It’s Halloween and my mind couldn’t be further away from tricks and treats than it is right now. Yes, I’m stunned, transfixed even, by the images on my television of the devastation left in Sandy’s wake. And to be honest, right now there is probably only one thing that grips my heart harder than the images of the burnt smoldering ash that was once the thriving neighborhood of Breezy Point and that’s the fact that some folks, six days from today, are not going to vote for Barack Obama simply because he and his wife are Black. There is no bigger horror this frightful night than that to me. Having a President of the United States of America, who happens to be a Black man, also happens to mean a whole damn lot to me. Having the First Lady be an intelligent, successful, mother of two who also happens to be dark-chocolate-brown Black, means EVERYTHING to me and I’m just not trying to have another First Lady! Not now. I’m not ready. Probably more than President Barack Obama, I need Michelle as the First Lady for another four years. I’m just not ready to make that change and let go of what having her as FLOTUS means to me and other Black women and maybe even most women of color.
In terms of inspiration and young Black men, President Obama stands in a somewhat long line of cool brothers that includes Will Smith, Jay-Z, Denzel Washington, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Colin Powell, and even Malcolm X (Jelani Cobb breaks this whole phenomenon down ever so brilliantly in his essay Barack X). The way in which Michelle Obama inspires—intellectually, stylistically, emotionally, phenomenally is not as readily seen amongst the dames as it is the gents. Of course there’s Oprah. There’s also Toni Morrison, Gabby Douglas, Angela Davis, Beyonce, Ursula Burns, Tyra, and Serena Williams. But as amazingly talented and as skilled and as iconic as these women are they do not penetrate the psychology of Black women as deeply or as radically as the FLOTUS. For all intent and purposes Michelle Obama is our Winnie Mandela. She is our Wonder Woman. Our very own down-to-earth, garden growing, brilliantly outspoken, history-making and supremely beautiful superhero.
In 2008 during the presidential campaign when the First Lady admitted, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change,” she received a great deal of flack from conservatives. But I understood her… was even proud that she was audacious enough to say it it. When you consider the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and both John and Robert Kennedy—all men who went against the grain of a country seemingly content with war, inequality, slavery, Jim Crow, and suffering, and then consider Obama’s (victorious) run for President of that same country that not too long ago could not and would not tolerate the very existence of a man like himself, then yes, pride, real deep-down-to-the-bone-pride is a valid, honest emotion for Michelle Obama to have felt for a first time that day.
And now, four years later, First Lady Obama undeniably bodied the first night of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte with a passionate speech that electrified the spirits of all watching. According to a recent Gallup poll, Michelle Obama has a 65% favorable rating (allegedly higher than her hubs). In spite of the jabs about her booty, the comments about her wearing shorts and the non-stop scrutiny of her “toned arms,” my FLOTUS decided she was not going to be content living in the groove of Blackness and femininity that the media, politicians and society had carved out for her. By creating her own space through her Let’s Move! initiative and through her successful push to reform public school lunch nutrition guidelines, Michelle Obama blocks low-flying bullets of sexism and racism with her gold wristlets, and lassoes haters with her intellect, ambition and courage. She’s a wonder because not only does Michelle Obama resist stereotypical notions of Black womanhood, but she also subverts conventional notions of what the role of the First Lady should be and also how the FLOTUS should look and behave.
Yes, Kanye West is sometimes seen as a problematic in which to view and validate Black manhood, but think about how much blurrier that lens is for young women that identify with superstar Nicki Minaj who calls herself Barbie, wears blond wigs, pokes her derriere out for attention and added (sexual) affect while rapping about silly hoes. When I see young Black girls scream, cry tears of joy and get freaked out at the sight of Michelle Obama jumping double-dutch I exhale and breathe a sigh of relief because I know that even if for only a moment, those girls probably forgot about Minaj’s “Beez In The Trap” and are instead consumed with thoughts of being in The White House. If the Barbs can have their Minaj for what is feeling like an eternity, then I have to do everything in my power to have my FLOTUS for at least the next four years. So scuse me while I make cold calls to Jacksonville, Florida instead of cut cold-faced Jack-o-Lanterns cuz I know the real cape crusading begins with each and every one of us and has very little to do with Halloween. Please vote next Tuesday!
(Illustration of First Lady Michelle Obama as Wonder Woman by J. Bone)