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Thread: When 'skinny' means 'black"

  1. #1
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default When 'skinny' means 'black"

    In the Aug. 1 Wall Street Journal, Amy Chozick asked, "[C]ould Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability?" Most Americans, Chozick points out, aren't skinny. Fully 66 percent of all citizens who've reached voting age are overweight, and 32 percent are obese. To be thin is to be different physically. Not that there's anything wrong, mind you, with being a skinny person. But would you want your sister to marry one? Would you want a whole family of skinny people to move in next-door? "I won't vote for any beanpole guy," an "unnamed Clinton supporter" wrote on a Yahoo politics message board. My point is that any discussion of Obama's "skinniness" and its impact on the typical American voter can't avoid being interpreted as a coded discussion of race.

    Chozick insists that she didn't intend her playful feature about Obama's physique as potential electoral liability to carry any racial subtext. "I can't even respond to that," she told me. "That's ridiculous." Bob Christie, Dow Jones' vice president of communications, phoned me in a flash to reaffirm that message. I believe Chozick and Christie when they say that the Journal never intended skinniness to serve as a proxy for race. (Full disclosure: I was a reporter in the Journal's Washington bureau a dozen years ago. I know neither Chozick nor Christie. Fuller disclosure: I phoned my former Journal colleague, Michel Martin, an African-American journalist who is now host of NPR's Tell Me More, which frequently addresses matters of race, to ask whether she was offended. She was not. )

    But I firmly disagree that a racial reading of Chozick's story is "ridiculous," and I would counter that any failure on Chozick's part to recognize such is just a wee bit clueless.

    Let's review the basics. Barack Obama is the first African-American to win a major-party nomination for president of the United States. African-Americans are distinguishable from other Americans by their skin color. This physical attribute looms large in our nation's history as a source of prejudice.

    The promise of Obama's presidency, in many people's minds, is partly that America will move toward becoming a post-racial society. It's pretty clear, though, that we aren't there yet. When white people are invited to think about Obama's physical appearance, the principal attribute they're likely to dwell on is his dark skin. Consequently, any reference to Obama's other physical attributes can't help coming off as a coy walk around the barn. A whole genre of humor turns on this reality. A Slate colleague informs me that an episode of the TV sitcom Happy Days ("Fonzie's New Friend") had its 1950s-era characters nervously discussing the fact that a black man in their midst was so … skinny. Was it true that skinny people liked fried chicken? That they were good at basketball? And so on.

    It might be argued that body weight differs from certain other physical characteristics (apart from skin color) in that it has never been associated with racial caricature. Chozick wasn't asking (and, I feel sure, would never ask) whether Americans might think Obama's hair was too kinky or his nose too broad. But it doesn't matter. The sad fact is that any discussion of Obama's physical appearance is going to remind white people of the physical characteristic that's most on their minds. Moreover, Martin points out, "The black male body has been commodified in this country from its earliest days. People were brought here for their bodies." Better either to leave the whole topic alone, it seems to me, or to address the question of racial prejudice head-on, as Juan Williams did in an Aug. 4 Wall Street Journal column. In the future, the press would be wise to avoid discussing how ordinary Americans will respond to the size of Obama's ears, the thickness of Obama's eyebrows, and so on.

    Is that prohibition too inhibiting? I doubt it, unless you happen to be a political cartoonist, and therefore have no choice but to navigate these perilous waters. Indeed, a few paragraphs into her story, Chozick shifts her topic from Obama's appearance to Obama's eating habits—from something Obama is to something Obama does. The shift was probably necessitated because in reality, people don't think much about Obama's skinniness. Chozick could substantiate her hypothesis with only two quotes, one of which—the "beanpole" quote—she solicited on the Web. ("Does anyone out there think Barack Obama is too thin to be president?" Chozick queried. "Anyone having a hard time relating to him and his 'no excess body fat'? Please let me know. Thanks!") In the vastness of cyberspace, you can always find somebody who will say whatever you want.

    Are Obama's eating habits a political liability? The question may be trivial, but at least it's not offensive. The only real objection you can make there is that Chozick's litany of healthy foodstuffs favored by Obama (he "snacks on MET-Rx chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and drinks Black Forest Berry Honest Tea, a healthy organic brew") echoes a similar litany from the day before by John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis. ("Only celebrities like Barack Obama … demand MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew—Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. …") But that possible misdemeanor lies beyond our purview.

