All Articles Tagged "barack obama"
President Obama has traveled to his late father’s birth place of Kenya for a two-day visit, where he will hold lectures with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other top officials over the weekend.
Today (July 25), Obama discussed a number of topics, but most importantly gay rights, after he was encouraged to not do so. However, Obama didn’t take the objections to heart and spoke freely.
“When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode,” Obama said at press conference held with the Kenyan leader in Nairobi. “And bad things happen.”
Obama furthered explained the discrimination against gay rights by comparing it to his experience as a black man. “And when a government gets in a habit of people treating people differently, those habits can spread,” he said. ” As an African-American, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law.”
Kenya’s track record with LGBT rights is fairly poor, as the country does not embrace equal civil and social rights for homosexuals compared with heterosexuals. Under Kenyan law, men engaging in sexual acts with other men is actually illegal, and can lead to a punishment of maximum imprisonment for 14 years.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta gave his stance on gay rights saying, “The fact of the matter is Kenya and the U.S. share so many values: common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families — these are some things that we share. But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept.”
“It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept,” he continued. “This is why I repeatedly say for Kenyans today the (gay rights issue) is generally a non-issue. We want to focus on other areas,” which proved that Obama and Kenyatta’s views on gay right are like night and day. It was also reported by CNN that, “After that comment, a small amount of applause was heard, presumably from some of the audience attending.”
The lecture lead into discussions about other issues that actually concerned the country, like the economy, the fight against terror that plagues the region and trade. “Maybe once we overcome some of these challenges, we can begin to look at new ones,” Kenyatta offered.
Watch footage of the press conference here.
For the past six years, President Barack Obama has been busy running a nation and managing a family. Meanwhile, I’ve been struggling to juggle work, have a social life and not miss any holidays or events significant enough to place me in the doghouse with my relatives.
One would assume that having the weight of the White House on his shoulders would impose on the time and energy that Obama has to devote family, but according to the commander-in-chief, the presidency has helped him to improve in the fatherhood department.
In an essay published in the July/August MORE magazine titled “How The Presidency Made Me A Better Father,” Obama explains the transformation. An excerpt from his essay reads:
When you’re the President of the United States, you’re surrounded at all times—by aides, by press, by Secret Service, by crowds. It’s a bubble that’s hard to escape.
That’s what makes the people with whom you surround yourself in those rare private moments all the more important.
It just so happens that I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by women. They’re the most important people in my life. They’re the people who’ve shaped me the most. And in this job, they are my sanctuary.
People often ask me whether being President has made it more difficult to spend time with Michelle and our girls. But the surprising truth is that being in the White House has made our family life more “normal” than it’s ever been.
The July/August issue of MORE magazine hits stands on June 23. First Lady Michelle Obama stepped in as a guest editor for the issue.
To commemorate this year’s Father’s Day, our FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, posted a throwback picture of her husband and President of the United States, Barack Obama, with his two then toddler daughters on her Instagram.
“Thinking today and every day about the father of these two. Happy Father’s Day! – MO,” she captioned. The two didn’t get to spend the special day together, as Mr. President was in Southern California and Michelle was traveling back from Italy with her girls and mother.
So we at Mommynoire decided to piggyback off of Mo’s beautiful and thoughtful gesture and, a day after Father’s Day, celebrate our President by making him our Man Crush Monday pick of the week.
In case you don’t already know enough about our POTUS’ background, here’s a briefer. Barack Hussein Obama II was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4th, 1961. He is the first African American to hold the office, as well as the 44th and current President of the United States. Despite some criticism from naysayers, Obama was reelected for a second term in office on November 2012, defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and was sworn in on January 20, 2013.
Most recently in the headlines, Obama is being criticized for using the N-word to decry racism in this country, following the fatal shooting of nine churchgoers at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, at the hands of 21-year-old Dylann Roof, a white man. During an interview for the podcast “WTF with Marc Maron,” O bluntly stated:
“Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say n****r in public,” Obama said. “That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”
For the record, we at Mommynoire don’t see anything wrong with our African American President using this word to make a smart and eloquent point about race relations in this country. Just sayin’.
With that said, check out these 15 flicks of our leader and leave your comments below. Happy belated Father’s Day, Mr. President!
President Obama joined Twitter yesterday and quickly amassed 1.83 million followers. Here are his first three tweets.
