The Root: In Defense of Candy Carson


There’s a particularly mean meme about presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson and his wife, Lacena, aka Candy, circulating around social media. In the meme, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are striking at the China state dinner Friday. President Obama is dressed in a well-tailored tuxedo, and the first lady has long, side-swept hair and an off-the-shoulder, custom-made Vera Wang gown.

The contrasting picture of the Carsons was taken in May, on the day Carson officially announced his candidacy for president in Detroit. He is dressed in an unremarkable but still presentable blue suit. It’s Candy Carson’s appearance that makes the meme funny to some (but not me). She is wearing a hairstyle and patriotic ensemble that is unflattering, ill-fitting and dated. The meme caption is a play on a popular DirecTV commercial that clowns its cable competitors for being subpar.


This is what my P.C. mind thinks: I’m no fan of presidential candidate Ben Carson. I don’t like his politics. He receives his fair share of ire from potential voters, but he asked to be dissected in the media, traditional and social, when he announced his bid for the presidency. Candy Carson did not. There are plenty of exceptionally valid reasons to rage about Ben Carson without adding his wife to the mix.

I hark back to the time in 2008 when Obama, then just a presidential candidate, appeared on Good Morning America to defend his wife from undue attacks for her alleged lack of patriotism.

“I’ve been in public life for 20 years,” he explained. “I expect them to pore through everything that I’ve said, every utterance, every statement. And to paint it in the most undesirable light possible. That’s what they do.”

He added: “But I do want to say this ... if they think that they’re going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful. Because I find that unacceptable ... I think it is just low class.”

I loved how Obama stood up for his wife. He was the candidate running for office, not his wife. And Michelle Obama didn’t deserve to be ripped apart because of his political ambitions. Her being attacked wasn’t right and was “low class.” Period.

But then there’s also the un-P.C. part of mind, the side that gets me in the most trouble as a writer. That untamed part of my brain? It’s mature enough not to laugh at Candy Carson’s expense, but it’s still asking why she came out of the house looking like that when her man is announcing his presidential bid. She didn’t just join him onstage to say, “Congrats, boo!” and go on her way. Candy Carson, an accomplished violinist, performed that day, too, playing the national anthem as her husband’s intro music. Come on!

Well-meaning sympathizers of Candy Carson have excused her appearance as a result of her religious beliefs. She is a devout Seventh-day Adventist, a religion that discourages women from wearing makeup and jewelry and emphasizes a modest appearance. OK. But religion and modesty are not synonymous with ill-fitting and unflattering and out-of-date. Also, there’s a Seventh-day Adventist church on my block, and on Saturday morning, the women I see look well put together for service. Candy Carson’s look can’t be blamed on religion.

Let me tell you a story: I recall, when I was a kid, maybe 10, I attended a family event with my mother. A male family member, who had always been praised for his looks and appearance, showed up looking dapper, as always. His wife? Not so much. Pretty lady, but she looked as if she hadn’t put in much effort for the occasion of seeing all of her husband’s family, when she should have.

My mother leaned over to me in my seat and offered me a dose of grown-lady wisdom: “When your man is looking like something, you make sure you look like it, too. Don’t show up looking like the help.” I never forgot that.

Is that shallow? Maybe.

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The Root: Incensed Communication Director for GOP Congressman Verbally Attacks First Daughters


President Barack Obama speaks as his daughters, Sasha and Malia, look on before the president pardoning turkeys “Cheese” and “Mac." MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

Blame the alcohol in the egg nog, delirium from too much stuffing or simply bad judgment for causing Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), to flip out on Facebook over the first daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.

After reading an article linked on Facebook from the conservative site Mad World News about how the Obama daughters “unleash[ed] their annoyance” at President Barack Obama’s annual (and hokey) pre-Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning turkeys, Lauten was incensed beyond reason.

Several outlets covered the turkey pardon, and many playfully chided Sasha and Malia for giving glimpses of teenage indifference during the press conference: they folded arms, rolled eyes and twiddled thumbs as their dad awkwardly fumbled his way though a not-so-funny speech (that invoked Ben Franklin) about sparing the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese.

The girls’ looks of indifference were familiar to anyone with teenagers or anyone who once was a teenager. Most commenters on stories about the girls’ reactions laughed, because while the first daughters’ expressions and body language screamed “over it,” they were also pretty harmless as far as teenagers go. Even the president mentioned that the Washington Post had “questioned the wisdom of the whole turkey pardon tradition,” so it’s not like the girls were expressing something that no one else was thinking.

But the moment pushed Lauten over the clichéd edge and she straight lost it on her Facebook page:


Screenshot of Elizabeth Lauten's Facebook post.

“Dear Sasha and Malia: I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play…”

Ma’am! Was that a scolding on what constitutes class from the spokeswoman of an elected official as she publicly blasting minors on her Facebook page? Are you behaving with class when you over-analyze and insult teenage girls?

In exchange for a lesson to the Obama girls on class, might I offer Lauten a word about using common sense and professionalism? Perhaps it would have behooved Lauten—a woman with a few years experience in social and online media and who should have expected scrutiny as the communications director for a U.S. congressman—to refrain from attacking the president’s children.

But that snippet wasn’t even the worst part of her rant.

