Our Thoughts on Michele Obama & Fantasizing about Ballers and Rappers

MichelleObama-225Michelle Obama gave a speech over the weekend at Bowie State saying that too many Black kids fantasize about being ‘ballers and rappers’..Her exact quotes were as follows…

Today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of ‘separate but equal,’ when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered,”

“Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours, playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper,”

She concluded that many Black kids think getting an education is acting white… Her quote was “reject the slander that a black child with a book is trying to act white.”

Damn Michelle who the hell wrote your speech??

Lebron James and ObamaA few things to think about.. First lets just go on record and note, those ballers and rappers that many fantasize about, played a key role in getting Michelle and her husband into the White House, not once but twice..From Lebron James to Jay-Z to Will I am to Common to Beyonce who the First Lady famously asserted was role model for her daughters, were all up in the mix during their campaigns and subsequent inaugurations..These rappers and ballers went out and engaged their fans, by doing songs, concerts and special appearances  to go to the polls and vote in what we are now seeing to be record numbers..

If we really wanna keep it 100.. I saw Diddy and Jigga hanging out at the inaugurations in 08 and not prominent scholars like a Cornel West who actually went and campaigned in 60 + cities for the president. We’ve seen countless pictures of rappers all up in the white house..Why wouldn’t a kid fantasize about being a rapper or baller when its them hob nobbing with the Obamas not his teacher or preacher?

JayZ at White HouseSecond point.. For the love of God, lets dispel with this 25-year-old cliché first uttered by Spike Lee back in the late 80s at the height of the crack epidemic about Black kids not wanting to read because it would make them appear white.. People who are trying to do the tough love thing have been running with that quote for far too long and it has no bearing in reality.

In the age of Youtube, the Internet and other forms of technology we have all sorts of cross pollination taking place. You have some kids in the hood rocking skinny jeans and skateboard gear made popular by white kids and in the burbs you will see white kids rocking a hat to the side and sagging pants made popular by their Black counterparts. Slang and patterns of speech are damn near universal at this point in time. In short if we’re going by style of dress and surface mannerisms one can question about what does it mean to be Black or white?

If we wanna talk about Black kids reading books and stereotypical perceptions behind that, we have to couch that in the context of disparities in education and how that plays out on the ground.

President Obama and Common

President Obama and Common

The fact is many of the ballers and rappers who kids MAY fantasize about are actually moguls in their own right with lots of money and perceived power which many have come to understand is the result of them having hustle, a willingness to grind and intelligence to navigate the systems before them.. Whether its Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Common, Rick Ross, Kobe  or Beyonce, you name it all have made it abundantly clear their success was the result of them grinding ..

Its been made clear their mogulness has been the result of them soaking up game and learning the business aspect of the worlds they enter. As Jay-Z once famously rapped..I’m a businessman, I’m a Business, Man If that hasn’t been made clear, its up to people like Michelle Obama to highlight that aspect vs deriding one’s ‘fantasy’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyvMMBNuXMY

Reporting Live from the DNC in Charlotte Day 2: Michelle Obama Rips It

There’s lots to say about whats going down here in Charlotte at the DNC. There are scores of protests… key word ‘scores’. More people are up in arms and stomping the pavement then they were in Tampa Bay..

Yesterday alone, there was a huge protest and counter protest at Planned Parenthood. There was a big march bringing attention to the plight of prisoner Bradley Manning. While people were kicking up dust about this man who they consider a hero and ultimate whistle blower, my co-host Mark Bebawi was inside the Convention Center, talking to delegates about Manning’s plight and was astonished to see how oblivious folks inside were to him. many didn’t know who he was, others didn’t care. the few that did know him touted the party line that he should be locked away.

There was a big Occupy March against Capitalism.. There was a March against the War led by War Veterans. There is a separate conference featuring progressive Democrats where you’d see everyone from Jesse Jackson to Keith Ellison to former congressman Alan Grayson to Raul M. Grijalva. All this has been happening in the pouring rain

There was a march and demonstration around the plight of undocumented students…where people should note, that as the DNC celebrated the rise of Latino politicians like keynote speaker San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who gave a rousing speech that led to folks giving a standing ovation, outside the doors of the convention in front of the entrance, 10 undocumented students were arrested. Actress Rosario Dawson stood with the crowd as this went down in support. She held up a big sign that said Undocumented.  Will they be deported? We don’t know..

