Just as Barack’s people have announced that he is going pull back on debates for a bit, his wife Michelle Obama (MB) has either been talked about or profiled everywhere lately—Essence, The Chicago Sun-Times, New York Times, hell even this month’s Vogue.
While people continue to ask the questions: “Is Barack black enough?” or “Is America ready for a black president,” quiet as it’s kept, we need to be asking,” Is America ready for a black First Lady?” Because we all know that the woman standing beside her man is just as much a factor in this race as her husband’s foreign policy.
Unfortunatly, the role of First Lady magnifies the sexist stereotypes of what a “good wife” is supposed to be: an avid party planner, gracious hostess, a bubbly cheerleader, fashionable, attractive and submissive. She speaks when spoken to and stays out of the male-dominated political sphere (Unlike Hillary) Clearly, these expectaions are highly problematic, but with that being said, how does MB fit into that definition? Can a black woman other than the fictitious Claire Huxtable be regarded as a good wife or worthy of representing the United States?
Well, let’s look at the obvious. Our country’s perception of womanhood and femininity has excluded black women for the past 300 years. Our hair texture, our lips, our skin color, our body type, our attitude, whatever you name, it has been deemed as ugly. And over time, this is what our country has seen us as: hypersexualized slaves, asexual mammies, sassy sapphires, welfare queens, crackheads, video vixens, jezebels, tragic mullatos, indestructible strong black women, hoodrats…to name a few.
And thanks to that pesky 1965 Moynihan report–claiming that single black mothers are domineering, emasculating and drove the men away–we were also to blame for poverty in our community. (Somehow racism, sexism, and capitalism were left out of the analysis.)
Yes, we have made small strides overtime, but just as the world acted disgusted with Don Imus’ remarks, I have to wonder how many non-black Americans secretly think the same thing, when one of us walks past them on the street.
Clearly, these caricatures will forever be part of the cultural imagination, but will we and the media be able to see MB for what she truly is: An Ivy-League educated, no make-up wearing, loving mother and wife who believes that her husband is the key to rebuilding this nation.
I guess time will only tell.
(Thanks to Kenyon Farrow for talking about this first)