— President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015
In Camden today, seeing first-hand how smart policing is making the community safer while building trust. pic.twitter.com/3MiWk43c8g
— President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015
Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.
— President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015
Obama’s presidency (and both of his presidential campaigns) were tech savvy ones. @BarackObama, run by Organizing for Action, a group stemming from his campaigns, has been tweeting for years. And @WhiteHouse has been tweeting news from his administration.
While he’s got a ton of followers, the President is only following 65 accounts, among them his alma maters Occidental, Columbia and Harvard, as well as some Chicago sports teams and members of his Cabinet.
Lots of users were quick to welcome the President to Twitter, including his VP, with this pic that we love.
— Vice President Biden (@VP) May 18, 2015
Update: President Obama has broken a record for the speed at which he reached one million followers. Obama reached that benchmark in less than five hours. The actor Robert Downey Jr. previously held that record, according to Guinness and Business Insider, with 23 hours and 22 minutes, set back in April 2014.
South Side Chicago, where President Barack Obama lived for most of his adult life, will carry on POTUS’ legacy in the form of a $600 million library, the Barack Obama Foundation announced on Tuesday.
Sorry Hawaii. Although the volcanic island is Obama’s birthplace, POTUS has a fondness for the Windy City. “All the strands of my life came together and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago,” Obama said in a video posted on CNN.
New York City was also a candidate to host the presidential library, but in the end, the University of Chicago won Obama’s heart.
It was Chicago that jump started Obama’s career. He worked there as a community organizer in Chicago’s South Side. Soon after, he took on politics and represented the South Side in the Illinois State Senate. He would later become a U.S. Senator after winning a statewide election in Illinois.
The POTUS, in 2008, also claimed his presidential victory against John McCain in Chicago.
“The people there, the community, the lessons that I learned — they’re all based right in this few square miles where we’ll now be able to give something back and bring the world back home after this incredible journey,” Obama said.
Obama also met his wife in Chicago. She grew up in the Windy City and she’s “thrilled” with Obama’s selection. “Every value, every memory, every important relationship to me exists in Chicago. I consider myself a South Sider,” she said.
The presidential library, according to the New York Post, will be located in one of two public parks near the University of Chicago campus. The university said that the center is expected to attract 800,000 visitors a year. This library will be an “economic boon” that will create 3,300 construction jobs, 1,900 permanent new jobs, and $220 million in revenue for Chicago, UChicago wrote.
“With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago, not only will we be able to encourage and effect change locally but what we can also do is attract the world to Chicago,” Obama said.
More info is also available on the Obama Foundation website.
Black people, particularly the adults, have to start telling the truth about racism in America, and that includes the first family.
What I mean is that during an address before the graduating class of Tuskegee University, First Lady Michelle Obama referred to racism as a “sting” and said that she refused to let it hold her back.
As reported by ABC News.com:
“Over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited a little bit of ‘uppityism,'” the first lady said. “Cable news charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s baby mamma.’
“All of the chatter, the name-calling, the doubting, all of it was just noise,” she said. “It did not define me, it didn’t change who I was, and most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back.”
Conjuring up the incidents in Ferguson and Baltimore, Obama told graduates, “Here’s the thing, the road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me.”
You can read the first lady’s entire speech on the White House website. During her address to the graduating class, she also revisited the familiar story of the Tuskegee Airmen, in particular, the challenges faced by Black soldiers who were assumed to be “childlike,” “shiftless” and have smaller brains than their white counterparts.
She then went on to talk about all the racism that she and her husband have endured both out on the campaign trail and during their time in the White House. This includes being labeled as an emasculating “angry Black woman” by many in the media and the time she was parodied on the cover of the New Yorker with a huge afro and machine gun after giving her husband ‘dap.’ As she noted in her speech:
“And at the end of the day, by staying true to the me I’ve always known, I found that this journey has been incredibly freeing. Because no matter what happened, I had the peace of mind of knowing that all of the chatter, the name calling, the doubting — all of it was just noise. (Applause.) It did not define me. It didn’t change who I was. And most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back. I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values — and follow my own moral compass — then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”
The speech in front of Tuskegee’s graduating class was beautiful, passionate and probably the most sincere either of the Obamas have been about race since President Obama took office. However, it is not entirely honest. In spite of her declaration, it is clear that the “sting” of racism has in fact defined Mrs. Obama and the Obamas in general. Moreover, anyone with an astute political eye can see that it not only changed how she carried herself in the White House, but in many instances, it held both of them back from enacting the change and reform that they had envisioned themselves doing while on the campaign trail.
