Double standard…uppity, brave or truth

Every now and then a public story will touch a nerve deep within me and I can’t let it go because it is too close to home. I realized that last night when I found myself up later than I had intended to stay up after hearing the story about the current First Lady of the United States and the run in she had with a heckler at a private event.

For those not interested in reading the story, the basic gist is that Michelle Obama was speaking at a private fundraiser held in a private home. Mrs. Obama was apparently in the middle of her prepared speech when a gay rights activist who has been identified as Ellen Sturtz started yelling for “President Obama to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” It seems that Mrs. Obama wasn’t in the mood for that and replied by saying “One of the things I don’t do well is this,” “listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving.”  Various reports mention that Mrs. Obama looked Sturtz in the eye and that’s where the story gets a bit strange. Sturtz claims she was taken aback by Mrs. Obama’s response to being heckled in the middle of her speech and to say the media is having a field day is an understatement.

Some members of the media have stated that Mrs. Obama was out of line, really? Someone yells something at me that I can’t personally do anything about and I am required to be a big sweetheart about it? There was nothing offensive about Mrs. Obama’s response because as a society, our track record of respect given to women of color is sketchy at best. Mrs. Obama was firm and polite; there is also the fact that a private event was probably not the place for Ellen Sturtz to take direct action, no matter how effective such tactics can be.

Of course what is most fascinating is that reaction to Mrs. Obama falls almost neatly along racial and class lines. Many white commenters online have alluded to Mrs. Obama being uppity, being rude, thinking she is something special. Um…this woman is accomplished in her own right, a double Ivy League grad, successful professional and the backbone of the president of the United States. That guy who was and still is the first non-white President of the United States. I think it’s safe to say she is not an average Jane.

However for those of us who fall outside of society’s favored class, we are hearing something else in this so called event. We are hearing the same old chorus that attempts to stifle us when we speak our truth, the chorus that says we must do XYZ lest we appear to be scary and fall into that tired and overused trope of the Angry Black Woman who is a 1st cousin to Sapphire. The Angry Black Woman is any and every Black woman who dares to show emotion, to reveal our truth. To be a Black woman is to know that you must wear your mask 99% of the time because this culture will not validate our feelings, our feelings will be turned against us, used as a sign of our defaults.

Michelle Obama did what many a professional Black woman has either had to do or wanted to do at some point in her life. She didn’t stuff herself down; she stood strong in her truth. Period. How that truth is received depends on people being willing to examine themselves and why when certain people speak their truth, it is uppity, yet when others speak their truth, it is brave, it is accepted.

Truth in America is all about the double standard and until we are ready to tear that standard down we will never progress far no matter how we dress things up.

PS: Yeah, yeah…typos. This post was written on the fly wedged between meetings.

This is one of those posts where I suspect I won’t be able to do the subject justice and will come across all wrong and inevitably piss someone off though that is not my intent.It was brought to my attention that I may have conflated the Fat Acceptance Movement with the Health at Every Size movement, I will admit that despite the fact that the Fat Acceptance Movement has existed for many years, it’s only in the past year did I become familiar with it. So I am stating upfront that if I misspoke something, please understand it is not intentional.

Since my late 20’s after what was a lifetime of never worrying about my weight, I entered a phase that is still with me where my weight and I have a love-hate relationship, though I am working hard to love it. After a year hiatus from Weight Watchers I recently went back since the 16.1 extra pounds I am carrying around just won’t go away…damn pesky pounds and I realized that despite my ambivalence, Weight Watchers works for me, I need that extra bit of accountability though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Bodies and weight are a sensitive topic. In a world obsessed with thin bodies when you don’t have a thin body it’s easy to feel invisible or judged, trust me I know. Almost a year after my daughter’s birth, a picture my husband took of me,  that photo had me asking who is the fat chick? Turns out I was the fat chick! I was caught up in the glow of a new baby and frankly didn’t have time to nurture my body and ended up heavier than I had been during my pregnancy…damn breast-feeding advocates lied to me! They said if I breastfed, I would lose weight; I suspect they didn’t mean I could have that Dorito and coke habit I had at the time. I have shared on this blog before, how I ended up joining Weight Watchers and over a several year period shed damn near 50 pounds. I did a great job of keeping it off until a pesky abdominal surgery had me laid up for weeks and I fell back into some old habits, once again involving carbonated beverages and chips. I admit, chips are my weakness, fuck that, they are my kryptonite.

