Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thank you, Michelle Obama

Now that Michelle Obama has had her first full day as first lady (in cute black flats, I noticed -- it'll probably be awhile before she can look at a pair of Jimmy Choos without shuddering), I'd like to take this opportunity to offer her some gratitude.

Thank you for being who you are. I don't think most people realize the import of what it means to black women to have such a fantastic black woman in the White House. What images do we usually get in today's pop culture? Harpies, hos and shrill baby mommas. Sassy sidekicks. Overweight know-it-alls who dispense sage advice. And now we have Michelle Obama as our first lady -- she's intelligent, self-assured, ambitious, successful. An adored wife and adoring mom. How can America's -- and the world's -- thought process about black women not be altered by this fact? Also, thank you for not giving in to the pressures of what others think the first lady should look like. Thanks for not starving yourself into a size 4, or covering your arms and shoulders because showing them is "not first ladylike," or bowing to the pressure to wear pantyhose.

Thank you for giving Barack Obama a chance, all those years ago. Our new president has said that when he and Michelle met, she turned down his date offer many times. Black women are the least likely to marry in American society; for generations we've been raised to be self-sufficient. We've also started looking for love outside our race, and while I'm certainly not judging people's choices (I date non-black as well as black men), it can't be denied that this strong black couple sends a powerful message. So years ago, when that cocky young hotshot came calling, again and again, Michelle saw something that let her know he might be worth her time. The result is a true partnership that has yielded spectacular results. Her husband is enamored to this day. During their tour of inauguration balls, he was holding her just as tightly during the 10th dance as he was the first -- all the while giving her smoldering looks that let us know just how hot he thought she was in that dress.

Thank you for raising your daughters as what they are: little black girls. Is there any relationship more complex than that of a black female and her hair? Sure, the Obama girls are resplendent with flowing locks and bouncing curls on special occasions -- say, when their dad is sworn in as the president of the United States -- but every other day, they look like normal girls, with easy-to-care-for twists and hastily brushed ponytails. They spend summer breaks in braids. (Raise your hands, black women, if you had cornrowed hair during childhood summers. Mine is raised just as high.)

But this is about more than hair, of course. Sasha and Malia Obama are smart, confident, well-behaved kids who are as comfortable with standing in front of a million people as they are playing with a group of friends. It's beautiful to see and a testament to how they've been raised. Which brings me to ...

Thank you for taking your mother with you to the White House. No nannies for these girls while mom and dad are away on state business. Speaking as a woman who spent her childhood raised by a mother, two grandmothers and a great-grandmother, the effect our elders have on us can't be over-estimated. They teach us the finer points of life in a way that sticks with us forever. As Garrison Keillor said of the Obama girls during a recent broadcast of "Prairie Home Companion": "They''ll do fine, 'cause they've got that first grandma with them now in the White House. And you can tell just looking at her, she is a grandma who means business. This is a grandma who's gonna make sure that those two girls don't wind up in the roles of famous people who are not that bright, if you know what I mean."

And finally ...

Thank you for risking all that you love for us. It's historic to have a black family as America's first family, and there are people out there who wish them harm. Gen. Colin Powell decided against a run for president in part because his wife, Alma, feared for his safety. Barack Obama would never have run for president if Michelle hadn't agreed to it. The entire family has committed to serve America for the next four to eight years, and there's an element of risk to their lives every day. It's a sacrifice few would make. Here's hoping the prayers sent from all over the world do their job to help keep the family safe and sound.


Anonymous said...

What happened to the planned regular schedule of blogging for "We Can Relate?"
On another note, Sasha is about the most precious thing I have ever seen!

Deirdre McGruder said...

We're trying!

barkomomma said...

You certainly are!

Sorry, but you offered up an easy one and I couldn't help myself. :)

Anonymous said...

Newsflash: Obama is a politician. I seriously doubt he ran for the White House because of "love" for the American people. (Lord knows he criticized us often enough --for not speaking French or Spanish, for driving SUVs and running our heaters and air conditioners, for actually wanting to hold on to our hard-earned money). It's called having power and an agenda.

Maybe this is hard for the black community to face because of the historic nature of his presidency. But you'll find out soon enough what us white Americans know: Most politicians couldn't care less about you and me. He's not God; just a smart, talented politician. I can't believe you're thanking Michele Obama for marrying him! Huh?

Anonymous said...

Wow...what us white Americans know? How condescending. Considering the outcome of the election and the crowd at the inauguration, it’s apparent that black people all ready know what many, MANY white people know, Barack Obama was the best candidate to vote for and is the right person to lead our nation.

His election is an amazing historic event. It inspires hope and pride in places where there was none. Can you understand for a moment what his election means to a people who were discriminated against, abused, and murdered for demanding equal rights less than 50years ago?

Newsflash: What's difficult for the black community is that some members of the white community still just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Ok. Is everyone forgetting that he is part white? But of course he doesnt claim that part so does that make him half a man? I certainly commend him for being the first "black president" but is that all he is? Does he represent the white people as well or only the part of himself that he does claim? I am so absolutely sick to death of hearing about the "First Black President". For the love of God, he is a man and if the American people only voted for him b/c hes "Black" then shame on them.Lets give the "PRESIDENT" a year or two and see if he puts his money where his mouth is.