posted by meowser
Last Friday, I had a post all ready to go, riffing on this story about Barack Obama addressing “a mostly African-American crowd” and chiding them for making their children fat. Apparently the crowd cheered wildly when Obama told them to “shape up, turn off the TV, help their kids with their homework and stop letting them grow fat eating Popeye’s chicken for breakfast.”
I was going to post about how the Bad Fatty Workingpoor Mom Who Feeds Her Fat Kids Sodas and Chips And Fried Chicken All Day And Nothing Else Ever was Obama’s stump equivalent of Ronald Reagan’s old riff on the Cadillac-Driving Welfare Queens, those mythic creatures every city was supposedly crawling with, who bought cars and fur coats and expensive vodka with their food stamps and WIC vouchers, including one who had something like 40 aliases and had bilked the government out of some $80,000 worth of welfare payments.* (In reality, they found one woman somewhere who had four aliases and had collected about $8,000 — classic case of Decimal Point Trouble. And change from food stamps was limited to 99 cents in coin*, so do the math on the alleged fur and vodka purchases.) Both stories center around those evil, selfish women that nobody actually knows personally but everyone has totally heard of, whose fault all the problems in the inner city totally are, and if we could just root them out and shame them out of their self-centered, greedy ways, everything would be swell.
I wrote something like this: “Yeah, I really believe ol’ Barry actually knows what it’s like to be a broke single parent and live in a neighborhood where the only food available for miles is Popeye’s Chicken and the bus runs once an hour if it shows up at all. I really believe ol’ Barry sits down with his own children every night and personally charms them into eating the spinach and broccoli he grows by himself in his tiny sunless apartment windowbox. Yeah. I believe that. I also believe he mows his own lawn(s), fixes his own toilet(s), and changes the spark plugs in his cars(s), all by waving a goddamn magic wand. Uhuh uhuh.”
I thought that was all very clever and incisive. And then I read Tara’s post on Fatshionista. You know which one. And I erased the whole damn thing.
“Ol’ Barry,” huh? Yeesh.
I could not bring myself to post that after what she wrote about how white fat-acceptance bloggers don’t understand the person of color’s point of view and aren’t even trying. I can’t say that! I’m dissing the HERO that POCs have waited all their lives for! Didn’t the article say he got “wild applause” for saying those things? And isn’t drinking soda and eating chips and fried chicken all day actually BAD for a 6-year-old? It’s not up to me to say these things. If African-American people object, then I will stick up for them, but if they don’t, I’m just another smug white asshole if I snark off.
This is a problem. You see, Barack Obama has an excellent chance of being our next president. And he will not shut up about obesity. Yeah, they all talk about it. John McCain mentioned obesity in at least one debate, and goddess knows Hillary Clinton AND her husband are all over that topic too. (Bill Clinton, in fact, has been running around putting the fat scare into schoolkids ever since his heart attack, which he is so sure had everything to do with his modest spare tire and nothing to do with his family history of early heart disease or the lack of sleep and killer amounts of stress he experienced for eight years in the White House. Like impeachment is EASY on the vascular system, yep.)
So let’s face it, no matter what happens, our next president is likely to be Officially Fat Unfriendly. If that person happens to be Clinton or McCain, I have no problem ripping either of them a fresh orifice for scapegoating the fatties for all the nation’s problems. They are, after all, Caucasian. If they were to tell a predominantly black crowd (or hell, any crowd) not to feed their kids so much soda or give them fried chicken for breakfast, out would come Meowser’s drillbits, you can count on that.**
But if it’s Obama? How do I handle that? No, I do not auto-assume that every POC is an Obama supporter. (Hell, he’s not even the only POC running, and that’s just one issue for starters.) But I am a giant flaming pale asshole and dense as a twelve-foot plutonium brick, and I need some (okay, a LOT of) help with this. Should I defer the Obama-obesity topic to a writer of color? Do I have it totally bassackwards and am I too thick to understand that this is EXACTLY the kind of issue that Tara is wanting the Fatosphere to address with cannons blazing? Or can I proceed only as long as I take special precautions (other than not calling him “Ol’ Barry,” of course) with the subject? Or is it okay to go ahead and treat him (or any other POC who fat-baits) just like everyone else?
I am, alas, accursed with seeing people as individuals, not as members of group x, although I can certainly see how being a member of group x might influence them. I thought treating Obama like everyone else was what he and his supporters would want, I thought that was the fair thing to do. Now I don’t know. I know nothing.
And I want to. Shit, I think I have to.
*Sorry, I could not find linkies for either of these factoids; they came from Mark Green and Gail MacColl’s long-out-of-print 1983 book There He Goes Again: Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error.
**Full disclosure: I am a registered Democrat, my state’s primary is two months away, and I am still undecided.