In a recent episode of “The Drew Barrymore Show,” Drew Barrymore’s earnest plea for Vice President Kamala Harris to become the nation’s “Mamala” stirred up critique on social media.

Barrymore’s seemingly heartfelt appeal hit a sour note within the Black community. During the episode, Barrymore expressed a yearning for a maternal figure to guide the nation through turbulent times.

“I keep thinking in my head that we all need a mom,” Barrymore said, locking eyes with the vice president, who simply nodded her head. “I’ve been thinking that we really all need a tremendous hug in the world right now… We need you to be ‘Mamala’ of the country.”

Responses to the “Mamala” Comment

Many viewers didn’t agree with Barrymore’s choice of words. They drew parallels to the historical mammy stereotype, where Black women were relegated to caregiving roles for white families during slavery.

The response on social media was swift and critical. Social media users voiced their discomfort with Barrymore’s request because of the racial implications of assigning a maternal role to the first Black woman Vice President. The term “Mamala” carries connotations rooted in a painful history of racial subjugation. Many users believes that Barrymore’s request was tone-deaf at best and offensive at worst.

The comment also opened the door for many users to share their own experiences of well-meaning yet cringeworthy encounters with white coworkers. One user recounted an instance where a white coworker asked him to perform a poorly written rap.

Another user shared a story about his colleague questioning a Black person’s appearance change following Chadwick Boseman’s passing.

“When Chadwick Boseman died, the other Black Guy in my department happened to have cut his locs off that same week,” he explained on X, formerly Twitter. “My manager asked me ‘was that out of Solidarity for the Black Panther? Is that something you guys do when someone dies?'”

Navigating These Encounters

It may seem challenging to navigate similar encounters in the workplace with tact. However, setting boundaries is key. Communicating openly and honestly with your white coworkers about what is acceptable and respectful ensures that misunderstandings are addressed promptly. Establishing boundaries might involve gently educating coworkers about cultural sensitivity and appropriate language. You learn lessons by advocating for yourself when faced with uncomfortable situations.

Employers also play a role in creating environments where all employees feel valued, regardless of their background or identity. This includes providing diversity training, promoting open dialogue about cultural differences and actively addressing instances of discrimination or microaggressions. These steps ensure all employees feel safe and supported in the workplace.