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Yvette Carnell: Obama Was Right to Apologize For Calling Kamala Harris “Most Attractive” Attorney General

 

by Yvette Carnell

When Obama was first elected, I remember a woman on Facebook telling me that she didn’t care what legislation Obama supported askamala harris long as his fine azz continued to love his black wife. Long before that, I attended a reception in Chicago where then Senator Obama was the speaker of honor. At my table were mostly black women, and throughout the speech the women made small talk about how fine the junior senator from Illinois was.

The woman who I had the brief interaction with on Facebook wasn’t focused on President Obama’s policies and neither were the women seated seated at my table during Obama’s speech.

Fast forward to President Obama’s “shout out” to California Attorney General Kamala Harris: “She’s brilliant and she’s dedicated, she’s tough,” Obama said of the California attorney general. “She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general … It’s true! C’mon.”

Obama later called Harris to apologize for those comments. He had no choice. Comments that assess a person’s level of attractiveness have no place in the public sphere if we’re serious about structuring a meritocracy that judges people on their level of ability rather than the random genetic tics that define whether a person wins the beauty lotto.

Let’s think about what it means to be professional for a moment. It means you’re at a job to either maximize profit (private) or to provide a service (public). None of that has anything to do with levels of attractiveness. And once Obama injected Harris’ perceived beauty into the conversation, he made her looks part of her value proposition, as men in powerful positions often do.

At that moment, Obama defined Harris through a framework of s*xual attraction when in fact, Harris should be self-defined in the context of what she has achieved while serving as California’s distinguished attorney general. What we got  instead was Obama defining the various attributes that establish Harris’ success: “…brilliant…dedicated…tough…. most attractive….”

We should also stipulate that this misapproriation of beauty as currency is not just a male thing, since Michelle Obama, and many other bobbleheads in the mainstream media, have spent far too much white space fetishizing over President Obama’s perceived swag, as if that matters more than Obama’s real budget, or his recent proposal to cut Social Security and Medicare.

These are the very same type of assessments made of vapid reality TV celebrities like Kim Kardasian: “She’s got a nice azz, and she has a business too, so she must be smart right?” In such conversations, beauty is paramount and ability is merely incidental, if it exists at all.

I can’t understand how women who have daughters, nieces, or granddaughters can support a regressive framework where the value of women in professional life is defined by their male counterparts. I also can’t believe that black women are supporting whatever is done just because of who is doing it. If George W. Bush had made this remark about Harris, I suspect there would’ve been a much different reaction among African-American women.

When Barack Obama was elected, many folks thought he would upend the status quo, but as it turns out, Barack  Obama is the status quo. He may’ve promised ‘Change We Can Believe In’, but really, this is just business as usual.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Yourblackworld. You can reach Yvette via Twitter @YvetteDC or on Facebook.


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47 comments

  1. The only one who should care about the president’s comment is Michelle Obama…

  2. Yvette I really don’t think Pres Obama’s remarks deserve so much press. He gave a beautiful woman a compliment and you and others have made a molehill into a mountain. This site seems to enjoy showing our Pres in the most negative light as possible even for the most insignificant of things. Be more positive.

  3. Come on people. I am surprised that the President’s true statement got so much press. We ought to happy that a Black Man still appreciates beautiful and intelligent BLACK WOMEN. Lord knows I resemble that remark. Where are we when we are being called B****es and H**s. Wrong person and wrong attack. Our American priorities are jaded to say the least.

    Ruth Lynch

    • I’ll be happy when all of you begin to compliment Black women who aren’t bi-racial as the Attorney General is (Black and India-from India).

      Can we get away from our “brainwashed” history?

  4. Aww who cares he should continue to compliment a black woman or more each day that he’s in office. I bet if she was a non black woman muther fkers wouldht have said s hit but sh it hits the fan when a beautiful black woman is compliment who cares get a life some people