Last year after some hemming and hawing, I decided to get serious about taking the weight off and a month later, said fuck it, I just didn’t want to deal with it. So I have spent the past year living in the 160’s which I suspect is my body’s natural weight range if left alone. As I recently told a friend for the most part, with my walking and yoga, I can eat what I want and neither gain nor lose weight. All in all, not a bad place, yes I am overweight, but I am active however a recent conversation with one of my oldest friends made me take another look at the situation.

My friend B who recently turned 44 and has always carried an extra 20-40 lbs. was diagnosed with some serious health issues that are directly tied to years of carrying extra weight. He’s a big man, always has been but as he told me, taking a shitload of drugs is not his idea of fun and so he is actively trying to get the weight off and bring his body back to where it needs to be so he can live sans the drugs.

Reason I am sharing this, is because in the past year the Fat Acceptance Movement has grown thanks to the internet. I have seen more than one blog post advocating that all bodies are beautiful and that fat judgment, bias and shaming need to go. I agree, the standards of beauty are indeed limited, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes just as wellness can come in all shapes and sizes. However I think some who claim to be part of the Fat Acceptance Movement have it all wrong when they say campaigns such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign are nothing more than a bullying campaign.

There are real consequences to carrying too much extra weight on our bodies, trust me I can feel the difference. While I like to say it was the less than flattering picture that made me lose weight, the real wake-up call was that walks started leaving me winded, that truly got my attention. Barring respiratory issues, there was no reason for me, a thirty something year old woman to get winded while walking my kid and I knew I needed to change it.

In thinking of writing this piece, I did some poking around and there are clearly some in the Fat Acceptance Movement such as Kate Harding who make sense, Harding gave up the up and down life of diets and now is a healthy size 16. The problem is there are some in the Fat Acceptance Movement who confuse the message of beauty and wellness at all sizes to mean do nothing. I have had the pleasure of knowing in my offline life a few folks who are huge advocates of the Fat Acceptance Movement who state they are happy being overweight yet admit they have limitations due to their weight. If your weight limits you in a negative way, it seems to me that acceptance of that weight and doing nothing to at least shed a few pounds is not a healthy choice. Accepting who we are is always good; don’t run from reality but at the same time, we do have choices.

Dieting sucks because frankly it’s a short term fix, instead a lifestyle overhaul is far more effective. Look, I like chips and while I know I can’t eat them every day, I know that by adding movement daily and really ramping up my intake of fruits and veggies will allow me to enjoy a bag at least once a week.

In many ways unhealthy weight in the US is a health crisis, Americans on average are a lot heavier than we used to be, there are a lot of ideas about why this is the case. Excess weight over the years can take a toll on the body and that is a sad fact. I think the reason we are seeing people like Michelle Obama talking about this is because much like smoking years ago, we are dealing with a public health crisis. For every one overweight person who isn’t facing diabetes, hypertension, joint issues, etc., my guess is there are two or more who are. No amount of downplaying it makes it any less true. This is where the Fat Acceptance Movement in my opinion needs to do a better job of explaining that what they are really about is wellness, health and beauty regardless of size.

Bodies are not all the same, some of us no matter what we do are always going to be thick, but there is a fine line between acknowledging beauty at any size and saying it’s okay to be heavy enough that you face the chances of your life being shortened. Right now the movement seems to lack a unified message; instead some are using Fat Acceptance as a way to skirt personal responsibility. No one deserves to be shamed or mistreated because of their body size but let’s not kid ourselves, in some cases that extra weight can truly be harmful as my friend B learned the hard way.

Personally while I make light of the reasons why I am trying to lose weight the fact is at 39, I am already pass the age my mother was when she was diagnosed with hypertension. Mind you my mother never weighed more than 130 lbs. in her 50 years on this planet, but my family history on both side’s is one that the older I get, I know the extra weight is not a good thing. Most people in my family don’t live past 60 and frankly I want to break that streak, so for me, it’s about wanting to do a little better than other family members.





Poor Ronald McDonald the Scapegoat!

So McDonald’s, the king of cheap, calorie laden, gas inducing (even poop inducing) burgers is going to make the Happy Meal a little less happy and a little more healthy and somehow this is going to help make the children of America a little less obese? Really? Well it seems there are many who feel this is an important step in fighting the war on childhood obesity that is currently being waged by our gorgeous First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

I will admit that we do have a growing issue with obesity in this country but I am not so sure I want to lay it all on the feet of folks like McDonald’s and sugary breakfast cereals as many would like to do. Nope. Let’s take a look at lifestyles, back when I was a kid, I walked to school yet in the age of paranoia kids just don’t walk like they used to. In fact in many parts of the country as Physical Education has been gutted in school districts and to be honest movement only happens in extracurricular activities outside of schools that often have fees attached to them.

