Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Regina Benjamin Detractors Dissect Her Body Not Her Qualifications
Once again we see public discourse of a black woman's body. This time it's not Serena Williams being chided for being overweight and lazy but the Surgeon General nominee. Apparently when you are a black woman none of your accomplishments matter only your proportions. I lay this squarely at the feet of black men who have tried to alleviate their own failings, feelings of insecurity and disdain by publicly trashing other black women - and the ones who let them.
As I've stated in an earlier post President Obama needs to address the needs of everyone who voted for him in a timely fashion. Some people are satisfied with symbols, i.e. a black face in a high place. If Attorney General Eric Holder was serious about his speech on race relations and backs it up with the full arm of the Department of Justice that would be a great start at dismantling that. Typically these high place people actually cause more harm than good. He was far more candid publicly about his displeasure with the historical treatment of blacks - which may be at odds with the President's personal agenda of being the "everyman". We shall see.
Continuing that constituency appeal Obama nominated Dr. Regina Benjamin to the post of Surgeon General last week. Now it's not a cabinet-level position but it does carry some weight. I was reluctant to get "happy" about this nomination simply because she happens to be black. Clarence Thomas is black and he's been absolutely HORRIBLE when it comes to preserving the hard-fought rights of our ancestors. I, like any good citizen would review the qualifications of the candidate and take it from there. So far I haven't heard anyone question Dr. Benjamin's credentials. She was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow last year which is a very prestigious award recognizing creativity and genius in its recipients. She was also the first African-American woman to serve on the American Medical Association (AMA) board of trustees as well as running a state medical society. She has an MD and an MBA. She's MORE than qualified. Of course black women usually ARE.
Instead she has been reduced to a body part. Like the nonsense with SCOTUS nominee Sonya Sotomayor's comment over being a "wise Latina" the lengths some people will go to diminish a woman's accomplishments never fails to amaze me. This isn't strictly a racial issue - not this time. It's pure and unbridled sexism against a non-white woman. I'd like to see NOW and other mainly white-oriented feminist organizations come out swinging against this.
Dr. Benjamin does have a curvy figure but she's not auditioning for America's Next Top Model. In fact I recall Tyra Banks publicly railing against some unflattering photos of herself surfacing and telling everyone to kiss her butt! Whether Dr. Benjamin is carrying a few extra pounds is a red herring. Her detractors are looking for an excuse to diminish her stature publicly. I think she's not used to being photographed and will have to learn to navigate the extra publicity and heightened scrutiny but that she will be just fine. Even the President has had to deal with ridiculous expectations when some others criticized his choice in jeans.
This reminds me of how Dr. Jocelyn Elders was thrown under the bus for suggesting that minors explore their own bodies instead of experimenting with each other to keep the OOW birth rate and STI rates down. Perhaps people don't want to hear that, but from a strictly practical standpoint what she said made sense. If young girls learn how their bodies operate they'd be less likely to attach that knowledge based on another person. In other words, they'd be might be more likely to turn a boy down for sex and seek out someone interested in a relationship. One is a more empowering decision.
It is ridiculous for Dr. Benjamin to have to adhere to a set of standards that don't apply to men.
Here's a photo of C. Everett Coop, former SG. He doesn't look all that slim to me. He's always had a gut from what I recall and he served for years without incident. Dr. Benjamin wants to be the great health care equalizer as she has done at her clinic in private practice. I think this is part of a derailment plan by the insurers as well. We cannot take our eyes off the prize in getting them in line.
I'm not surprised by the silence at this latest added insult but I am really sick of it! Blacks get all worked up over the arrest of a Harvard professor but it's crickets when a black woman is attacked. Yet again. This is why it's over for the "black community". I've intentionally not posted a photo of Dr. Benjamin because it's a ridiculous conversation.