As all this was going down outside, many were getting into the speeches and there were some really good ones. Many liked what Newark mayor Cory Booker had to say.. Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick got people fired up.. But where people went absolutely nuts and where it was unbridled pandemonium was when First Lady Michele Obama hit the stage. Her speech was one for the ages.. People didn’t just hear her they felt her. They felt her in a big way..I heard over and over again that Michele’s speech took folks back to 2008 when folks were excited about the possibility of making history with the election of the country’s first Black president.

Michele Obama left folks feeling proud.. For women who have felt been under assault by weeks of rhetoric on the campaign trail about ‘legitimate rape’ policies of GOP, Michele was a welcome breath of fresh air. For Black women she was a source of pride, someone who erased all the nasty stereotypes and bad images constantly being hawked and elevated in the form of shows like Basketball Wives and other Reality shows on network TV.. In fact one sister a radio personality, SkyyHook tweeted ‘Ladies, this is what a REAL wife looks like.. No Fighting, No Throwing chairs or Jumping on tables… Class and humility’.. That tweet was generously passed around.

I don’t wanna go on too long about Michele Obama, but I must because her speech was a really big deal for the thousands here in Charlotte. She got people fired up and for the moment, she got folks forgetting the concerns and criticisms people have raised about her husband’s policies.

For the moment folks forgot about drone strikes, and the continuation of Bush war policies.. For the moment people forgot about record number foreclosures, mass deportations and the cozy relationship he has with Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street entities…That’s how energetic and impactful that speech was.. People wanna feel good at the end of the day. People wanna believe at the end of the day.. Michele Obama made that happen last night.

There’s lots more to say about the DNC here in Charlotte including how diverse it is which is a good thing and a much welcome contrast to what we experienced in Tampa Bay. It’s also very disorganized and in many ways just straight up janky, but we’ll save that for another report. In the meantime the word of the day is Michele.. Will Barack Obama be able to move people in the same way?? We’ll see on Thursday..

 

Why Is the Media So Obsessed With Horrifying Images of African-American Mothers?

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Why Is the Media So Obsessed With Horrifying Images of African-American Mothers?

By Melissa Harris-Lacewell, The Nation.

With Michelle Obama in the White House, I expected a resurgence of the Claire Huxtable stereotype. Instead, hideous depictions of abusive, irresponsible black moms are everywhere.

http://www.alternet.org/media/144190/why_is_the_media_so_obsessed_with_horrifying_images_of_african-american_mothers_/?page=entire

Bad black mothers are everywhere these days.

With Michelle Obama in the White House, consciously and conspicuously serving as mom-in-chief, I expected (even somewhat dreaded) a resurgence of Claire Huxtable images of black motherhood: effortless glamor, professional success, measured wit, firm guidance, loving partnership, and the calm reassurance that American women can, in fact, have it all.

Instead the news is currently dominated by horrifying images of African American mothers.

Most ubiquitous is the near universally celebrated performance of Mo’Nique in the new film Precious. Critically and popularly acclaimed Precious is the film adaption of the novel Push. It is the story of an illiterate, obese, dark-skinned, teenager who is pregnant, for the second time, with her rapist father’s child. (Think The Color Purple in a 1980s inner-city rather than 1930s rural Georgia)

At the core of the film is Precious’ unimaginably brutal mother. She is an unredeemed monster who brutalizes her daughter verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually. This mother pimps both her daughter and the government. Stealing her daughter’s childhood and her welfare payments.

The mother of 5 year old Shaniya Davis

Just as Precious was opening to national audiences a real-life corollary emerged in the news cycle, when 5-year-old Shaniya Davis was found dead along a roadside in North Carolina. Her mother, a 25-year-old woman with a history of drug abuse, has been arrested on charges of child trafficking. The charges allege that this mother offered her 5-year-old daughter for sex with adult men.

Yet another black mother made headlines in the past week, when U.S. soldier, Alexis Hutchinson, refused to report for deployment to Afghanistan. Hutchinson is a single mother of an infant, and was unable to find suitable care for her son before she was deployed. She had initially turned to her own mother who found it impossible to care for the child because of prior caregiver commitments. Stuck without reasonable accommodations, Hutchinson chose not to deploy. Hutchinson’s son was temporally placed in foster care. She faces charges and possible jail time.

These stories are a reminder, that for African American women, reproduction has never been an entirely private matter.

Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison, chose the stories of enslaved black mothers to depict the most horrifying effects of American slavery. In her novel, Beloved, Morrison reveals the unimaginable pain some black mothers experienced because their children were profitable for their enslavers. Enslaved black women did not birth children; they produced units for sale, measurable in labor contributions. Despite the patrilineal norm that governed free society, enslaved mothers were forced to pass along their enslaved status to their infants; ensuring intergenerational chattel bondage was the first inheritance black mothers gave to black children in America.