  5. I’m laughing my butt off right now for two reasons. First, how this article written about some gossipy bs that doesn’t make a difference in any real sense in anyone’s life brings out all the sheep to comment on while the point of this fool cutting Social Security which millions of our Seniors are forced to live article’ has very few comments at all. But we are still spending Billions of dollars per month in Afghanistan, for what? Second, even though Yvette is right in her judgment about value of people based on something as superficial as looks. Did you think some of us forgot less than 4 month’s ago the scathing article you wrote on Steve Harvey vs. Denzel Washington and their value to the community based on their clothing and how good each man looks in a suit Yvette? Did you forget me going in on you for doing that? You see that typical misandrist disease breaking out like herpes. It’s okay for some so-called femi-natzi female to assign value to a man based on his looks and other women to do it without being called sexist or someone demanding an apology but when a man does it, uh oh. Let’s beat him until his prostate falls off? Take your hypocritical medication and get a new prescription Yvette. Whether most women want to admit or not, their worst nightmare is being trapped on a vacation somewhere with a train, boat or airplane full of good looking men and all of them are blind. Most of you broads love attention and feel like you are going without a life giving necessity when you don’t get it. Compliments on your looks, chest, behinds then comes food, water and air. Get real, most grown men know exactly how you really think. We are just smart enough to pretend like we don’t. Oh but let’s remember guys. They only want to hear it from the men they find attractive or of value. Catcalls on the street are beneath them but let some degrading rapper tell them they are a fine b*^%th and they will start to giggle like a little school girl. Only a woman in todays society can have two completely opposing thoughts in her mixed up brain. What man would ever take a comment on how good he looks as demeaning? That sounds stupid just saying it.

  6. I’m conflicted because on one hand he should not as President being making comments about her looks. I feel as though if any other president had commented on a woman’s looks they would be talked about. If I was Janet Reno I would be upset, because I think she is the only other female US Attorney, which means Obama saying she is not attractive.

  7. Everyone is beautiful!!

  8. People have nothing better to do than make up controversy. If he had of not said all the proper politically correct and truthful comments before, then maybe or if he had said: That haint sho is fine or easy on the eyes, then sure. They claimed he was a terrorist when he fist bumped Michelle after the first inauguration.

  9. POTUS is and will always be criticized! He is the President! Each and everyone catches it!

    Don’t you remember all the things we said about Bush?

    BHO is not immune, and we should not give him a pass because he looks like us!

    I will bet you he will not, for the rest of his Presidency comment on a womans looks again. (any takers)

    BHO will go down in history as the 1st Black President not as a great President. We see him as a President who can do no wrong, when in reality he has made some monumental error in judgement which is covered up by the media.

    We think anything he does is just wonderful, if he proposed it, it must be a good thing!

    The truth is the truth!

  10. I see nothing wrong considering they have been friends for a long time, where is the article on his commenting on the white male reporter that he call “good looking.” Some people just need to find a life and I guess that includes you Yvette. We have gotten to the place where we make a big deal out of nothing!

  11. So what if he complimented a beautiful woman on her professional attributes along with her beauty. My only problem is, was his wife offend by the comments. Then and only then will I have a problem. He may be a man, but to have a prominent black man such as him publicly disrespect the FLOTUS will be unacceptable
    Period

  12. I see African women with their African hair styles and I make sure to tell the beautiful sister how beautiful she looks and that I am not(Not) looking for anything whatsoever.I respect her so much I would not dare say anything offensive to the beautiful African Woman.

  13. That is a nothing issue.Why president Obama is a handsome man and I am
    not gay or have anything what so ever against gays and lesbians or trans gender people or any of the children of The Great Almighty Olodumare.

  14. Why are you wasting your time to write about a true statement that President Obama made? Stop it, Yvette! He was right! She is beautiful! How can you try to castigate him for telling the truth? You are just as bad as the angry old dried-up men in the GOP. Find something more challenging to write about: like the mis-education of millions of African American children.

  15. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHY IS IT A PROBLEM WHEN AN INTELLEGENT, SMART, WELL ESTABLISED, PROMINENT, ARTICULATE AND HANDSOME BLACK MAN (OUR PRESIDENT) STATES THE GOOD QUALITIES OF A BLACK WOMAN, PLUS LET THE WORLD KNOW SHE IS ATTRACTIVE AS WELL AS SMART & EQUIPT TO DO THE JOB SHE WAS ASSIGNED TO DO. HE IS CRITISIZED BY THE FEW WHO WANT TO CLEARLY REPRESENT THE MANY. IT’S NO PROBLEM FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHEN OUR BEAUTIFUL BLACK WOMEN ARE DISPLAYED ON TV AS “YOU KNOW” THE OPPOSITE OF HOW OUR PRESIDENT DISCRIBED MS. HARRIS. TV & THE MEDIA PORTRAY OUR BEAUTIFUL BLACK WOMEN IN NEGITIVE WAYS. CHECK OUT THE TV REALITY SHOWS.
    DON’T BE SUPRISE IF THE MEDIA WILL TRY TO HOOK OUR PRESIDENT UP WITH HER….. ANOTHER PLOY TO DISCREDIT HIM & HIS CHARACTER.

