Sunday, March 22, 2009

It Can't Stay This Good For Long

"just as Christ was a superstar/you stupid star/they'll hail you/then nail you/no matter who you are..."--Lauryn Hill

I know I'm just one among the throngs of Black American--hell, Black women internationally--thoroughly enjoying the laser attention and wild praise being lavished on the US' new First Lady, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama. Even as Barack begins his first cycle of character skewering at the hands of the establishment, Michelle is not only being handled with kid gloves but is being all but french-kissed by the media. Yes, it's a wonderful thing to watch. I'm all about Mrs. Obama--never have I been so proud and so honored to be represented by someone and to have someone go before me in this manner. And although I ultimately found countless reasons to vote for Barack Obama, his better half was my very first reason for jumping into his camp. Michelle is everything I ever dreamed the first Black First Lady would and never thought she'd actually be. She's poised and articulate, authentic and genuine, stylish and self-deprecating, completely confident and utterly humble. She makes it look so easy when we all know it's anything but. She's an amazing and dedicated mother and wife, an educated professional,a tireless friend, daughter, sister and colleague, someone who takes life firmly by the reigns but never, ever too seriously. She is truly the embodiment of the long list of invaluable qualities about Black women, and I absolutely adore her. And yet, I cringe every time I pick up a paper or go online to find glowing commentary like this, this, or this. My heart just whispers "this cannot last for long"...

I genuinely think Michelle is in a class all by herself--never in my lifetime have we been privileged to employ a First Lady this amazingly fierce. Hillary Clinton came close, and I don't think for one minute she lacked one bit of the fire or juice Michelle has while her husband was in office. But it must be said that by virtue of Hillary's race--and the genuine disdain the Right had for her involvement in policy affairs, particularly her healthcare initiatives--she was far more widely despised, and ultimately muzzled. Michelle represents Black women, who do things a little differently. First of all, we're not easily silenced or easily offended by vilification, particularly once in a power position. We're used to being told to sit down and shut up, and we got real tired of acquiescing a long time ago. This has led to numerous watercooler-bound SNL and MadTV skits replete with shaking necks and snapping fingers, which inevitably spiraled into fundamental societal indoctrination. For the most historically oppressed of both the race and gender classifications, we know intimately what it's like to be on the bottom and we generally have little issue going back there for something we truly believe in. This is particularly applicable when we're in a solid power position (see Oprah's revolutionary ethnocentric evolution over the past five years). 

Whether anyone likes it or not, Michelle will be the First Lady of this country until at least 2013. And I believe that she will work her way up to some very important and poignant work in her role. Clearly, in fact, because she's already begun. And yet, though I sense that she really doesn't care much about public opinion after the ringer of a campaign that dragged her through the mud and labeled her an angry, emasculating, race-mongering terrorist, a bad mother and a worse wife, I am bracing myself for the windstorm turning of the tide that will inevitably hit her.

We know not the day nor the hour and we have no idea who will throw the first punch. But it is almost as certain as the sun will rise and go down again that at some point, the media's affair with Michelle's toned arms, brilliant parenting, garden-planting, and history-celebrating will cease and she will once again be subject to attacks for any little small thing she opts to do or say. I have faith that Michelle can take it, I just don't know if I can. After growing up in a world where myself and other young Black women were victims of random attacks and painful stereotypes, I want us to be able to settle comfortably into a life where we're seen internationally as elegant, intelligent, and progressive enough to transcend all the negativity and rise to the position of not only the spouse of the Leader of the Free World, but the Leader of the Free World, period. But there's a natural fear in getting too comfortable with that position. There's nothing as certain as death and taxes, but almost just as certain is the old adage "they'll hail you/then nail you." It's something of which anyone that's celebrated must be acutely aware: with the sunshine comes the rain. I am enjoying Michelle's--and by proxy, the Black American woman's--day in the sun, but I don't kid myself that the honeymoon will never end. Let a passing comment of Michelle's appear too "angry" or too "militant " and the Ann Coulters, Peggy Noonans, and even the Maureen Dowds of the world will take up arms and begin to throw spears again. And oddly, the only thing I can think of in response to that is the final lines of a letter that Star Jones wrote to Bill O'Reilly when he was shooting off the gun of his mouth in a blatant character assassination of Michelle during the Democratic primaries last year--"Be clear Bill O'Reilly: there will be no lynch party for that black woman. And this black woman assures you that if you come for her, you come for all of us."

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