    When "skinny" means "black." - By Timothy Noah - Slate Magazine
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Ok-now this is a stretch!
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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Most Americans, Chozick points out, aren't skinny. Fully 66 percent of all citizens who've reached voting age are overweight, and 32 percent are obese. To be thin is to be different physically. Not that there's anything wrong, mind you, with being a skinny person. But would you want your sister to marry one? Would you want a whole family of skinny people to move in next-door?
    Let's try something:

    Most Americans, Chozick points out, aren't black. Fully 66 percent of all citizens who've reached voting age are overweight, and 32 percent are obese. To be black is to be different physically. Not that there's anything wrong, mind you, with being a black person. But would you want your sister to marry one? Would you want a whole family of black people to move in next-door?

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    Elite Member qwerty's Avatar
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    Just another way to distract Americans from the real issues and tap into the darker side of human nature. I don't care if your fat, thin, black, white, whatever - if you can fix my country, I want you in office.

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    Elite Member tkdgirl's Avatar
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    Everything will mean 'black'. And the American people will tire of it quickly. Recent polling indicates that most are 'over' Obama, and that he's getting too much play. And playing the race card? Yeah, that is already backfiring big time.

    A government big enough to give you everything you want,
    is strong enough to take everything you have. ~Thomas Jefferson

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    I need a new thesaurus.
    It's no longer a dog whistle, it's a fucking trombone


    All of God's children are not beautiful. Most of God's children are, in fact, barely presentable.


    If I wanted the government in my womb I'd fuck a Senator

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    he isn't playing the race card, he's being accused of it by his opponent, and to the sheeple that means he must be doing it

    duhhhhh
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tkdgirl View Post
    Everything will mean 'black'. And the American people will tire of it quickly. Recent polling indicates that most are 'over' Obama, and that he's getting too much play. And playing the race card? Yeah, that is already backfiring big time.
    Here we go again. The people that keep trying to twist Obama's statement about the dollar bills are the ones playing the race card.

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    Elite Member nycgirl's Avatar
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    I never would have thought of it that way, but if you think about it- it does make sense. If Obama were white would people be complaining about his name or weight (which looks completely normal to me btw, maybe the jellus bitter fatties need to worry about losing weight before they call other people out)? It seems like some people are grasping for faults to try and give themselves a reason not to vote for him. Maybe it's subconscious, or maybe they just can't say they don't want a black man in office publicly. But ultimately people like this are making Clinton supporters (the ones with true democratic values and ideas who liked her stances on issues) look bad. It's a shame.

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    Elite Member tkdgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nycgirly101 View Post
    I never would have thought of it that way, but if you think about it- it does make sense. If Obama were white would people be complaining about his name or weight (which looks completely normal to me btw, maybe the jellus bitter fatties need to worry about losing weight before they call other people out)? It seems like some people are grasping for faults to try and give themselves a reason not to vote for him. Maybe it's subconscious, or maybe they just can't say they don't want a black man in office publicly. But ultimately people like this are making Clinton supporters (the ones with true democratic values and ideas who liked her stances on issues) look bad. It's a shame.
    I thought Obama was considered a hunk, especially after those beach pictures? I don't know of many skinny hunks.

    A government big enough to give you everything you want,
    is strong enough to take everything you have. ~Thomas Jefferson

  11. #11
    Elite Member nycgirl's Avatar
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    I didn't see the beach pics, but Obama is kind of cute for a politician...... well, better than McCain at least.

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    Silver Member Hummus's Avatar
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    I don't think the President should be like most of his countrymen. Really.

    He should be a little better than them in nearly every aspect.

    So I don't think his weight here is an issue, especially when so many are overweight.

  13. #13
    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    LOL i cant even read this article with a straight face.

    he may be skinny, but damn he turns me on

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    Elite Member AllieCat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nycgirly101 View Post
    I never would have thought of it that way, but if you think about it- it does make sense. If Obama were white would people be complaining about his name or weight (which looks completely normal to me btw, maybe the jellus bitter fatties need to worry about losing weight before they call other people out)? It seems like some people are grasping for faults to try and give themselves a reason not to vote for him. Maybe it's subconscious, or maybe they just can't say they don't want a black man in office publicly. But ultimately people like this are making Clinton supporters (the ones with true democratic values and ideas who liked her stances on issues) look bad. It's a shame.

    I totally agree with you on that. It seems like people are stretching to find something wrong with him.

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