Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The First Lady, Race, & Body Image

This past week, Bob Grisham, an obviously mentally impaired, High School football coach and psychology teacher at Lauderdale County High School in Rodgers, Alabama has been suspended for 10 days without pay for making derogatory comments about the First Lady, Michelle Obama, as well as anti gay statements. In a seemingly pre-pubescent outburst Grisham was caught on tape blaming "fat butt Michelle Obama" for the school's low-calorie lunches. On the recording which took place in front of his students, Grisham also is quoted as saying.
"Look at her. She looks like she weighs 185 or 190. She's overweight,"
An investigation into the allegations against Grisham was launched after the audio, believed to have been secretly recorded by a student, leaked to the media. Grisham told the Times Daily in an earlier interview that he "misspoke."
On Monday the Lauderdale County Board of education decided to allow Grisham to keep his teaching job at the school but imposed the suspension. Grisham will stop teaching his psychology class until the suspension is up. His coaching job was not discussed by the board. In addition, he will also need to attend "sensitivity training." The general consensus among parents and some community members is that the punishment is overkill.
The ambivalence, disrespect, and disdain shown toward the First Lady and the First Family in general is infuriating. The insolent insults which seem to be ever present in the media, are never founded on credible ideas or based on critical thinking. It is always the same barrage of small minded, resentful, and crass comments each and every time. The fact that anyone could find fault with Michelle Obama for advocated nutritious school lunches is both puzzling, and disturbing. There is a deep feeling of resentment, and racism simply because as First Lady, Mrs Obama is in a position to make changes, and change policies. Whether unofficial, or not. What Grisham really wanted to say was probably more like,
"Who does that N-word gal think she is deciding to make changes that affect my students".
Even if that change is something as positive as a nutritious lunch for every child in America. It is seen by many as an audacious power move, not because of the decision to effect change in and of itself. But because an African-American First Lady made a decision to effect change. A move seen as threatening to those who still feel that Black people have no right to power or control in America.
Michelle Obama is far from being a "fat butt" unless you have a cultural predilection for stick figures. Allow me to peel back the next layer. The African-American ideal of beauty, and The Caucasian or westernized idea of beauty are two very different ideals. While tastes, and preferences vary according to the individual, it has been my experience that the majority of Black men actually prefer full figured, pear shaped women. We find soft curves alluring, and sensual.
But the westernized idea of beauty is very different. That standard is petite, lean, and alarmingly thin. So much so that many starve themselves to become the image of "perfection" or at least what they have been told is the image of perfection. The two ideals are very different. But in all reality, Michelle Obama's body had nothing to do with Grisham's intent. But the color of her skin had everything to do with it.


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