Gina of Michelle Obama Watch on Tom Joyner

Gina from had a great interview on Tom Joyner the other day.  She also blogs at Blogging While Brown.  Gina is a feisty woman, vibrant and smart.  She doesn't pull any punches when it comes to defending Michelle and is certain to have her back every step of the Obama Presidency.

She turned most of her attention on the recent controversy over Michelle's decision to devote her time to parenting in the next 4 years.   I am not surprised that there is yet another round of the mommy wars, but apparently an upscale stay at home black mother is adding a new dimension to the debate.   As much as working outside the home was a hard-earned right for white women, devoting 100% of your attention to your children remains a hard-earned right for black women.  

Gina responded to an editorial by Jolene Ivey, wherein Jolene talks about the disapproval she faced when she chose to leave a promising career with Ben Cardin, now a US Senator.  Motherhood, she says, "is considered a waste of education by many in the black community." It isn't clear whether it's due to the desire to rise out of poverty or the need to leave behind a disdain for the "mammy" caricature that is prevalent in Africana art.  Black women, says Jolene, "tended their owners' children, while not being allowed to lavish such attention on their own.

Then she makes the mistake of implying black women let their children "fend for themselves", which rightly set Gina off.   The very core of the mommy wars is that children cannot possibly be raised properly except with 100% attention from the female parent.  I was particular surprised to see this slander put on black women in the midst of an article comparing the work environment between white and black moms.  Do white women who work let their children "fend for themselves"?  Or did Jolene not even think of the silliness of the comment in that light. .

Still, the difference in expectations of moms in the black and white communities is worth discussing. I'll never forget when my mother told me that she gave up trying to work in the 60s because male bosses always told her she needed to go home and take care of her children. I was shocked to learn that in my early twenties.  Here I am thirty years later, and shocked again, to find out that African American women had the total opposite experience. It's even more shocking when you consider that these women also have to bear the stigma of the label of "welfare queen", that Reagan so kindly dumped on them in the 80s.

While I think most white people are looking for some very basic change from President Obama, like jobs for instance, it looks like the real change might be more in the symbolic for African Americans and minorities. It will be interesting to be a part of these dynamic changes as women like Gina continue to challenge preconceived ideas and misconceptions. I don't see any possible way that we won't all be better people at the end of Obama's Administration than we are now.

Cross post:

Tags: Michelle Obama, mommy wars, tom joyner (all tags)



Michelle is so great

I really have an inappropriate level of appreciation for the First Lady-elect.  You can't look at her choice and consider that she's giving up her career; her talent and strength will still be there after her kids become adults in their own right... and it's really hard to believe that, properly parented, Sasha and Malia won't become fine and extraordinary citizens themselves.

by Dracomicron 2008-12-11 07:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Michelle is so great

My gosh, I love her to pieces.  It's not just that she is so accomplished, but that she's so honest about the struggles she has had in juggling it all and how helpful it has been to have family support.  I have no idea why these so-called feminists are criticizing her because I think being First Lady is more taxing than most jobs are.  There is value in volunteerism and that is precisely what the First Lady reminds us of, if she's good at her "job".  How many local parks and libraries and museums and theaters were started by women who "didn't work".  It's high time feminists move beyond the idea that a woman can only be valued if she gets a paycheck.  It sounds to me like black women have known it takes more than a paycheck to gain workplace respect for a long time.

by sandy 2008-12-11 08:59AM | 0 recs

I really don't see this as a race issue... but I am white so perhaps clueless?

In the circles I run in (where the other mothers I know... of ALL races... have college degrees and careers) we all face very similar choices and come up with various ways to juggle work and family. Once women are equalized by education, I really don't see these struggles as being segregated by race? Not here in my Brooklyn neighborhood at least? My friends and I have stuff in common and stuff in difference (white, black, asian, hispanic etc)

Michelle Obama is a highly educated and accomplished woman who clearly has had a fulfilling career outside of the home... and outdoubtably will again.

But her current situation really has little in common with 99.9999% of women out there? She's going to be First Lady. She already is a celebrity. She's no longer a regular person and neither are her kids. Her concerns are the same as any mother but with stress and issues and consequences thrown onto that which most of us cannot even begin to fathom? Her choices cannot be seen through the lens of a normal woman's choice anymore... it is unfair and unrealistic to both her and to ourselves to do that in my opinion?

by twinmom 2008-12-11 10:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Hmmm

Just adding...

I really don't see any more or less guilt being felt or flung at women who work due to their race? At least not in my own experience? It is a guilt-inducing juggle for everyone.

Michelle Obama was a working mother until very recently, so she really isn't "an upscale stay at home black mother"? She stopped working when it became completely unsustainable due to Barack's incredibly ambitious career trajectory (again, this is not a "normal" scenario which is comparable to most women's lives (of any race). For most of her children's lives, she juggled motherhood and family.

I also disagree with this:

"As much as working outside the home was a hard-earned right for white women, devoting 100% of your attention to your children remains a hard-earned right for black women."

The ability to stay at home with your children (or devote more time to your family) remains a luxury for MOST Americans (again, regardless of race). I don't know a single mother who wouldn't reduce her work hours if it were even remotely possible for their family financially (while their children are young). If anything, minority women I know here in NYC have any easier time juggling career and family since there is more likelihood of having the help of extended family networks (grandparents etc)... like the Obama's have.

by twinmom 2008-12-11 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Hmmm

When my mother tried to get a job in the 60s, she was repeatedly told that she should be at home raising her children.  She gave up.  Of course it isn't that way anymore, which begs the question, what did white women gain.  

Still, the interesting thing to me was that while my mother, and other white women, had to fight for work outside the home to be acceptable; it was expected that black women would work and that they would work for those same white women who couldn't work if they wanted to.

by sandy 2008-12-11 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Hmmm

See and my family has a very different story. My white grandmother (born 1920) and both her sisters worked as secretaries. My mom (born 1945) was the first in her family to attend college, medical school.

My grandmother worked because she had to (Italian immigrant family). My mother worked because she wanted to. My three sisters and I work because we know nothing else, it is a given in our minds that women have careers.

The divide to me isn't race, it is socio-economics and education. Well educated, well paid people have more freedom to make choices about work and family than poor people do. Their personal lives are less driven by economics.

That's why the Obamas simply aren't a useful paradigm to me at all. They aren't representative of a "normal" family anymore. Even when Michelle was working and juggling career and family, her education and salary put her in the upper, upper echelons. She's always had the freedom to work or not work?

by twinmom 2008-12-11 04:05PM | 0 recs
Re: Gina of Michelle Obama Watch on Tom Joyner

While I am of course familiar with the mommy wars, I had never heard of a racial angle before this.  Very interesting diary.

by Steve M 2008-12-11 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Gina of Michelle Obama Watch on Tom Joyner

I never had either, which is why I also found it interesting.

by sandy 2008-12-11 02:50PM | 0 recs


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