Mrs. YoMama Controversy: Not Again

It should be common sense; here are some helpful hints for how to avoid forwarding racist emails.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

One thing I hate to do is act as teacher to the clueless. But it’s clear, after the speaker of the Kansas House, Republican Mike O’Neal, forwarded an email with pictures making fun of first lady Michelle Obama’s appearance and calling her “Mrs. YoMama,” that school is once again in session.

You would think these folks — including Wisconsin GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner, with his unhealthy obsession with what he called the first lady’s “large posterior“; the South Carolina Republican activist who once compared her to a zoo’s escaped gorilla; and all the other offenders — would have at least learned self-control. But since they can’t seem to help themselves, some lessons bear repeating. Read and learn.

1. When people who aren’t black use slang that purports to be “black,” it just makes them look incredibly foolish. To all who thought the email O’Neal sent was hilarious, you need to know that black people don’t go around saying “YoMama” in conversation. (After holiday visits with family, I can report that the term did not come up once.) Use the term around anyone, particularly your actual mother, and random black people within earshot will make that circle-around-the-head motion and slowly back away. (Hint: Black people call other black people by their names.)

Words such as “YoMama” are used by people who don’t know anything about black people to mock them. It’s how they imagine black folks speak, and the fact that they spend so much time imagining such things is something they probably should discuss with a doctor. Either that, or spend some time with black people.

2. The cartoon in O’Neal’s email showed Mrs. Obama’s hair blowing in the wind and compared it to an image of Dr. Seuss’ Grinch. Hair is hair. A black person’s hair is no exception. It comes in all different textures and styles. We wash it, dry it, curl it, straighten it or leave it be — and sometimes it even blows in the wind. Our hair is not a secret weapon or a hiding place for one.

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