It would be her brave and truthful comments about being proud of her country “for the first time,” made during the 2008 Democratic National Convention, that would lead to the future FLOTUS being labeled by many in the mainstream press as an “angry Black woman.” While undeserving, it was a reputation that would haunt the first lady during her first couple of years in the White House. It also didn’t help that a book, written by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, followed the theme of an emasculating First Lady by claiming that Michelle was overbearing and frequently clashed with White House staff, particularly Obama’s chief of staff at the time Rahm Emmanuel.
Then there was the less than warm reception she received over her Let’s Move! campaign. If you recall, while Michelle Obama was focused on trying to get legislation passed that would reduce the caloric intake of public school lunches, Republicans were accusing her of overstepping her boundaries. They even made racist remarks about her body shape, in particular, her derriere. Most memorable were the sentiments of a Wisconsin Republican, who criticized Mrs. Obama’s campaign by saying,“She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”
While Michelle Obama has always denied the White House drama and denounced her reputation as an angry Black woman (and rightfully ignored the disgusting sexist comments about her body shape), it was clear that each incident would provoke a noticeable change in Michelle’s overall public image. As noted by this 2008 article in the New York Times entitled, “After Attacks, Michelle Obama Looks for a New Introduction,” the Michelle Obama we witnessed on the campaign trail suddenly became less political. In particular, they noted “Mrs. Obama has already had to check her brutally honest approach to talking about race. Now she co-stars in a campaign that would as soon mute most discussion of race.”
And after the book release, which painted Michelle in a less than admirable light, she enlisted the assistance of a new advisor named Kristina Schake. She helped to redefine Michelle’s public image from the angry black lady into, as the UK’s Daily Mail reported earlier this year, an “all-American ‘everywoman’ who shops at retail outlets, does ‘mom dancing’ and even has a Twitter account.”
Likewise, as the National Journal had previously reported, “While President Obama was steadily losing favor over the last four years, his wife was undergoing a successful public makeover. In keeping with tradition, the first lady has mostly steered clear of politics to focus on feel-good projects such as outreach to military families, organic gardening, and efforts to fight childhood obesity.”
Michelle’s political neutralization did not just stop at talking about race. Her beloved Let’s Move! campaign stopped pushing for actual legislation changes, which would make healthier food more accessible, and instead took a softer approach by focusing on personal nutrition and fitness.
Whether she is willing to admit it to herself or not, it is obvious that the “sting” of racism would be the number one driving force behind Michelle Obama’s shift in her public image.
Now I am sure that Mrs. Obama meant well and thought her words to be inspiring. However, we need to stop preaching to the kids about the world we want to live in and instead, tell them the truth about the world we actually live in. Racism is not a “sting.” It is not the manifestation of sticks and stones and how ugly names cannot hurt us. Racism is systematic and continues in order to ensure that groups outside of the dominant culture, particularly African Americans, can not rise to the same level of equality, justice and freedom as our white counterparts.
And no matter how much personal wealth and status one can acquire within the confines of this system or how many of us become doctors, nurses, lawyers and even presidents of the United States, we are still going to be treated and regarded as inferior. And if the neutralization of Michelle Obama is not enough proof of that then consider how Barack, her husband, has been politically neutered because of his race, including constantly being maligned and undermined in the halls of Congress and not being able to speak and act freely on the issue of police brutality, possibly out of fear of what the dominant culture will say and do to him.
But by not telling the next generation of us the truth about this country, we are ultimately saying to our youth that their places, as second-class citizens in their own land of birth, is okay. That they should accept their positions and work within the parameters set by the majority. Frankly, this is the wrong mindset to have. That kind of mindset breeds complacency when what we actually need are changemakers.
If you’ve read President Obama’s autobiography, or seen of he and Michelle’s television appearances, especially around the time of his reelection campaign, you know about the First Couple’s first kiss.
In case you’ve somehow missed the story, he told O Magazine in 2007:
“On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.”
Is it just me, or was there a little double entendre there?
Either way, the story has become so popular and so sentimental, that there was plaque placed at the spot where the two shared their first kiss.
And now, according to Variety, the couple’s first date will be turned into a romance drama. The film, called Southside with You, will star Parker Sawyers as a young Barack and Tika Sumpter as Michelle Obama, then Robinson.