Which brings me to what I feel is the culprit behind growing obesity rates in this country, sheer economics, plain and simple. Wages have been stagnant in this country for a while; in fact most so called economic growth seen in families in the past several decades was only because households went from one wage earner to two. Then the credit and economic crisis hit and the jig was up. Yet when households started having two wage earners, which meant no one was home to cook a balanced home cooked meal; well you eat quickly made foods. Quick made does not necessarily mean fast food but it often does mean processed foods which often times are simply not as healthy as can be. Add in a couple of tired parents living in suburbia where sidewalks don’t exist, a big gaming system and you have a stew brewing that will lead to obesity and this is for so-called middle class folks

Take a walk with me to poverty row and it gets even worse. If you are income eligible your kid can get two meals a day for free at school and during summer at schools and community programs. To a family on the financial edge these free meals can seem like a blessing so you don’t have to decide between the light bill and the grocery bill. The question is have you seen a school lunch? If not take a look.

Nothing on that plate screams healthy yet this is what is served to our kids in the US under the guise of healthy and nutritious and before you get mad at the schools. The reality is the United States Department of Agriculture’s meal reimbursement rate to actual providers of these meals is paltry. In the summer the reimbursement rate for lunch is $3.15 per meal per kid and before you get excited, that reimbursement rate covers staff salaries, supplies and all that jazz so really it’s about a buck or so per kid if you are lucky. Millions of kids in this country get the bulk of their daily sustenance under these programs…think about that.

Now let’s think about the fact that over 15 million kids in America are living in poverty, in fact childhood poverty is at the highest it’s been in over 40 years! Couple that with rapid growth in the use of SNAP benefits aka food stamps and maybe McDonald’s is not the culprit, maybe ole Ronald is the scapegoat when the fact is we as a nation are just not terribly vested in our young no matter what we say. The hard reality is people are working harder for less financially, yes there are some parents who need nutrition education but in a society that does not value it’s families in general to focus on childhood obesity without looking at all the other systems that can impact obesity is simply a Band-Aid approach designed to make us feel good but not affect change on any deep level

So to Michelle, I say work on making sure healthy nutritious food is financially available to all, make sure kids have access and the means to physical activity and you can start by making sure their parents are healthy.

Um….is that really news?

So it seems genealogists have unearthed the fact that Michelle Obama better known these days as the First Lady of the United States does indeed have a direct family link to slavery. In case you missed the NY Times piece, her great great great Grandma was in fact a slave. Now as I read the piece, I thought it was pretty cool that Michelle’s lineage was able to be traced but I was stunned at how stunned commenters were about the fact that not only was there a direct slave connection in her family but also interracial mingling since her great  great great great Grandma bore at that time what was called a mulatto child which today would be a biracial child.

Um…is this really news? In fact the more I thought about this piece in fact as I write this piece right now I am listening to NPR cover this story and once again hearing how amazing it is that someone whose ancestors were slaves is now the First Lady, the more I wonder maybe there is a reason we don’t have great race relations in this country.

For starters, why is this news? Um…most Black folks who are American born with American born relatives, if given the chance to trace our lineage, could almost certainly trace our roots to ancestors who had been slaves. No, I am not saying all American Blacks had relatives who were slaves. In fact living in Maine, I have come to learn that for many Maine Blacks who have roots over several generations in Maine, that their paths were often different. But for many Blacks who currently live in large urban areas like oh Chicago, if we had relatives who came to the city during the great migration which started around 1910, well as you can see it wouldn’t be hard to not have had a great great great grandparent who had been a slave.

This is not news to most Black folks, hell we are shaking our hands wondering why is this news to White folks. Hell, I know there is a good chance that my ancestors at least on my Dad’s side had involvement in slavery and that is without doing a complete check of my background, after all my grandparents were sharecroppers in rural Arkansas. It’s not a great stretch in my mind to figure out that my great great great Grandparents were most likely slaves since my own grandparents were sharecroppers and my own Dad has told me enough stories that the world he grew up in was only a step or two removed from the days of slavery in Arkansas.