  16. Well Yvette, your point is well taken. You may have a point that the President ‘maybe’ should have kept his thoughts to himself. However, it is very obvious to me that he believes in women (not only black women)because the very first bill that he signed while in office was the Lilly Ledbetter Act. My grandmother told me to not only listen to what people say but what their actions. I do recall a comment that George Bush made about Secretary of State Conde Rice and I don’t recall this much flack from my fellow sisters but I know that President Obama is being judged by a different standard. I just don’t agree that it is a fair one.

  17. Yvette Carnell must have nothing better to write about than something so minute. Try focusing on other issues that impact women in politics. By the way I am a Californian and she does look a hell of a lot better than those that preceded Harris. As a former staffer on Capital Hill you know this is trivial.

  18. You know what?!? Kamal Harris IS very attractive and there was nothing wrong with the President saying that. He didn’t say her looks were her greatest attribute.

    The President appreciates nice looking women…I mean he married Michelle with her tall, fine self.

    Additionally, with all the negative articles, You Tube videos, etc. circulating that state that Black women are ugly, no one wants us, we are all fat, lazy, bald,ignorant etc., it actually was a breath of fresh air for someone in such an esteemed position to give a Black woman a shout out like that.

    Perhaps Ms. Carnell is a hater. I haven’t seen ANY articles stating that Ms. Carnell is fine, nice looking, pretty, attractive…nothing. Perhaps she should take a few hair and fashion tips from Kamala Harris.

    • If no one has said it I’ll say it: Ms. Carnell is a very attractive woman. Even though I disagree with her premise on this article and don’t support her position on this particular issue, I can’t deny her attractiveness. However, that doesn’t take away from her chops as a journalist. She may even be offended at my asserting HER looks in this conversation. But according to what she wrote, a man with power can’t give women compliments. I have no power so I guess it’s okay.

  19. You know what?!? Kamal Harris IS very attractive and there was nothing wrong with the President saying that. He didn’t say her looks were her greatest attribute.

    The President appreciates nice looking women…I mean he married Michelle with her tall, fine self.

    Additionally, with all the negative articles, You Tube videos, etc. circulating that state that Black women are ugly, no one wants us, we are all fat, lazy, bald,ignorant etc., it actually was a breath of fresh air for someone in such an esteemed position to give a Black woman a shout out like that.

    Perhaps Ms. Carnell is a hater. I haven’t seen ANY articles stating that Ms. Carnell is fine, nice looking, pretty, attractive…nothing. Perhaps she should take a few hair and fashion tips from Kamala Harris.

  20. The President said she was brilliant, dedicated and tough before saying she was most attractive…So you should keep the last description in its correct context. His focus was placed on her ability as well. He said four things.

  21. Obama is a wimp. Nothing he said was offensive .

  22. Yvette, you are just an Obama hater anyhow. He can’t do anything right in your eyes.

  23. I did not see Harris’ behind. Black men like to see good women’s behinds. So I cannot commend how hot Harris is.

  24. No matter what the President says or does, he is being scrutinized and any little perceived faux pas is seen as an automatic negative. Have we become a nation that is so sensitive(or so insensitive) that a person cannot pay another a compliment? Many people hide behind the constitution and are able to say ugly and hurtful things to others but we don’t get indignant on behalf of the ones be hurt, do we? But pay and compliment and people want to get up in arms about it. The problem in this case… “It was the President saying it.” I’m just saying. And now, he has apologized. Be big women and big men. Accept it and let it go.

  25. Ah, Vet, I think you are wrong on this especially since Ms. Harris is not a product of meritocracy. She was ex-mayor Willie Brown’s mistress and he ‘rewarded’ her for her ‘good looks and favors’ with a slew of local positions that paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars a year while he was a married man. Harris was not offended then or now. She is used to having her value and professional life defined by men…

  26. I’m begining to think that Yvette Carnell has a personal beef with Obama ,who cares whether he mentioned that kamarla Harris is attractive ,its not as if he was running around behind his wifes back or something like past presidents,in my book he does’nt need to apologize ,some folks need to back the hell off.