Ice cream wasn’t the only part of their date, the soon-to-be couple also visited the Art Institute of Chicago, took a walk and then saw Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing.
They made a whole day of it.
Sawyers recently completed a role in Snowden and is about to shoot The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
Richard Tanne will serve as screenwriter and director for the project. Glendon Palmer, who executive produced for Jumping The Broom, will also do so on this project with Tracey Bing, among others.
Shooting for the film is set to start in August.
You can watch Barack and Michelle Obama talk about their first date in this video below. It’s pretty adorable.
FLOTUS recently sat down with “Live With Kelly and Michael” and commented on the fact Time Magazine listed Sasha, 13, and Malia, 16, as two of the most influential teens of 2014. While famed blogger Luvvie may not be a mother just yet, she hit the nail on the head when explaining why First Lady Michelle Obama stating her two daughters were not influential was so great. From realizing “Everything in this house is mines” to the notion of working for what’s yours, Luvvie gives us a good laugh while also reminding us the importance of making sure our youth work hard for themselves – as FlOTUS points out.
Watch the interview below (comments at 2:24) and check out Luvvie’s comical realness.
Check out what Luvvie had to say:
I’m not a parent yet but I look forward to the day where I can tell my children that what’s mine is NOT theirs. First Lady Michelle Obama was told that Malia and Sasha were chosen by Time Magazine as two of the most influential teens and she did the Mommy-est thing she could. She disagreed.
“They are not influential. They just live here. They have done nothing to gain any influence.” I LOVE HER. She is such a Black mama because she even laughed at the idea. Like psht. She almost said “those jokers? Nah.”
You haven’t been insulted til your parents bring you back down to life in such a way.
My children will be told they have nothing but their good name. ALL THE SHOES AND ELECTRONICS ARE MINE because I bought them. They better not slam their bedroom door. IT IS MY DOOR AND YOU SLAM IT, YOU LOSE IT. All my petty will come out quick! This is the parenting I believe in.
Don’t mind me, though. I was raised by Nigerian parents who felt NO QUALMS about telling me when I was being an IJOT (idiot). Chile, Naija moms will cut you down to size so tough that when you get to school, you’re rubber and everyone is glue. We can shake things off way easier.
It’s also clear that The Obamas do not subscribe to that over-affirming form of parenting (thankfully). You know the parents who tell their kids they’re special snowflakes all the time in spite of what foolishness they engage in? NAH, B! I ain’t for that. Some parents will “OMG YOU’RE THE BEST THING EVER” their kids to spoiled glory. I’m not for that. At all.
If you do something ridiculous, you will be told. And then LATER, I’ll be all “but you’re smarter than that.” SIT in your mistake, doe. I’m not here for the “everyone gets a participation trophy” parenting manual. Nope. You didn’t win. That’s ok. Try harder next time. You will lose like a champ and deal. NO TROPHY for just playing. NAH.
Get better at what you wanna be awarded for, kid. Children need to be taught to expect to win but know how to lose.
But yes: “They have done nothing.” LOVE.
MommyNoire, do you agree with FLOTUS’ statement?
In my mind, I regard first lady Michelle Obama as triller than most people in Washington. When she confirmed that she didn’t have the temperament for politics, I interpreted that to mean that she’s too honest and too real to play the games necessary to survive in Washington D.C.
First Lady Michelle Obama is Auntie Chelle in my mind. She’s brilliant, she’s beautiful and in the right time and place, she’s going to let you know what’s what. And this morning I learned that she gets it from her momma.
Back in 2004, before President Obama was a household name, WTTW, a local Chicago television station aired a special about Barack Obama during his senate campaign.
But the special, which aired on “Chicago Tonight,” didn’t delve too heavily into politics. Instead it was about Obama’s journey to self discovery, the people and places that shaped his racial identity and even how others interpreted it. By the time they got around to talking about his meeting and marrying Michelle, her mother Marian Robinson was interviewed.
And she admitted that she was just a bit wary about her daughter marrying a biracial man.
Then she expounded, with the quote that’s been making news this morning:
“That didn’t concern me as much as had he been completely white. *Laughs*
I guess that I worry about races mixing because of the difficulty not for, so much for prejudice or anything. It’s just very hard.”
Since we’re still muddling through the race thing in this country, mainstream media is reporting this with a bit of shock and maybe even confusion. And if you read her comments without watching the whole 17 minute special, they may seem a bit harsh. But in the context of the special, which is mostly about race and how people perceive Blackness in this country and abroad, it made perfect sense.
