Monday, May 26, 2008

The Social Lynching Of Michelle Obama

I have made it a point to not comment publicly on the presidential election as I am a Canadian, even though it is relevant to us.  Relevant how you ask.... well our current Prime Minister seems to love playing follow the leader so whatever happens there will eventually happen here.  At any rate I am digressing.  What is happening to Michelle Obama is not political in the sense of the election, it is political in the sense that she is publicly being lynched for the crime of being a woman of color with a mind.  Imagine that, a thinking, rationale, intelligent woman of color.  image Even those that claim to be acting in her best interests have used her body to illustrate the worst crimes against the black community.  In an earlier post I wrote about an image of her being lynched.  It (the image) originally appeared at dailykos.com.  He claims that he is surprised at the reaction to the post.  How that is possible is beyond me.  From his comment thread:

"now it's detached from the original text so they don't have to deal with it.

I noticed that the link back to the text isn't where they posted the image, either.

They all know that Kos didn't have anything to do with it, nor did Senator Obama's campaign nor did the Democratic party.

That's pretty obvious just by looking at it.

So would you please you tell me what you believe the downside of the image getting posted on those sites is?

The rightwingers are the ones posting it and they're all crapping in their pants and twisting over what the image represents."

THEM.

So concerned are you about what"rightwingers" are thinking you neglect to consider how this imageimage effects WOC.  Of course our feelings are inconsequential. We are without great social power, so if we are offended by the overly sexualized image of lynching it is not really relevant. It's the white sheets that count.  I can see why you are not worried, as when I read your comments section it seems that you are supported in this racist, sexist imagery.  One such example is this:

"didn't see it posted here.  But, it was grabbed by the rightwingers and is being passed around the net.  Its being used to slam Daily Kos as hard left racists.I got the images intent, though I have to say it was a bit offensive on first take.  I DO understand what you were trying to convey and on looking around the net I found a couple of your other images.   You are quite talented and mine and your politics are in agreement.  But, the right is using that Michelle image for all the wrong reasons...'m sure the right is using it to vilify us.You do good work man!  Keep it up,even if this one went down sideways, don't stop!"

I wish this commentator would explain it to me, because all I see is racism and sexism.  It simply does not matter where the racism and sexism originate, that they are acknowledged as such is what is important.  The desire to bifurcate between left and right is an expression of white privilege in that it creates WOC as objects, rather than subjects in the discourse involving racism.  We are only relevant to the degree that our bodies can be used to illustrate a point.

There is no difference from what you did and the vitriolic verbal assault upon her that occurred at Flopping Aces. Both are exercises in silencing the views of WOC based on white privilege.  For example Flopping Aces says,

"Michelle Obama wrote her Senior Thesis at Princeton, on the issue of whether black Princeton alumni changed their views on black/white relations as a result of their Ivy League education. The Politico has the full document here.

Her views on race are frankly, offensive and racist. Her worldview on the topic is entirely “Us versus Them.” She sees two cultures, with the Whites making the Blacks (she uses caps for the races) feel like outsiders. Note that even the “tolerant” liberals on an elite college campus are racists too. Well, we know when the liberals are intolerant, imagine what it must be like to have conservatives around. All emphasis mine.

And because Whites are irreparably racist, she decides to forgo assimilation into White culture and chooses to focus only on Blacks."

Yes just imagine that, two cultures, in a country that has its foundation in the enslavement of blacks, followed by Jim Crow and the continued economic disenfranchisement.  How could Michelle possibly feel "othered" when "Liberals" are more than ready to defend her, as shown by dailykos. Everyone is equal right, which is why pop culture figures like Imus can make racist comments and keep his job, but when a legitimate critique of white hegemony occurs it is simply unacceptable. Why wouldn't she wish to be part of white normative culture, after all there is never anything good associated with being black anyway. If only he had stopped there, but no he ranted on:

"I guess we are giving up on “Whitey,” because there really is nothing to be proud of in that “White cultural and social structure,” called America. Let’s do the more desirable thing and actively utilize our resources to benefit the Black community at Reverend Wright’s Black Liberation Theology church."

Okay tell you what, I will give you a standing applause for the modern day slave trade, the deaths of millions on the middle passage, the rape of female slaves, Jim Crow laws, unequal access to voting ( still occurring today), an economic system that is predatory and irrational (capitalism), the mortgage crises which targeted women of color despite credit rating, continued racialization and/or invisibility in the media and oh yeah that beautiful depiction in the dailykos.  Lots to want to identify with there.  If women of color are angry it is because you have earned our rage. Our foremothers suffered under your lash, and our daughters have a future to look forward to under the continued yolk of oppression. But oh no lets sing kumbaya in forgiveness, and solidarity instead of actively seeking to help each other out of our historical place at the bottom rung of social hierarchy. Yes we should all commit racial suicide, and identify with our oppressors.

