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Marrying outside the mob

By Stephen Hagan - posted Thursday, 17 July 2008


“It’s good to see a black woman on TV who can speak well and has a full set of teeth.”

No sorry folks - that’s not the satirical ranting of a right wing extremist who has a low regard for black women - perpetuating the racist myth that their abusive black partners facilitated the toothless grin through frequent bouts of domestic violence.

More on the identity of the tactless author of those words a little later.

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Relaxing in my lounge room recently on a lazy Sunday morning immediately after the Sunday (Channel 9) program with two assertive black women; wife Rhonda and daughter Jayde, I knew I really had no choice but to hand over the prized remote control when pressured and forfeit the right to watch the Wide World of Sport in favour of their preferred program: The View on pay TV.

The taxing alternative was to go into the rumpus room and compete for the smaller TV with my son Stephen, whom I knew was totally immersed in playing his new PS3 game Grand Theft Auto IV.

On this particular day I was content however to take a seat in the lounge and catch up on the latest American women’s gossip principally as Michelle Obama, potentially the first black first lady of America, was playing co-host for that episode.

After some small talk about whether she preferred to wear pantyhose (she doesn’t) or if she liked bacon for breakfast (she does) and the more riveting snippets of whether her husband Barack, democratic presidential nominee, takes out the rubbish (he doesn’t) or if he loves to exercise (he does), the show got down to more probing questions from the divergent, but complementary, assembly of panellists.

That remark - made by panellist Whoopi Goldberg, “… it’s good to see a black woman on TV who can speak well and has a full set of teeth,” in reference to the outstanding public relations performance of Michelle Obama in support of her husband’s marathon democratic pre-selection campaign that received unprecedented television coverage around the world - almost knocked me out of my seat.

I was flabbergasted that Whoopi, a highly respected black actress, would be so implicitly condescending of black women in such an overtly offensive manner.

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What was she thinking?

Michelle Obama’s non-response to the insensitive and illogical observation from the TV personality left off-screen executives with little option but to turn their cameras to other panellists who had a different slant on less threatening issues for her to answer.

Maybe what Whoopi was trying to say was that she was happy to see a successful married black couple gain such national prominence in challenging times. And in attempting to relay her appreciation she inexplicably tried to be a little bold and witty by making a racial remark - which she perhaps thought might be hip - but sadly for her it came out wrong and totally backfired.

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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