Black Girls Matter, Even When They Are in the White House

sasha and maliaLast week, GOP staffer Elizabeth Lauten attempted to shame first daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, for not smiling enough at their father’s White House annual turkey pardoning ceremony. While the backlash against her words was inspiring, what was most heartening was universal disregard for her (uninformed and invalid) opinion about how the young ladies should behave. No one was having her holier-than-thou respectability tactics. It was a wonder to witness.

On November 27th, Lauten took to Facebook to make the following comments:

“Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class.”

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Elizabeth Lauten, 31

Perhaps the most disgusting words she had for the girls was her implication that they don’t have good role models and that their dress denotes the level of respect they deserve. She continued.

“At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.”

Firstly, these young women are the products of a loving bond between President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. To say that they have no positive folks to look up to in their lives is beyond disrespectful. It’s dismissive, undermining, and intentionally counter to the symbolic representation the First Family has for many Black Americans. Secondly, her words align with the age-old notion that young women’s attire makes them deserving of negative treatment from folks in the larger community. By her logic, clothing is the fundamental basis by which women’s character should be measured. And, respect should be doled out subjectively rather than universally.

Many folks were most upset by her derisive tone in addressing these two teenage girls. The 31-year-old herself has been arrested and has pictures of herself partying on her Facebook page. But, it wasn’t her “pot calling the kettle black” that seemed the most out of whack in this event. It was her complicity in a status quo which views young Black girls as less valuable, less important, and less deserving of respect than other young women. She thought she could berate the Obama girls using the same old tropes which have been wielded against this marginalized group for centuries in the United States. She was wrong.

Her flawed assertions and harsh words for the first Black children in the White House resulted in her tearful resignation just a few days later.

If this proves anything, it proves that Black girls’ lives matter. This issue sent a loud, clear message this fact remains ever true. I couldn’t be happier about it.

 

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