Obama’s Baby Mama
Today’s Manufactured Outrage of the Day* is that, on a mid-day Fox News program featuring Megyn Kelly and Michelle Malkin debating the impact of Michelle Obama on the race, the production assistant in charge of writing chyrons dubbed the would-be first Lady “Obama’s Baby Mama.” Apparently, this is a racial slur which suggests that she and Obama aren’t actually married and the children are illegitimate and therefore they should just head on back to Africa. Or something like that.
Salon‘s Alex Koppelman has the most linked story about this on memeorandum and he’s got a video of the segment and the above screencap, which I’ve appropriated. Otherwise, he’s in Just the Facts, Ma’am mode. His colleague, Joan Walsh, is more apoplectic, bringing out the 1990s catchphrase “Oh, No They Didn’t” to show her hip displeasure.
Where do you even start when criticizing Fox’s slur? Do you try to explain that “baby mama” is slang for the unmarried mother of a man’s child, and not his wife, or even a girlfriend? Are they racist, or just clueless? Isn’t there racism even in their cluelessness, if somebody didn’t know what “baby mama” means, but used it anyway? Even at Fox, won’t somebody have to apologize? Am I wasting my time even thinking about that?
Oliver Willis helpfully suggests, “Hey Fox News, Just Call Her A N***** And Be Done With It, Okay?”
So here’s the thing (because during this campaign I’m apparently learning that we black people have our own secret code and hand signals so this stuff has to be explained like you are speaking to a child at times), using the phrase “baby mama” to describe this woman implies that like too many people in the black community, she is a mother on her own with no man around doing his job.
Except, Barack and Michelle Obama are the exact opposite of this, and that is one of the reason America – especially black America – are so proud of them.
They’ve raised their children? Electing them to the White House is the least we can do!
Michelle Malkin, who was on air at the time and has nothing to do with writing the “Obama’s Baby Mama” chyron that appeared below her, doesn’t know what’s up with that.
I don’t know if the caption writer was making a lame attempt to be hip, clueless about the original etymology of the phrase, or both. But I do know that it was Michelle Obama herself who referred to Barack as her “baby’s daddy” and has used the phrase “baby daddy” to describe Barack while on the stump this year.
I’m going with “both.” Malkin also provides a helpful link to a two-year-old Slate piece with the awkward headline “” that explains that celebrity gossip rags have “seized upon baby-daddy and baby-mama, two useful terms that have long appeared in hip-hop and R&B lyrics, and are slowly stripping them of their emotional fangs.” Apparently, such black luminaries as Tom Cruise and Keven Federline had been referred to as “baby-daddy” even though they were married to the mother of their child.
So, perhaps Fox was secretly signaling that the Obamas are Scientologists?
UPDATE (Alex Knapp) I don’t usually weigh in on this sort of thing, but I have to disagree with my colleague James on this one–Fox’s caption on here is enormously disrespectful. I wholeheartedly agree with this portion of sci-fi author John Scalzi’s take on the matter:
Calling Michelle Obama a “baby mama” isn’t just Fox News have a happy casual larf; it’s using urban slang to a) remind you the Obamas are black, b) belittle a woman of considerable personal accomplishment, and c) frame Barack Obama’s relationship to his wife and children in a way that insults him, minimizes his love for and commitment to his family, and reinforces stereotypes about black men.
If we still had such a thing as civility and manners in this country, Michelle Obama would be referred to in the media as “Michelle Obama” or “Mrs. Obama”. Even if there was no racial intent on the part of Fox News, using the phrase “Baby Mama” for the wife of the Democratic nominee for President just shows no class, decorum, or manners.
UPDATE (James Joyner) I agree with Alex and with Steven Taylor that “Michelle Obama” or “Mrs. Obama” would be preferable and avoid the these sort of controversies. My strong guess — and I admittedly don’t know anything about this particular program or its tendencies — is that this was an attempt at “hip” and “cutesy” that backfired.
I much prefer my news without the hip and cutesy, thank you. You report, I decide and all that. But that’s a criticism of the Oprahization of the news rather than of Fox in general or this gaffe in particular.
*If someone with better PhotoShop skills than I submits a graphic I like for this, I’ll use it henceforth, crediting the creator.