No, its great that this information is being discovered though it sounds like Michelle Obama didn’t quite give her blessing on this project since she had no comment when questioned by the NY Times. Though that’s a whole other post, I mean maybe one might want to be sensitive when digging around in someone’s personal history. Of course in our society it seems the lives of Black women are considered to be an open book, but that really is another post.

The fact that this is even newsworthy actually bugs me on one level because it’s once again a reminder that perhaps we as a society really don’t get each other and on some level we don’t try to get each other. To hear amazement that there was a white ancestor in her bloodline is also stunning…um, many hundreds of thousands of Black women during slavery were put into situations where they had relationships with white men. I will stop short at saying all were raped but my guess is the great majority of Black women who bore biracial children during slavery were not involved in mutually consensual relationships with the slave master. I mean lets keep it real, if my choice was getting fucked or getting killed or beaten or having my existing children sold off…what choice do I really have? Yeah, not really a choice.

In order for us to have real race relations in this country, it might help if we had a basic understanding of where we come from and our collective shared history. Maybe if Black History was not relegated to the shortest month of the year where we focus too much of on a few individuals instead we might not be amazed at the fact that the First Lady is descended from slaves because we would already know that. The longer we continue to not have open honest dialogues on the history and issues of race in this country, the more we continue to never advance as a people and as a society.

Rules, manners, protocol…

I find that when I write about world events my readership drops off, its all good, by my own admission I am a lightweight when it comes to commenting on world affairs but by the same token, its my blog so I write what I feel… That said, what is the deal with folks blasting Barack and Michelle Obama over their lack of manners and style on the international stage.

See, this is why I couldn’t be the president or the first lady because my outspoken behind would be on the telly telling folks where to stick it….ok, no I wouldn’t but it did sound good to say that. Seriously though, the blogosphere was all ablaze because Michelle Obama dared to touch the Queen of England….and the problem is???? Oh, turns out mere humans should never deign to touch the woman. Now I have heard folks saying this was a mere blip to folks even in the Black blogosphere lamenting over Michelle’s lack of knowledge when it comes to etiquette.

Now I have seen the picture and the Queen didn’t look pissed, shit the woman was probably glad to have someone treat her like a fucking human being. Newsflash the Queen is a human like the rest of us, meaning she even makes stinky in the potty like us plebians. Imagine that the Queen wakes up and goes to the bathroom just like you and I? The horrors.

Really so what Michelle touched her!!! Of course then there is Michelle’s tendency to wear outfits that some find questionable like being sleeveless, um she is in her 40’s and very possibly starting to feel the flutters of menopause, maybe she gets hot flashes. Again this is all silly shit…world is going crazy and we are all in a tizzy over who the First Lady touches and what she wears.

On the other hand, the more I thought about the issue, I found myself bugged about how she is being asked to follow some “rules” that others of her stature have done before…you know other First Ladies. Well maybe its time to change the rules, after all the rules pretty much dictated up until recently that only White Folks were in charge, maybe having a Black president and First Lady will allow us as a nation and world to see there many different ways of being. So what Michelle is overly expressive (yeah, Michelle…you do make a lot of facial expressions) as long as she presents a proper front who cares? I don’t.

Now let’s not leave Barack out either, our favorite smooth talker is gaining a reputation for being a shitty gift giver, after all he gave the Queen an I-Pod, imagine that? Now I read that it was actually something she requested, not sure if that is true or not. On the flip side she is the fucking Queen, I suspect she doesn’t lack for much so what do you give someone who has everything? Yeah, I know if it was me I would be stumped, shit, I would baked her some damn cookies.

Of course lets not forget Obama’s gift to Gordon Brown, a  box of DVD’s of American classic movies. Rumor has it that Brown isn’t much of a movie buff and Brown and his wife did bring a nice array of gifts for the Obama family. Well I admit the movies probably weren’t the best gift but again, hey he got the man something. Plus truth be told with the country on the brink of economic collapse I want this man working on our issues not looking for the best gifts to impress.

Again, things change and with the Obamas in the White House that is already a visible sign of change, maybe its time to rethink some of what we consider protocol. After all who really decides what’s right or not?

Thrift is the new Black

It seems in the past few months every where we turn, we are hearing about how ordinary Americans are looking to save money, and basically live a frugal and even sustainable lifestyle. Its clear that as the US and even world economies continue to tank that folks are looking to cut back either by force such as a decrease in income or just the realization that constant consumption is no longer the in thing.

