Malia Obama Needs Some Black Friends

by Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster Malia Obama is newly 18 and and taking her first steps outside of a fiercely shielded life in the Whit...

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by Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster

Malia Obama is newly 18 and and taking her first steps outside of a fiercely shielded life in the White House. This Summer Malia attended music festivals across the country joined by friends and flanked by Secret Servicemen. Despite constant surveillance (by government employees and a nosy public) Malia appeared to enjoy herself. She even made headlines for, what mainstream media mistakenly dubbed, twerking.

As a lover of the Obama girls from afar, it’s been heartening to see Malia and her younger sister, Sasha, out in the world behaving like typical teenagers. But as their self-appointed big sister, I’m already concerned for Malia, in particular. On multiple occasions photos of the eldest Obama daughter doing normal, “I’m grown now” activities in private and semi-private settings have been leaked to the press.



And while I like to see what the girls are doing, I recognize the importance of having time post-adolescence to try on adulthood away from judgmental eyes. It appears that whenever Malia thinks she’s getting that, she’s sold out by her “friends.”

What strikes me about all of the photos that attempt to put Malia on blast isn’t that she’s drinking or smoking. It’s the complexion of the room. Each of these spaces is overwhelmingly white, and that can’t be a coincidence.

Who knows what the incentive is for the snitches, but it keeps happening and I want better for her.

My greatest wish for Malia, as she makes her way into Black womanhood, is that she finds a great group of Black friends.

I know from my upbringing in cushy, midwest suburbs that not only are white kids reckless, but they have little to lose. And even when they’re caught in the act, they face incommensurate consequences. For example, noted rapist Brock Turner spent just three months in prison, and he still gets called a “Stanford Swimmer.

Put plainly: I don’t know that life, and most Black girls won’t. Though she is rich, attractive, and descended of the most powerful man on the planet, Malia is still a young, Black woman in a world that despises that. Her life will always be different, and surrounding yourself with people who know that intimately is imperative. Yes, I’ve had my share of run-ins with malicious Black girls. But I can say with absolute certainty that my Black girlfriends saved my life. They keep me out of trouble and keep my secrets when I’m already in it.

Perhaps Malia just hasn’t had the chance to assemble a girlfriend group. She graduated this year from the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, where the yearly tuition is just under $40,000. That’s ok. I didn’t find the women I call my soulmates until I went off to college (coincidentally, at Malia’s future alma mater.) But as soon as I did, the dynamic of platonic intimacy changed drastically. 



Despite the intrusions, Malia seems to have a good sense of humor about the dust up with the alleged joint. She even wore a smoking kills shirt out this month which was a perfect response to the pearl-clutchers. She didn’t choose this life, though she’s handled it remarkably well. (A testament, no doubt, to her immediate and extended family.)

And even if Malia can’t be part of a Black Girl Squad, I just hope these raggedy white folks will take it upon themselves to respect her privacy.

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor-in-chief of For Harriet. Email or

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