Alexis Hutchinson

As free citizens black women’s reproduction was no longer directly tied to profits. In this new context, black mothers became the object of fierce eugenics efforts. Black women, depicted as sexually insatiable breeders, are adaptive for a slave holding society but not for the new context of freedom. Black women’s assumed lasciviousness and rampant reproduction became threatening. In Killing the Black Body, law professor, Dorothy Roberts, explains how the state employed involuntary sterilization, pressure to submit to long-term birth control, and restriction of state benefits for large families as a means to control black women’s reproduction.

At the turn of the century many public reformers held African American women particularly accountable for the “degenerative conditions” of the race. Black women were blamed for being insufficient housekeepers, inattentive mothers, and poor educators of their children. Because women were supposed to maintain society’s moral order, any claim about rampant disorder was a burden laid specifically at women’s feet.

In a 1904 pamphlet “Experiences of the Race problem. By a Southern White Woman” the author claims of black women, “They are the greatest menace possible to the moral life of any community where they live. And they are evidently the chief instruments of the degradation of the men of their own race. When a man’s mother, wife, and daughters are all immoral women, there is no room in his fallen nature for the aspirations of honor and virtue…I cannot imagine such a creation as a virtuous black woman.”

Decades later, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action” designated black mothers as the principal cause of a culture of pathology, which kept black people from achieving equality. Moynihan’s research predated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but instead of identifying the structural barriers facing African American communities, he reported the assumed deviance of Negro families.

This deviance was clear and obvious, he opined, because black families were led by women who seemed to have the primary decision making roles in households. Moynihan’s conclusions granted permission to two generations of conservative policy makers to imagine poor, black women as domineering household managers whose unfeminine insistence on control both emasculated their potential male partners and destroyed their children’s future opportunities. The Moynihan report encouraged the state not to view black mother as women doing the best they could in tough circumstances, but instead to blame them as unrelenting cheats who unfairly demand assistance from the system.

Black mothers were again blamed as the central cause of social and economic decline in the early 1990s, when news stories and popular films about “crack babies” became dominant. Crack babies were the living, squealing, suffering evidence of pathological black motherhood and American citizens were going to have to pay the bill for the children of these bad mothers.

Susan Douglass and Meredith Michaels, authors of The Mommy Myth explain that media created the “crack baby” phenomenon as a part of a broader history that understands black motherhood as inherently pathological. They write: “It turned out there was no convincing evidence that use of crack actually causes abnormal babies, even though the media insisted this was so…media coverage of crack babies serves as a powerful cautionary tale about the inherent fitness of poor or lower class African American women to be mothers at all.”

This ugly history and its policy ramifications are the backdrop against which these three contemporary black mother stories must be viewed.

Undoubtedly Mo’Nique has given an amazing performance in Precious. But the critical and popular embrace of this depiction of a monstrous black mother has potentially important, and troubling, political meaning. In a country with tens of thousands of missing and exploited children, it is not accidental that the abuse and murder of Shaniya Davis captured the American media cycle just as Precious opened. The sickening acts of Shaniya’s mother become the story that underlines and makes tangible, believable, and credible the jaw-dropping horror of Mo’Nique’s character.

And here too is Alexis Hutchinson. As a volunteer soldier in wartime, she ought to embody the very core of American citizen sacrifice. Instead she is a bad black mother. Implied in the her story is the damning idea that Hutchinson has committed the very worse infraction against her child and her country. Hutchinson has failed to marry a responsible, present, bread-winning man who would free her of the need to labor outside the home. Hutchinson does not stay on the home front clutching her weeping young child as her man goes off to war. Instead, she struggles to find a safe place for him while she heads off to battle. Her motherhood is not idyllic, it is problematic. Like so many other black mothers her parenting is presented as disruptive to her duties as a citizen.

It is worth noting that Sarah Palin’s big public comeback is situated right in the middle of this news cycle full of “bad black mothers.” Palin’s own eye-brow raising reproductive choices and parenting outcomes have been deemed off-limits after her skirmish with late night TV comedians. Embodied in Palin, white motherhood still represents a renewal of the American dream; black motherhood represents its downfall.

Each of these stories, situated in a long tradition of pathologizing black motherhood, serves a purpose. Each encourages Americans to see black motherhood as a distortion of true motherhood ideals. Its effect is troublesome for all mothers of all races who must navigate complex personal, familial, social, and political circumstances.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, is completing her latest book, Sister Citizen: A Text for Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Politics When Being Strong Isn’t Enough.