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Michael Arceneaux
Nov, 30, 2017

Malia Obama should be allowed to smoke legally in the state of Massachusetts if she so chooses without it making national news.

Malia Obama ought to be able to kiss boys at tailgates without TMZ posting video of it for the entire world to see.

I shouldn't know that when Malia Obama shows up at concerts, she dances more like her dad than her mom — an observation the reader will have to interpret on their own without further input from me. Even her decision to delay the start of her matriculation at Harvard University probably shouldn't have sparked so many essays about the gap year — at least none centering her choice in order to drive a conversation.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but the spawn of Sweet Potato Saddam has a point. Malia Obama, at 19-years-old, should be allowed the same privacy as her classmates. She is the child of a U.S. president, not a politician herself. She is a public figure by circumstance, not by choice.

Knowing this, it makes me wonder that even now, am I adding to the problem by writing about her. The same goes for joining in online conversations about her friends. But I mean, why are Malia Obama's friends making it all the more easier for the world to know things about her that invite needless scrutiny? A few of us have questioned if she had more Black people around her — as far as her friendships and classmates go — would we know less about her business? I always encourage us to be around more of us, but based on the social media habits of college-aged kin, I don't think that's the problem.

Malia Obama has to deal with two unavoidable realities. The first is she a teenager in an era of oversharing in which nearly everything is documented on every social media platform. When I think about the things I've done in college, I'm grateful that Facebook was only in its infancy, MySpace was being euthanized, no one was on Twitter like that, and there was no Instagram or Snapchat. I'm even more grateful that I'm old enough to know what to share on social media both as as an adult and someone who writes a lot on the Internet. Malia lives in this time, though, so she is bound to be seen on social media as her friends, who by pure instinct at this point, reach for their phones to document them. Could someone with greater awareness step in and caution Malia and those around her to exercise more discretion? They can and should, but ultimately, Malia is also plagued by celebrity culture.

I do not agree with the sentiment that those who have fawned over Malia Obama and her sister Sasha Obama through the years as the First Daughters cannot now complain about the scrutiny she is receiving now. There is a difference between an official government photo or any media attention that was tied to their parents, who obviously gave their explicit permission. Like her parents, Malia has done her time, and if one looks back, there was only so much we got of First Daughters. Former President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were adamant about limiting their exposure as best they can. Nothing they did with their kids mirrors a TMZ camera catching Malia living her life. Even so, while I understand why Black people in particular are protective of Malia Obama, while I wish she would be left alone, she will be fine.

In 2001, President Bush's twin daughters were arrested and charged for underage drinking. They were 19, and for one of the daughters, Jenna Bush (who is basically Girl George W.) it was her second alcohol-related citation in five weeks. Jenna Bush Hager went on to become an author, an editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine, and correspondent for NBC News. These days, Barbara Pierce Bush Jr. is now co-founder and president of a public health-focused nonprofit, Global Health Corps, which helps to support those working to bring health equity.

In other words, they turned out to be fine. That doesn't excuse unnecessary scrutiny on the children of powerful politicians who do not serve in public life; when coverage seems wrong, say such. However, it proves all the same that what's going on now will not be the end of Malia Obama. I know, I know: the Bushes are White. Sure, but Malia Obama is still the daughter of a former U.S. president. She is a victim of celebrity culture and friends who don't know when to put their phones down, but when you are the daughter of a president, there is a certain level of protection there.

It would be ideal if folks learned to get themselves some business and go chase willing participants for celebrity coverage, but it's unlikely that the beast will be tamed by the time Malia finishes her degree.

We can all hope she and those around her embrace discretion, and while we're at it, the beat, but fret not if it takes a while.

She's Malia Obama; she's straight.