badge of Latino identity". The documents also showed a goal to "sideswipe" US President Barack Obama by depicting him as a "social radical" via issues including child protection and pornography.Also on my list are other groups, some funded by NOM.
The revealed tactics were described as "one of the most cynical things I’ve ever heard" and "scary" by Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP. The National Black Justice Coalition said that the "documents expose N.O.M. for what it really is – a hate group determined to use African American faith leaders as pawns to push their damaging agenda."
The Maryland Marriage Alliance was founded and funded by the Maryland Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The Roman Catholic Church, along with the Knights of Columbus, contributed almost $425,000 this year to defeat ballot Question 6, with NOM donating $1.2 million.Yes, religion plays a huge role in all of this. Right-wing, conservative religious groups. Take a look at the list of the top ten mega-churches in the U.S.
They don't support marriage equality. Their pastors are all-white.
Interestingly enough, clips I always see, and the folks getting the most airtime, are the black, pimpin' jack-leg pastors bought and paid for from NOMs deep pockets.
I've called them out here too.
What is curious though is how so few of either the TM news stories, or the "blame the blacks" critics pay much attention to the black pastors who are actively supporting marriage equality. It doesn't fit the narrative.
How many people watched Rev.Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, in Chicago (formerly headed by Rev. Wright), which has over 8,000 members, deliver this message to his congregation?
I'm sure there will be folks who disagree with my assessment that much of this divisive crap (on the left) stems from white privilege. Quite a few of us who have described it as such, have gotten not very nice pushback from people who either should know better, or who are still in denial.
Frankly, I'm getting sick and tired of the plaints invoking "the race card." Funny how that gets dealt out so frequently.
Well here's a card for you from TransGriot:.
Your White Privilege Rewards card just comes with a rainbow sticker on it. But it still functions the same way.You can make a difference.
As Kenyon Farrow (who I had the pleasure of meeting at OUT on the Hill 2012) wrote back in 2005 in an essay entitled “Is the Gay Marriage Movement Anti-Black?”
While homophobia in the black community is certainly an issue we need to address, blacks of all sexualities experience the reality that many white gays and lesbians think that because they’re gay, they “understand” oppression, and therefore could not be racist like their heterosexual counterparts. Bull__. America is first built on the privilege of whiteness, and as long as you have white skin, you have a level of agency and access above and beyond people of color, period. White women and white non-heteros included.
You most certainly do. Being part of the TBLG community doesn't change that basic fact you still benefit from white privilege even if it is not quite at the same level it would have been if you were straight. And deep down you know it too and act like it in TBLG community circles.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.I hope I won't have to hand out any awards like those above, next year.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia. Since 2003, NBJC has provided leadership at the intersection of national civil rights and LGBT organizations, advocating for the unique challenges and needs of the Black LGBT community that are often relegated to the sidelines. NBJC envisions a world where all people are fully-empowered to participate safely, openly and honestly in family, faith and community, regardless of race, class, gender identity or sexual orientation.
Instead, let's work together to deal with the elimination of all forms of bigotry.
And while we're doing it, remember what Aretha Franklin spelled out.
A little respect for our allies goes a long way.