I am not a fan of President Barack Obama, nor am I titillated by every second in the life of a little dog named Bo and two adorable girls named Sasha and Malia, even though they’re all extremely precious and make us all proud. To be honest, what I care more about is the wishy-washy, closet-conservative, imperialistic foreign politics of the father-in-chief. Still, every so often, I find myself feeling the need to come to the defense of First Lady Michelle Obama — and now is one of those times. So write it down and take a picture, because this will not happen again until the next blue moon.
On an episode of her “Both Sides Now With Huffington and Matalin” radio program, multimillionaire Arianna Huffington decided to take the First Lady to task for not being Black enough. Of course, she didn’t say, “Black enough,” she just said that Michelle Obama should be more like former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and visit “South Central.”
Huffington, whom I agree with on most matters, stated that the First Lady should avoid lavish fundr-aisers in swanky L.A. neighborhoods and focus more on demonstrating her compassion for people’s suffering:
“I’d love [Michelle] to be more [like] Eleanor Roosevelt right now, because the country needs an Eleanor Roosevelt who’s going to go around and at the same time that she’s doing fund-raisers in Beverly Hills and Bel Air … she should go to South Central [Los Angeles], I mean, if I were Michelle Obama right now, I would not go anywhere for a fund-raiser without going and seeing the places where there is pain, where there is struggle, where there is homelessness, where there is unemployment, because we need to bring that conversation to the center of the debate and there’s nothing like a first lady or … a candidate to take us there.”
You can take your elitist criticism of Michelle Obama and shove it into a tall pile of money.
First of all, that area hasn’t been called “South Central” since 2003; it is now South Los Angeles. If that wasn’t the first clue that you have no idea what you’re talking about, what exactly would you have her do in “South Central” — get shot nine times like 50 Cent so she can have some street cred?
I agree that when the Obamas come to Los Angeles (besides wreaking havoc on the 405 freeway), the president is either speaking at a university, meeting with the Latino community or hob-nobbing in Hollywood. There definitely needs to be more of a focus on providing comprehensive outreach to the poor among us, but suggesting that the First Lady of the United States stroll through an urban war zone just so she can prove how “down” she is with the plight of suffering, unemployed, Black and Brown people, is about as insulting as Rick Santorum saying that it’s “remarkable” that Obama is pro-choice, considering that he’s Black.
Now that I’ve entertained your stereo-typical insinuations about “South Central,” let’s talk about reality. When was the last time you visited South Los Angeles, Ms. Huffington? Are you relying on clips of “Boyz in the Hood” and “Menace II Society” for your information, or have you driven through Compton and Inglewood and seen the neighborhoods for yourself?
Do you even know the ethnic make-up of South Central or are you still operating under the presumption that it’s over-run with poor,”suffering” African Americans? You do realize that it’s nearly half Belizean, Hispanic, and Latino, right? You do realize that there are thriving African businesses in Leimert Park, right? You wouldn’t just be throwing out the the most destitute, “ghetto,” Black place you could think of for our first Black First Lady to visit, would you? You didn’t open your mouth before familiarizing yourself with the affluent African-American neighborhoods of Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights, did you?
I know you meant well, Ms. Huffington … or did you?
Because on second thought, it seems that you’re perpetuating the myth that the First Lady is an “uppity” Black woman who wouldn’t understand poverty if it smacked her in the face with a food stamp. With your statement, you join the exclusive club of people who brush over her hard-knock life, where her only riches were found in her family. You negate her work to eradicate obesity among children, specifically African-American children — obesity often being a symptom of poverty. You dismiss her efforts to attract grocery stores that sell fresh food to impoverished neighborhoods; you discount her push to provide tax-breaks to breastfeeding mothers — which, surprisingly [please, note sarcasm] is an issue facing many women in poverty who can’t afford to stay home to nurse their children.
But I guess those initiatives aren’t “Black enough” for you? You’d rather passively endorse the Marie Antoinette drawing, Hawaii vacation-envying crowd who would prefer that a Harvard-educated attorney and Mother of two “visit” the hoods of “South Central” to prove how much she cares about
Black unemployed people. That would be the equivalent of critics telling you that if you really care about your native Greece, then when you dined there with the Greek prime minister George Papandreou, you should have stopped in the hood — if you really care.
See how insulting and narrow-minded that is?
As the mastermind behind the merger of Huffington Post and AOL Black Voices and a keynote speaker at the National Association of Black Journalists, Ms. Huffington, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourselves with the many voices in the African-American community — and they aren’t just poor and suffering in South Central; nor, do many of us prefer a symbolic, executive drive through the hood to the necessary work that the First Lady is actually doing in those communities.
Michelle Obama is more than doing her part. If you must criticize anyone, then reserve that for the Commander-in-Chief, who is so afraid that conservatives will catch him uttering the word “poverty,” that he wouldn’t order “Colors“ on Netflix.
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