  27. Prez did nothing wrong. I enjoy beeing complimented by men. I am sorry Ms. Harris did not make a comment regarding the compliment. Sgaba July I agree this is a non story. What does Ms. Carnell look like?

    • Yvette looks OK; she’s not ugly; she’s got great skin….She could smile more.She could wear more eye makeup since she wears glasses and style her hair/dreads a little better so you don’t see that 5-head. Oh…and maybe get some permanent makeup eyebrow enhancement so her brows don’t look cartoonish.

      • Yvette is beautiful and natural, including a natural hairstyle (long dreds) and great smile when she dares to share it. She does not wear the painted up lady look and has never been a married man’s mistress like Harris. Kudos to her. No complaints here.

        • The article was not about the affair that Kamala Harris allegedly engaged in…it was about the comment made about her beauty.

          BTW, were you involved in the alleged affair first hand or were you there when alleged sex acts were performed? If not, how do you know what happened?

          • Read sometimes Big Annie, something other than YBW. Harris has admitted the affair multiple times and in her last run simply says it is ancient history. That’s fair enough but it is disingenuous to claim her current perch was not partly bought and paid for by her “looks” and willingness to barter with powerful men like Brown. Having Obama appreciate her looks was nothing she was not use to or would complain about. Hence, it is why I suggested Yvette backed the wrong horse on this article and if she wanted to take issue maybe use someone actually meritorious.

      • Funny, I come on this site all the time and don’t ever hear anybody talk about whether Boyce is cute, but you’re going in on Yvette? You’re actually making Yvett’s point, its just that you’r too dumb to know it. And next time post a pic of yourself along with your criticism….

        • Going in on Yvette would mean I REALLY talked about her…which I didn’t. A person asked what Yvette looked like, and I gave my assessment.

          Now if Yvette is “your girl”, that’s all good…but don’t call me dumb. I didn’t say because Yvette’s eyebrows look like Natasha
          ( Boris & Natasha on Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show) that she is less than. I am sure some folks would maybe describe Yvette as being smart, writes a blog, and is “easy on the eyes”. I am sure she wouldn’t complain.

          And your girl DOES need to do something about those eyebrows looking like a cartoon. Those comma looking eyebrows are OUT. She is too young for that.

          Maybe you need to look in some fashion magazines as well.
          P.S. My family has 3 hair stylists who keep us ALL straight. Don’t worry about what I look like.
          Thank you.

  28. I agree with Pamela. Even in the bible where it warns about the sin of lust, it also says that God created beauty (especially in his children) and through the gift of our senses, it is fine to appreciate that beauty!
    Our, too often, “twisted sensitivities gives folks like Ms. Carnell opportunities to fill up a blog page with “commentary” that makes them feel “intelligent.”

  29. I agree with Pamela. Even in the bible where it warns about the sin of lust, it also says that God created beauty (especially in his children) and through the gift of our senses, it is fine to appreciate that beauty!
    Our, too often, “twisted sensitivities gives folks like Ms. Carnell opportunities to fill up a blog page with “commentary” that makes them feel “intelligent.”

  30. I agree with Pamela. Even in the bible where it warns about the sin of lust, it also says that God created beauty (especially in his children) and through the gift of our senses, it is fine to appreciate that beauty!
    Our, too often, “twisted sensitivities gives folks like Ms. Carnell opportunities to fill up a blog page with “commentary” that makes them feel “intelligent.”

  31. We have become to sensitive in society. When did we become so correct that women do not love a compliment. Dang he did not say her big fat juicy….or her fine a…. he simple state she may be a strong woman with intigrity, smarts, get the job done but she also has her femnine side of beauty. We need to back up and women stop wanting the man role and stand in your role with confidence.

  32. I watch almost all of the speches President Obama gives, whether it be rallies or campaign events, he introduces people to thank them and who have helped in some way and always mentions that they are good lookiing, attractive or handsome. Why is this so different?

  33. Right!

  34. I think Obama needs to go see his eye doctor!!!

  35. Patricia H Wilkins

    Let the church say Amen

  36. Do I think what the President said was wrong? No but I do think because of the position that he is in he shouldn't have said it. REGARDLESS of what the President says or does..haters are going to hate. Now as to the issue of women having it both ways I'm going to plead the fifth until further notice :-)

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