“Your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much,” Lauten continued. “Or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”

Yes, because teenagers who roll their eyes are an indication of bad parents and a lack of proper guidance. This, of course, means everyone’s parents sucked. Should teens in need of guidance look up to Lauten, a grown woman who, again, publicly attacks children on Facebook? Is this a proper role model? You tell me.

Lauten wasn’t done though.

“Stretch yourself,” she demanded of the Obama girls. “Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.”

I don’t know what’s worse here: treating teenagers who act like teenagers as though they’ve committed treason or implying that girls don’t deserve respect because of the length of their skirts. Way to uphold rape culture, Lauten. And why is she even discussing 13- and 16-year-old girls being at a bar anyway? They’re the Obama sisters, not the Bush twins.

Instead of dishing advice to two girls who don’t need it, Lauten needs to take a look at the woman in the mirror and act like having a job as a communications director for a congressman matters to her. Because an adult working in communications who recklessly goes after minors on her Facebook page suggests to me that she doesn’t appreciate benefits or a 401(k). I’m just sayin’.


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The Root: Malia Obama's First Job & Why Black Folks Need Nepotism Too

Malia Obama & Dad President Obama’s eldest daughter, Malia, has landed her first job, and some people, despite the fact that it doesn’t affect them in any way whatsoever, aren’t happy about it.

According to news reports, the 15-year-old rising first daughter recently worked for a day as a production assistant on the CBS sci-fi series Extant. The show features award-winning actress Halle Berry, who plays an astronaut who returns home pregnant (!) after a year-long solo mission in space. Extant is produced by veteran director Steven Spielberg, who is a known and avid Obama supporter.

Certainly this is a dream come true for Malia, who turns 16 on July 4, given that her father mentioned her interest in filmmaking in a recent New Yorker article. An on-set insider told Hollywood trade blog TheWrap that the younger Obama’s duties for the day included helping with computer-shop alignments—whatever that means—and slating a take. The source also quoted Malia exclaiming about her experience, “My first time. This is a big deal!”

A first job is. Most of us weren’t as fortunate to start our careers in our dream field, even if our dreams weren’t as lofty as a production set helmed by one of the greatest directors of our time. Surely Dad pulled a string or two to get his eldest baby girl the hookup for that one. Malia’s job sounds like nepotism or cronyism, and that has made some folks mad.

“I don’t think that this young lady should have this position,” wrote one blog commenter, who added that as a mother and a business owner, she would not get her own kid a hookup. She reflected the general sentiment of naysayers when she added, “Parents with means have made it too easy for their kids. Thus, we have a whole population of spoiled little rich kids who feel entitled to have and do whatever they want!”

It’s inaccurate to assume that all the offspring of parents with “means” are spoiled and entitled, just as it is wrong to assume that all kids with less are hard workers. There are motivated, obnoxious  and straight-up lazy people in both groups.

That said, I still don’t get this argument. Like, did you really expect the first daughter to work at McDonald’s for her first job, like most teenagers? And for all the folks crying about this hookup, you do realize that nepotism—i.e., taking care of your family, friends and inner circle first—is what every other community of folks does, right? (See presidential daughter Chelsea Clinton’s $600,000 job at NBC.) It’s to create generational and community wealth as well as to gain access and power, a concept that black folks as a whole don’t always seem to grasp, even as, as one of my friends put it, black folks stay stuck with “this work-twice-as-hard-to-get-half-as-far struggle we be on ... ”

Too many folks who struggled to get somewhere want their children to do the same, and that’s not how folks who get ahead and stay ahead play to win. Why not offer your kid an alley-oop in life if you can? You do realize that everyone who can’t do so would if they were in your shoes, right? Everyone else who can does so that their kids can get one up on your child, the competition. Even you would take advantage of a hookup for a better shot if you could.

I’m curious: If you’re not working to build a legacy or to make sure that your children are better off than you, then what are you putting in the hours and the effort for? Just to do it and say you did?


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ABIB to Interview Kerry Washington at BlogHer on July 26

Demi + Kerry  

Two years ago, I attended the BlogHer conference in New York City.  I was the keynote speaker for the closing brunch hosted by Blogalicious, the premier Black bloggers conference. For the uninformed, BlogHer is one of the premier blogging conferences and the biggest one targeting women. The 2012 conference had  5,000+  attendees and President Obama made a live video appearance. Oh, and Martha Stewart and Katie Couric were the keynotes.  Like I said, Big. Capital B.

So it's a really big deal-- to me, at least— that two years later, I'll be on the BlogHer main stage, for the 10th anniversary of their conference, and sitting for a one-on-one interview with THE  Kerry Washington. And to make the whole thing quadruple-ly sweeter, my boo thang Luvvie Ajayi from Awesomely Luvvie is opening for us. I could not be more excited for this event. As a blogger-- and informally diagnosed Scandal addict— this is kinda major!

For the next month, I'll be watching Oprah interviews on YouTube to sharpen my live one-on-one interview skills, and of course putting my journalism skills to use, researching Kerry to death-- even though as a victim of Kerry-fever, I think I'm pretty well-versed-- to come up with the best questions to ask her.  But while I have you, is there anything you would like me to ask Kerry? 

Oh, and what do you think I should wear?