First Lady Michelle Obama to appear on iCarly

First it was Sesame Street to promote healthy eating and fitness, and now America’s First Lady Michelle Obama is taking on a new cause: Support for military families.
According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Obama will be on the children’s series “iCarly” to promote her Joining Forces initiative. The episode is set to air in January 2012.

When did Mammy become an attorney?

Clutch Magazine reported that BigGovernment.com has produced yet another tasteless, and borderline racist cartoon –this time targeting the United States’ First Lady Michelle Obama.

It seems like the First Couple has been a thorn in conservative sides sense President Obama’s 2002 presidential run to become our 44th President of the United States.

Bucking the images that warm many conservative hearts –that is, Welfare Queens, criminal activity, etc.– the First Couple has been a sparkling reminder of the “good side” of contemporary, mutually-respecting married couples, and not the snapdragon, gum popping, eye-rolling, argumentative representations we’ve seen in American television, film, and media.

The cartoon was so offensive that talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s “The Last Word”, publicly decried on his show that he considered it a “racist obscenity”.

The cartoon history of parodying political figures is a long one and there have been numerous examples of mainstream racist and offensive imagery …during Jim Crow.

In the cartoon, First Lady Michelle Obama is drawn as overweight, darker (than her actual skin color), with neon pink lips, and smacking on  an enormous amount of food (a direct conflict of her policy on obesity).

So why are these images so familiar and hurtful?

During the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Jim Crow-era, African Americans and the subjects of freeing enslaved people and formerly enslaved (and free) people-of-color being elected to public office, getting an education, marrying, and owning land, sparked violent reactions in whites who wanted to continue their idea of white supremacy. By removing obstacles that prevented African Americans from being subjugated, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the propaganda racist whites had been spreading was quickly being upended. The system of racially segregating recently freed African Americans  was called Jim Crow and operated between 1876 and 1965.

In order to justify the system, the media used negative, stereotyping imagery to undermine what little gains had been won after the Civil War. Also, up until the end of the end of the Civil War (1865), African Americans were still considered three-fifths of a human being:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Common images began to emerge including that of  the “sassy” fat mammy (who was the unflinching defender of white families and children).

Mammy was always presented as obese, dark, wearing a kerchief, and grinning through exaggerated pink or red lips. She was given a back-hand respect because of her role as a wet nurse, cook, and alternate “mother”; however, she was never given freedom or a purpose outside of white service.

According to the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University, “Mammy is the most well known and enduring racial caricature of African American women” (http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/mammies/).

Some conservative web-sites have picked up the mantle of Jim Crow imagery, not only disrespecting the Office of the Presidency, but de-humanizing the Obama family to the point where this pattern is no longer something to be ignored.

In 2009 an altered image of Michelle Obama appeared in Google search results, prompting Google to (finally) make the following statement:

Sometimes Google search results from the Internet can include disturbing content, even from innocuous queries. We assure you that the views expressed by such sites are not in any way endorsed by Google…The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it.

However, if the photo were not First Lady Obama would Google have gone to such lengths. I’ve personally contact Google when they were becoming the premiere search engine for the Internet and commented on the fact that search results for “Black women” or “African American women” included a majority of adult images and sites. Their response? Basically, that’s too bad, nobody’s complained. (I wish I had saved that response because it said so much about at least one person working there!)

Negative imagery of African Americans is unacceptable –no matter how much the images are wrapped in the guise of parody. Minstrels were parodies, too.