"Oh, and isn’t it a little ironic that the same “White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society” finds her a hair’s breadth from becoming First Lady. She is an angry wretch who chooses to ignore the great opportunities this country has provided her."

Provided for her?  She didn't have to work to obtain her degree? Someone just handed it to her one day because they thought she was cute right? When she wrote her thesis jackass, she had no idea that one day she might possibly be the first lady.  Nice way to take statements out of context to justify your twisted thinking. And finally in the coup de grace,

"She believes that the more a Black person assimilates into White culture (American culture?), the more that person harms the black community."

"American Culture" because of course white isn't a race is it? No it just represents everything that is God-fearing and normal.  Everywhere we look we are suffocated by this normalcy.  If only we could exist in Ozzie and Harriet land. I mean how wonderful would it be to live in a world with  grey flannel suit wearing, white, patriarchal dad goes to work and equally white, and deliriously happy stay at home mom fixes the "little problems," until daddy comes to deal with the harder issues.  White people have it down to a science.  If only we uppity Negroes could just learn to tow the line and assimilate damn it, we too could live in that deliriously happy and delusional world.

In the end regardless of whether the attack comes from the so-called left or right, it is still an attack.  They carry the same weight and cause the same hurt. When a supposed "ally" marginalizes me or any woman of color for that matter, I am not surprised.  In the world that I live in, I expect betrayal and am surprised only when the reverse occurs and people actually own their privileges.  I have seen the image of Michelle being lynched at many blogs written by WOC but I have yet to run across it at any white feminist blogs.  Why is that?  Where is the sisterhood now?  The point is, as WOC we need to invest in each other because we are all the protection we have against the cruelties of this world.  People may claim to be our allies, and even in some cases our friends, but through history we have learned to be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing.  Posts like the ones at the dailkos and flyingaces help to remind me why the fight for self-determination continues on.  If we leave our defense up to our so-called allies, and friends, we will be defined in the same fashion as has been done by those that openly admit their bigotry.  Black womanhood needs a new face, and she should be created, nurtured, and loved by us.

7 comments:

Peter said...

Wow, a lot of interesting stuff here to digest. Keep up the great effort. City living has its merits too... :-)
Greetings from New Zealand

Anonymous said...

Actions of the right and the left truly speak louder than buzzwords. When I compare Michelle Obama to Condoleeza Rice-- both are well-educated black women-- Rice is pliable, receding, obedient, "inoffensive", silent, and overall what a good black girl should be. I say girl because Rice has a shrinking, childlike presence. She has escaped firestorms such as this, especially from the right. I wonder why....

Anonymiss said...

SMFH at Flopping Aces. People can be such idiots.

Do they even know what Michelle's thesis was born out of? Do they even know that she had a dorm roommate that didn't want to live with a Black girl because her mother forbade her? Do they know what it's like to be seen as a degenerate before you even open your mouth?

If we're ever gonna discuss racism with (disillusioned) White people, it has to be in their sugar-coated terms that purports that racism is of the past. If racism exists in the present, it has to be seen only in an overt fashion rather than in its subtle fashion in which it thrives.

Bronze Trinity said...

That post was EXCELLENT! Wow so many of the things you said were exactly what I was thinking. Yeah, where are the feminists? That crap about being grateful for everything she has been giving annoyes the heck out of me. Really, Black people have worked harder to build America than anyone else because they were forced to do it for FREE and then they were expected to forgive and forget the brutality they suffered. They can understand why Isralies and Palistinians have something against each other, but they can't comprehend why Black people are still angry. Its so frustrating that people just don't understand the point of view of Black people and just shut out our concerns.

I'm Canadian too but I've been following the election closely too. Whatever happens in the US will affect us for sure.

Renee said...

reply@ annonymous 1, I completely disagree with your characterization of Rice as a shrinking violet. SHe is actually quite assertive. While she may conveniently change her "perspective" to garner the approval of those in positions of power it is nothing that does not occur on a daily basis in business and politics. While we may not have seen images of Condi being lynched, she has still had to deal with her share of racism and sexism from both imaginary sides of the political spectrum (read: left/right) BTW, regardless of your take on her she certainly deserves to be referred to a woman and not a girl. I do not approve of the political decisions she had made, however she is still Dr. Condeleeza Rice, lets not forget that. People have a tendency to diminish the accomplishments of black women.

Bianca Reagan said...

Ooh my. That flopping person needs professional help.

Anonymous said...

I get what you're saying about Condoleeza. Although she can be very assertive, she has this way of being upfront and yet shrinking back at the same time. Michelle, on the other hand, always has this forwardness about her, if it were a different world she would have been president. But I think she's going to change the world for women as first lady.