And not only that, her comments aren’t all that different from the ones I’ve heard in my own home.
Like most Black people born in the ’50’s, my parents have some unresolved issues, resentment and feelings of hostility toward White people as a collective. There were consistent observations, complaints, and generalizations about White people behaviors (usually negative) in my home. Still, I witnessed my parents get along with and even enjoy the company of White people on individual levels. And when I reminded my parents, specifically my mother, about the inconsistencies of their stereotypes, she’d roll her eyes and respond with a skeptical “Ok, Veronica…” as if there were things I’d simply have to experience in order to understand.
In my life though, my parents supported and never discouraged me and my sister’s friendships with White kids but they also weren’t surprised when those friendships fizzled or completely ceased to exist around middle school. By the time we became of dating age, there was a strong sense and understanding that White people were just different. So it didn’t exactly come as a surprise that when I hypothetically broached the subject of dating and marrying a White man with my mother, she shook her head and closed her eyes, thinking of a way to express her internal disruption.
Like Marian Robinson, she thought it would be difficult and specifically referenced raising children. In my mother’s mind, it was hard enough to establish a sense of identity, self love and confidence in children who only identified as Black. Raising a child who was both Black and White would prove to be an even greater challenge. Speaking with my biracial friends about their own self identification journeys, I noticed that all of them included a reconciling of their “two races.” My mother and Ms. Robinson had a point.
As Michelle Obama’s autobiographer Peter Slevin, the man one who dug up this old interview, noted Ms. Robinson’s concerns didn’t cause her to completely oppose the union. It was just a concern. Parents want, unrealistically, for their children’s (and grandchildren’s) lives to be as “easy” as possible. So they worry, often unnecessarily, when something or someone “challenging” comes along. And while we certainly can’t expect our lives to be a bed of roses all the time, it doesn’t make their worries completely unfounded.
What the media is neglecting to report though, is that Michelle herself, was more than comfortable declaring Barack an undeniably Black man. After he lost a congressional election in 2000, some in the Black Chicago community questioned whether he was too elitist and “not Black enough” to represent a predominately African American district. Michelle emphatically refuted of those claims.
“I’ve grown up in this community. I’m as Black as it gets. I was born on the South side. I come from an obviously Black family. We weren’t rich. I put my Blackness up against anybody’s Blackness in this state, ok? And Barack is a Black man. And he’s done more in terms of meeting his commitments and sticking his neck out for this community than many people who criticize him. And I can say that ’cause I’m Black.”
I’ll be the first to say that, in most cases, you should at least listen and consider your mama’s opinion (Moms be knowin’); but at the end of the day, Michelle’s is the only opinion that matters when it comes to her own marriage. And judging by that quote, she didn’t have those same reservations. So, this really is a moot (and rather old) bit of news. We can consider this little tidbit as yet another way for the media to have another fruitless, surface conversation about race relations in this country. And once again, they’re not saying anything we haven’t already heard before.
You can watch the entire special, which was really well done, in the video below. Ms. Robinson’s comments are at the 13 min mark and Michelle’s comments on President Obama’s Blackness comes at 14:55.
What do you think about Ms. Robinson’s comments? Have you heard similar statements about interracial relationships from your own family members?
So Michelle Obama was on the Ellen DeGeneres show and apparently she’s all about the “Uptown Funk.”
If you haven’t seen the video, it is likely because you are legally blind. And I mean that both figuratively and literally as the video has been everywhere. But for the sake of this post, I offer this brief synopsis: it’s a video of the FLOTUS in some white very wide-legged sailor pants doing some sort of choreographed routine with the cast from “So You Think You Can Dance” to the wildly popular Morris Day and the Time’s…er…I mean, Bruno Mars’ track, “Uptown Funk.”
It is cute because it is awkward. And yet as awkwardly cute as it is, the routine, which is said to have mark the fifth anniversary of her ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, is all kinds of tired.
Yeah, I said it.
And I say it lovingly and with the utmost of respect for the First Lady (except for those pants she had on because I hated them with the passion of 10 presidential veto powers). With that said, Michelle Obama has spent most of her time in public office as a dancing machine. And I honestly think it’s time that we allow this woman to hang up the tap shoes and enjoy the political show from a comfortable seat on the sidelines.
