NPR’s new “Code Switch” blog on the “frontiers of race, culture, and ethnicity” is already demonstrating just how sensitive it gets on the liberal frontier.
Blogger Gene Demby assembled tweets demonstrating that many NPR listeners thought Michelle Obama’s lesbian heckler Ellen Sturtz was employing “white privilege” and the media coverage seemed racist. Demby began:
When Michelle Obama squared off with a heckler at a private fundraiser last night, the racial context was hard to ignore: a white woman yelling at the country's most visible black woman and that same black woman offering a pointed response.
The first lady has been enormously popular throughout her husband's administration — nearly seven in 10 Americans say they think she's doing a good job — and she's an icon among black people as the first African American first lady.
Oh look, left-wing cat fight! Demby lined up the anger:
it's the responses of her response that draws my ire. Unsurprisingly, the media is painting FLOTUS as an "angry Black woman".
This incident further amplifies the inability of white feminist organizations to be inclusive.
a lot of these so-called allies have no clue how pissed off black people are by the constant disrespect of the Obama's.
I love public advocacy, but this was ineffective and particularly tone-deaf given that she was shouting down an AA woman.
Demby then reported that Code Pink, "a women-led social justice organization, tweeted in solidarity with Sturtz," in line with Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin's recent heckling of the president on drone policy:
Good for @EllenSturtz for talking to @michelleobama about POTUS unfulfilled promise to pass ENDA
Mrs. Obama should have said to LGBT protester: I don't make policy but I certainly understand your concerns. Thanks for sharing them w me.
Then Demby lined up attacks on Code Pink for their alleged racism:
the irony of @codepink, who basically interrupt people for a living, telling FLOTUS to BE NICE is .... well, white privilege
Yo @codepink can I apply for some of that #WhitePrivilege or nah? #PleaseRespond
So you've gone after @FLOTUS and @aliciakeys this morning, @codepink. Any more women of color not living up to your standards?
I admire @FLOTUS’ presence of mind to disrupt it with a decision point. Approaching the heckler was bold but not safe.
powerful and elegant. It sounded calm and assertive - couldn't have been handled better, IMO.
Demby also repeated a Twitter exchange on whether Michelle should never be heckled:
@greenbiotechie She handled it well, like the classy lady she is. Remember, she was not elected, her husband was.
@CodeSwitch Do you think the First Lady should be shielded from heckling?
@greenbiotechie Yes. She does not set policy. I don't recall either Bush's wife nor Nancy being heckled. Both Obamas are constantly dissed.
Say what? Greenbiotechie needs to Google search "Laura Bush heckled."
Over at The Huffington Post, historian Jim Downs really exaggerated the negative press treatment of Mrs. Obama, even as he eventually ruled in favor of the heckler:
As a historian of African-American history and gay liberation, this moment gives me serious pause. On one level, I recognize how this is a highly charged political throw down between two oppressed groups that rarely get the national microphone. I then worry about activists, regardless of their political stripes, disrespecting Mrs. Obama more than other first ladies. Unlike Laura Bush or even Nancy Reagan, the popular press in both the U.S. and throughout the world has caricatured Michelle Obama as a beast, as a slave, and, as an angry radical. I worry about how this cultural context enables and almost encourages this type of disavowal of the first lady.