My erstwhile African-American-studies-minored self would love nothing more than to publish a dissertation on why this piece in Salon, written by Erin Aubry Kaplan of the Los Angeles Times, is destructive, superficial and historically unsound. But what would be the point?
I would say how dare you continue the objectification of a black woman, but mostly what I want to do is scream in outrage.
The article is, essentially, an ode to the black butt—specifically Michelle Obama’s. It is titled, predictability: “First Lady Got Back.” Lame title aside, it is a clear demonstration that despite the historic events of Nov. 4, there is still a lot to do about how we talk and think about black people in this country. This is especially true of black women who, whatever their accomplishments, are often seen as no more than the mere sum of their body parts, especially that part.
While the commenters debate back and forth about whether or not the [Salon] article is “joyful” or “disrespectful,” a large part of me wonders when Salon will publish an article on what faces Michelle Obama in the White House, or an article about racial trends in America penned by a woman of color, or a review of a book like Naked which lays all these issues bare.
My problem with the article isn’t that it’s a lighthearted musing on Michelle’s attributes, as seen through the eyes of another black woman (who – according to Kaplan’s website – has also whipped out personal essays on her own butt, as well as musing on J.Lo’s.)
My problem is that articles about Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, booty, and mom duties are what is fit to publish, what is seen as relevant to a mass audience.
See the referenced Salon article here, posted 11/18/2008:
From ERIN AUBREY KAPLAN at Salon.com:
Free at last. I never thought that I — a black girl who came of age in the utterly anticlimactic aftermath of the civil rights movement — would say the phrase with any real sincerity in my lifetime. But ever since Nov. 4, I’ve been shouting it from every rooftop. I’m not excited for the most obvious reason. Yes, Obama’s win was an extraordinary breakthrough and a huge relief, but I don’t subscribe to the notion that his capturing the White House represents the end of American racial history. Far from it. There is a certain freedom in the moment — as in, we are all now free from wondering when or if we’ll ever get a black president. Congratulations to all of us for being around to settle the question.
But what really thrills me, what really feels liberating in a very personal way, is the official new prominence of Michelle Obama.