In fact with the announcement that First Lady Michelle Obama is using part of the White House lawns to start a garden, I suspect that one of this season’s hottest new hobbies will be gardening. Yep, no longer will folks be coveting the latest pair of Jimmy Choos or some other high end item, instead folks will be talking about the latest heirloom tomato they are growing. Ok, that might be a tad much but seriously, I do see things such as gardening becoming quite popular.

Already in my little town it seems there is talk of establishing a community garden, which I must admit I am excited about. I don’t have much usable land that gets sunlight so the idea of a plot of land to garden in is actually making me excited.

I must say that I am glad to see Michelle Obama taking up the issue of healthy food, I suspect as a native of Chicago’s south-side she is quite familiar with the lack of access to healthy foods that many poor folks and folks of color have to live with….in my Grandma’s old neighborhood which was on the south-side of Chicago, you could find whatever type of alcoholic beverage you wanted to quench your thirst and take away your sorrows. However finding the fixings to make a tossed green salad that was not made of iceberg lettuce was comparable to getting the winning numbers of the lottery. Hard as hell to do.

While organic foods have been in style for a while, fact is that for a large segment of the US population, organics are no more acessible than a lobster dinner to most folks, so seeing Michelle’s face along with area DC school children in the dirt looking to plant food is a good thing.

It seems as a culture we need role models to guide our process. Anyway for those of us who practice being thrifty and already had plans to grow some food, we are trendy. Let’s just hope that like Starbucks took over our lives for years that this quest to live simply catches on like a $4 latte.

Leave her arms alone

OK, I am late to the party but as always I have to add my two cents. It seems when Barack Obama spoke the other night before Congress, Michelle Obama may have upset the First Lady protocol by appearing sleeveless. At first I thought it was just a few folks perhaps older folks up in arms but it seems in my cruising the web, there are plenty of folks with an opinion about Mrs. Obama and her sleeveless arms.

Now I don’t know Michelle and for all I know she could be a raving bitch in private but from what I have seen of her, she strikes me as a down to earth sista. I know she hails from the south-side of Chicago not too far from where my Granny lived and that she grew up in a house that looked a lot like my grandma’s house. (gotta love the Chicago brick bungalow…they almost all look the same)  The fact that she could have never come back to the south-side of Chicago after college and law school but instead chose to settle in Chicago’s Hyde Park area also at least to me  speaks of someone who never wants to forget their roots.

I spent at least 35-40% of my childhood on Chicago’s south-side and its a place that while it has its shitty areas, its a place that forms you and molds you. Even now I live in Maine which is 180 degrees from the old neighborhood but I sometimes lament the fact that my daughter will never know the south-side and its people. Its hard to explain but the south-side of Chicago can be a gritty place but at the same time it can be a place that inspires a level of loyalty and a sense of never forgetting where you come from no matter where you, its a place that grounds you.

Anyway back to Michelle, change is hard…I suspect its got to be hard to go from just being a worker, wife and mama to now being the First Lady of the United States. To go from being able to grab a wing plate at Harold’s on Fridays to reward yourself for eating nice and organic all week to now having your every move peeped at and analyzed by folks, some of who truthfully know jack about Black folks.  Terrorist fist jab anyone?

On the other hand I have come across a fair number of upper-class Blacks who seem to feel that Michelle does not represent well. However considering she considers folks like Valerie Jarrett a personal friend that tells me that at some level Michelle must be able to wear the mask of being a working class person by origins even if that is not where she lives anymore on the class ladder well if she is friends with someone who clearly hails from the upper crust.

I don’t know but it seems to me that its rather unfair to judge Mrs. Obama on her fashion choices. Or better yet judge her to be lacking because she chooses to march to a different drum. I suspect in order to allow her husband to pursue his dream of being president, she has given up quite a bit. Again, not knowing either the president or first lady personally but I cannot imagine him telling her to dress more um…conservatively.

In my view Michelle represents a type of Black woman that many Black folks know in their personal lives yet the larger society is not familiar with; its the Michelle’s who do so much in our families and communities yet in the greater media representation we only see Sapphire, Jezebel or any other antiquated model for Black women. Or the new millenium hooch mama in music videos.

Call me crazy but I find the new First Lady to be refreshing, I suspect even if she were a white woman with the same background and style I would actually say the same thing. Yet the fact she is a brown skinned woman like myself and comes from a similar background only gives me an extra reason to smile.

I say with all that is going  on in this country, seriously leave her arms alone….shit, she has well maintained arms and if she wants to show them off, more power to her.