The Sasha & Malia Effect

The Sasha and Malia Obama effect is much bigger than the toy industry that’s profiting from the dolls that share their likeness;  it’s bigger than the young girls that are bugging their parents for clothing and hairstyles in their likeness. 

The effect is bigger than that because Americans, especially African-Americans need those girls to be larger than life.  We need those two, beautiful brown skinned girls to remind us of how beautiful ALL of us are.  They represent beauty that is not traditionally coveted in mainstream America (and beyond), and by doing that they are telling the world a different story – writing the rules as they go along.

I was really effected by the “color” issue when I wrote this post, as I had just received a text from one of my best friends about skin color discrimination she received in NYC.  The text stated that, the previous night, she was standing in line to get into the Pink Elephant in Manhattan – and she, and her friend were denied entrance…why?….the promoter told her – in so many words – that they were not being allowed to enter because her friend did not meet some variation of the brown paper bag test.  This is completely beyond me…a lame promoter in NYC gets to decide what shade of brown or black is beautiful and gets to randomly discriminate against people?  Really…in 2009?  

The Sasha and Malia effect gives me hope, as I choose to believe that the images of those girls will help eradicate the stupidity that some people carry about shades and hues of black and brown. 

HOPE that skin color, across the world will stop being some sort of measure that people use to attempt to render people inferior.

Those beautiful girls are a symbol that beauty cannot be defined by a shallow definition; that we can free ourselves of a slave’s way of thinking.  The entire Obama family is a message to anyone that’s ever felt left out, or not counted, or have been treated as if they were invisible that they are NOT.

My mother sometimes tells a story that brings tears to her normally strong eyes – she speaks of going to a majority elementary school in the late 50’s – where she was quite literally the only little black girl there – she tells stories of coming home and crying; recounting the fact that none of the other kids would play with her.  With pride, she tells me how her Uncle Joe, would walk her to school everyday, and drop her off…and every now and then she would notice, at recess that he was sitting up on the hill watching over her.  Uncle Joe was there to let her know that she was never alone.  She found out later in life, that he spent most of his lunches nearby, watching over her…he wasn’t always close enough to be seen, but he was there most days – giving a beautiful little black girl a symbol that she was loved, and taking power away from forces that attempted to make her feel that she was not good enough to play with. 

The Sasha and Malia effect is taking power away from people that attempt to tell us that we’re not good enough.  If Sasha and Malia can help a young girl love her thick, natural hair – that’s the power of their effect.  If they can help someone appreciate their full lips, and braided or twisted hair – then they have done everything we could ever hope they could do.

DS Download:  It’s amazing the things that you remember from your child hood, that nobody else seems to remember, but the poem below is a poem that my Aunt hung in my cousin’s room for the longest time…I love this poem, it warms my heart because it fights for a young black child’s value in this world.  The poem gives me hope for what we will become and thankfulness for where we are today:

I am the black child
All the world waits my coming
All the word watches with interest to see
What I shall become

Civilization hangs in the balance for what I am
The world of tomorrow will be

I am the black child
You have brought me into this world about which I know nothing
You hold in your hands my destiny
You determine whether I shall succeed or fail

Give me, I beg you
A world where I can walk tall and proud
Train me, as is your duty unto me
To love myself
My people
and to build and maintain a black nation.

– Author unknown

7 thoughts on “The Sasha & Malia Effect

  1. My good friend James and I were just sharing a moment after dinner last night where we recounted some of our most painful memories of being pointed out in middle/high school and humiliated as “gay” or “the fag.” We both shared how hearing those comments was so damn accusatory – and how it rocked our worlds. It’s amazing how you never forget those moments.

    I feel grateful that Malia and Sasha are going to give more little girls a reason to feel comfortable in their own skin – and more optimistic about their futures. Even as I walk my own journey, I’d like to think that in some way I’m setting an example that will allow little “different” boys to be more hopeful themselves.

  2. Too wild. This post hit home for several reasons. A) I’m only fit to pass a burnt paper bag test, and B) because my daughter is only fit to pass a burnt paper bag test. It’s definitely a challenge to subtly instill the pride of her dark brown skin. I say subtly, because I want her to know that being any other variation of brown is just as beautiful too, but it’s all about loving the skin SHE has.

    As a newly single adult, I know I’m not bad on the eyes, but even still, there’s something about my dark skin, and definitely my very short hair, that keeps the brothers away. It’s sad and disappointing on so many levels. My mentor tells me that I give off the “I’m not easy and you’re gonna have to work for it sucka” look. Which may very well be true. I’ve spoken to other guys about it and they say guys are still very hung up on light skin. What was really interesting is learning that they’re really REALLY hung up on long hair. I’m hoping that when my baby girl gets older, she’ll be as confident as her momma, and that these issues won’t even be subject to a current events post.

  3. You know…I had heard about the brown paper bag test taking place on several Black college & university campuses during the 70s, 80s and 90s when students sought acceptanc into certain fraternities and sororities. I was dismayed at the audacity of such a blatant discriminative practive against people. However, I did know that skin complexion was still a vexing issue in the Black community, and I was aware of some the descriminative practices that clubs partook in when admitting club patrons. I had no idea, however, that there were still some establishments that actually still had the gaul to use the paper bag test! This is outrageous! Is it even legal? Your people need to contact a civil attorney or contact some kind of social advocay group to secretly videotape establishments practicing this, CR! I’m not an attorney, but it sounds to me like telling someone they’re too BROWN could lead whomever the heads of whatever that rat hole of a club that she was at to have to come out of some serious GREEN!

    I pray to God that the phenomenon of Sasha & Malia can serve to heal these kinds of wounds, and I hope the attention they’re bathing in, now, doesn’t uproot them from the seemingly very humble and grounded home they’re being raised in. However, it really is sad that we’re still here as a community and as a country. We’ve got to start somewhere, though, and two beautiful young souls these are as fine a place as any to start.

  4. Beautifully written. As a responsibility, and a favor in kind, it is up to all of us to provide Sasha and Malia with the Uncle Joe Effect, there to let them know that they are never alone. Someone watching over them sometimes seen or just out of sight. Not only just for Sasha and Malia, but for your friend in NYC we should use the Uncle Joe effect, giving a beautiful little black girl a symbol that she IS loved, and taking power away from forces that attempted to make her feel that she IS not good enough to play with.

  5. As a follow-up to J.W.’s comment, I totally agree!!! Seriously, your best friend should report this blatant act of discrimination. This is the very type of injustice our folk received years ago when we were denied entrance to public places. She should write a letter to the club’s owner AND copy her local news station. This will take courage, but it should be done. If she feels some kind of way about copying the news station, tell her to put a fake address. At the very least, it will get the owner’s attention AND they may change their entry practices. Your friend may very well be strong enough to brush this off of her shoulders, but there’s some weaker young lady who may be scarred and ultimately result to acts of self-hate. Phuck it, start this revolution. Someone’s got to do it. Shoot, I will if she won’t!

    • Please believe I told her to! I told her to first write a letter to the establishment giving a step-by-step account of what occured, and to also detail in that letter that she would be contacting the BBB, local council members, news outlets, radio stations etc.

      I’m not sure if she’s going to do it – but i provided the road map. I have definitely written letters to the BBB in the past – i don’t play.

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