Via Ottermatic, I just learned that the Michelle Obama Watch site started by Gina of What About Our Daughters? is up and running. So I went over to check it out. The three most recent entries were about things I already knew about, but then I saw this headline: "Even the Wee Michelles Aren't Off Limits: Artist Uses Image of Obama Girls Labeled 'Nappy Headed Hos.'"
You know, this morning I almost wrote a comment on Jeff's last ORMUSBD post in response to people who say they're surprised by the instances of blatant racism they're seeing. It was going to be something along the lines of, "If there's a silver lining here, it's that a lot of white people are learning this is not a 'post-racial' society, and blatant racism is not merely fringe behavior -- to say nothing of covert and institutional racism. Being surprised by this shit is privilege at work."
I didn't post it, partly because I got distracted and partly because I thought it sounded too smug, as if I don't have the blinders of privilege strapped to my own head. And I'm glad I didn't now, because that picture? Surprised me. Shocked me, in fact.
But I bet it doesn't shock a lot of people of color.
Nor does it shock a lot of women of any color to see little girls labeled "hos" in a country where 13-year-old rape victims are "vixens."
For about 2 seconds, I tried to give this artist the benefit of the doubt, thinking it was a poorly executed commentary on the stereotyping of black girls and women in this culture. Then I read his ridiculous, cliched, and totally insufficient response to the controversy:
“My mission as an artist is to raise dialogue and conversation about substantive things,” he says, staring through arty glasses that did not have any lenses. “There’s so much media time spent on superficial things — like celebrities. My point is to bring substance back.”
And then I looked up and read that the exhibit also included:
... a picture of Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” switched to “The Audacity of Black Hope”, a giant penis on the wall next to a sign saying “once you go Barack”, [and] hanging nooses.There aren't even words.
And I shouldn't be shocked, but I am. That is my privilege.
Update: Here's a more specific statement of intent from the artist (thanks to gogogidget in comments).
"It's art. It's not supposed to be harmful. It's about character assassination — about how Obama and Hillary have been portrayed by the media." He added, "It's about the media."
Of course it is.