MSNBC has been running a promotion by the Rev. Al Sharpton who declares that the nation’s economic woes are “not about Obama. It’s about yo’ mama!” The phrase, however, is not new. Sharpton actually introduced it last July at the National Urban League’s annual convention in New York. There, he specifically referenced the then ongoing debt limit fight in Congress. At that time Mitt Romney had not yet chosen Paul Ryan as his VP running mate.
Since then, of course, with Ryan’s known and recorded opposition to social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and all things “social,” Sharpton has doubled down on the “yo’ mama” theme. Each day on his “Politics Nation” talk show, as the election looms closer and closer, Sharpton attempts to raise everyone’s political consciousness about what a Romney-Ryan win would mean to seniors especially.
"This is not about Obama. It's about your mama," Sharpton said last July and last night on television. "Social Security is about our mamas. And if Obama is a way to protect our mamas then I'm not ashamed to stand with Obama."
He went further, though, attacking "states' righters" for attempting to "destabilize" the federal government by pointing to Republican efforts to redirect most federal programs to individual states. He allows that most of the folks who favor such an approach are really, deep down, simply trying to make the feds look bad, and by implication, President Obama.
The reference to “yo’ mama” comes straight out of the heart of the black urban ghetto. It’s called “playing the dozens.” As I grew up in the ghetto myself, I quickly learned that there were about one dozen insults and retorts to insults that one could, indeed should, use to counter any quick-tongued orator. We actually stood on corners and held contests to see who could issue the most devastating put-down. They all began or ended with some verbal assault on one’s mother. You want a cleaned-up example?
"I kissed yo' mama on a Ferris Wheel. She felt so good, she just had to squeal!"
So when the Rev. Al indicates that the attacks on Obama are not really directed at him, but at “yo’ mama,” it’s understood whom he’s talking to.
But, on a deeper level, a much more serious note, the Rev. Al is making an extremely cogent point that is not lost on most black people, particularly black women: For countless generations, black women have cleaned white folks’ homes, nursed their kids, been forced to accept the lowest of low wages, and even endure sexual harrassment or worse, in order to secure their own children’s survival.
Thus, to attack, dissemble, destroy, and dismantle the already begrudgingly provided meager “social programs” which barely keep their own and their families’ heads above water, is the true insult.
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