But she probably won’t. And according to The Daily Mail UK, the First Lady will be performing the routine at least one more time on the front lawn of the White House during the annual Easter Egg Roll. Oh goody. More awkward dancing…
It all started with the 2007 election when her husband, then Senator Barack Obama, was forced to bust an uncomfortable move with Ellen DeGeneres in order to win votes. The following year – and only two months before the general election- FLOTUS would again be compelled to drum up votes by also doing a two-step with Ellen. Thankfully, the election season ended and we would soon be spared the embarrassment of having to watch mostly White people force The Obamas to dance – at least for a short while.
In 2011, Michelle would get all footloose again, but this time around, it wasn’t votes she was after. Rather her happy feet were in support of her Let’s Move Initiative. And instead of two-stepping with Ellen, the First Lady did the Dougie with the kids from the Alice Deal Middle School in D.C. Naturally, the public ate it up.
And why wouldn’t they? Michelle is the hip, cosmopolitan and young mother who isn’t afraid to show her arms and doesn’t wear Mom jeans. Likewise, there was a political gain to be had. If you recall, the anti-obesity program was taking a serious beating in the press by mostly right-leaning conservatives, who took issue with Michelle’s tampering with the nutritional value of the public child lunch programs. As such, her dancing provided a nice way to refocus the program to the much more politically- safe topic of physical activity.
And it worked. Michelle would celebrate the second anniversary of the anti-childhood obesity program by dancing across four state in a three day tour. In 2012, she returned to Ellen again to not only dance but have a push-up challenge. In 2013, she did the Evolution of Mom Dance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” Also that year, Michelle “freeze danced” with the kids of Savoy Elementary School in Washington, D.C., did a Bollywood bop with guests at the White House’s Diwali celebration, raised the roof with young contest winners during a Kids’ State Dinner, and cut-a-rug with tennis champ Serena Williams.
The dancing continued in 2014 including at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities event at the White House, during another appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and at another Let’s Move event where she did the salsa with former “Saved By the Bell” alum Mario López. She would end last year by releasing a Vine video of her chair dancing with a turnip to Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What.” For a second there, I thought Michelle was dropping a hint to the world that she would finally be taking that much deserved seat. But she would continue to channel Debbie Allen this year with her latest viral foxtrot with Ellen.
I know that it is common practice for politicians (including their families) to want to show us that they are human and embarrassing just like the rest of us. It is a huge way that they build social capital. While I imagine there are some – a handful at least – politicians who hope to spend their times in Washington taking care of the business we elected them to do, the reality is that many of their own constituents doubt both their actual sincerities and abilities to do their jobs unless we see them engage in some sort of stupid human trick like drinking beers with babies or eating an Italian hoagie while doing the Macarena.
This need to establish and maintain social capital is especially true of the Obamas who have garnered quite a reputation on the Hill for being both anti-social and a bit snobby. As noted by Todd Purdum in this Vanity Fair piece from 2013:
“Successive flights of frustrated senior aides to both the president and the First Lady have battled the Obamas’ persistent assumption that supporters (and staffers, for that matter) don’t need to be thanked—a battle fought largely in vain. Five years into their tenure, the couple has a social reputation few would have envisioned when they came to town: more standoffish than the Bushes, and ruder than the Clintons.”
It’s hard to say how much of that reputation is earned and how much of it is a shield meant to protect them against some pretty aggressive racism, including the micro and passive-aggressive kind. Or even if their alleged attitudes are even the problem at all?
For the most part, President Obama has been a pretty moderate leader. He definitely hasn’t been the reformer many had hoped he’d be in 2008. Yet that hasn’t stopped the right, as well as some within his own party, from trying to paint him as some sort of radical Black, Islamic militant named Barack X. This kind of racism, which has plagued much of the Obamas two-terms in the White House is not unusual to Black America. And the constant cultural maligning as being angry and confrontational tends to create anxiety and doubt within some of us, to the point that we are overcompensating in our genteelness in order to appear non-threatening to non-Black people.
Some of us smile more. Some of us speak in lowered and hushed tones (if at all). Some of us manipulate other behaviors and compromise a bunch while some of us try to become different people all together. And then there are some of us who will dance until White people relax.
Not sure how much the Obamas embodies the latter, but both are highly skilled and intelligent people. I’m certain we can talk to them about anything. This is particularly true of Michelle, who prior to the White House, had her own thriving career as a civil rights attorney. And yet the only use we can find for her to do is the electric slide of the White House front lawn…