Originally Appeared in The Daily Voice
“Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
The palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
- Angelou, Maya. And Still I Rise: A Book of Poems. New York: Random House Inc., 1978.
When I, along with many others, prophesied last year, that President Obama’s victory, though enticing, would yield an open season of assaults on the dignity of the current First Lady, we were largely ignored, and derided as unworthy of critical attention. Well, the recent twist of events, as it concerns the hyper-obsession with, and relentless surveillance of, Michelle Obama, by right-wing ideologues, have successfully vindicated my convictions—that Ms. Obama’s prominent function, as a dynamic reorientation and regeneration of African-American Womanhood, is creating a fear so deep in the hearts of racists, that they seek to destroy and assassinate her character, in whatever ways possible.
From being threatened with a lynching party by FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly, for refusing to kneel before the ark of nationalism, to being accused of expressing a “kind of militant anger,” by Juan Williams (another FOX News operative), Michelle Obama has not escaped the crossfire of Republican/Conservative/Liberal attacks, since her emergence on the national/international scene, in 2008. It seemed to all start with her comments of being “really proud” of her country, “for the first time” in her “adult life,” but, in reality, the determination of those who sought to destroy her, long before those comments, was only inflamed thereafter.
Michelle Obama has, without a doubt, undergone the most vicious, pejorative and criminal assaults any modern-day—and ancient—First Lady has suffered. Juan Williams’ comments, earlier this year, charging her with the “instinct” to “start with this ‘blame America’,” victim-oriented narrative confirms my suspicion. But that was 2009. Long before, Ms. Obama had been labeled a “terrorist;” faulted, erroneously, for using the word “whitey” on a tape; demeaned as a gun-toting-sex-driven-drug-using bandit; compared to a spider; deemed a “frenemy” of the White House; accused of wearing a “mask” in public; cast as a Black supremacist; reduced to a “Baby Mama;” depicted being lynched by liberal blogs; portrayed as a ‘70s radical; and claimed as “America’s Next Top Model.”
So, you see, it was only logical that, on Monday, she would come to represent “trash”—as told by conservative thinker, Tammy Bruce, on fellow crack-pot, Laura Ingraham’s radio show. You see, it is only fitting that the religious-right magazine, Townhall.com would feature a column with the following to say about our esteemed and elegant First Lady:
“Take Michelle Obama...please. Every time I turn around, there she is on a magazine cover. Now, normally, like the Mafia, I lay off the spouses, but inasmuch as this particular spouse attended the same racist church as her hubby for 20 years, I'll make an exception in her case. After all, in spite of the fact that affirmative action got her an Ivy League degree and a $7,000-a-week salary and, moreover, has sent billions of dollars for no particularly good reason to Africa, she insists this is a mean country. The burning question in my circle is: if the First Family gets a female dog, will she be the First b*tch or will she have to settle for second place?”
What we must understand, is that Michelle Obama’s threat factor is at the highest any Black Woman has been able to muster, since Angela Davis. She, single-handedly, invalidates the theories and stereotypical assumptions conservative scientists have worked in the lab, for centuries, to create about Black Womanhood. Michelle Obama examines these presuppositions, and rips them asunder. Urged to look as white as possible, Black women have implemented skin-bleaching creams, in hopes of appealing to broader bases. Encouraged to mimic the long-flowing hairstyles of blond White women, they have sought out countless chemical and synthetic products, to elongate their hair-length (relaxers, wigs, weaves, etc.).
The gift of Michelle Obama lies in her natural refutation of the artificial notions of Black femininity, which Black women have succumbed to for centuries past. A short-haired (considerably), dark-skinned Woman has replaced the video vixens and runway models, as the example of elegance, grace and sophistication, in the psyches of young Black females. Ain’t she beautiful?
They know this—the right-wingers! They understand this better than any of us. The decision to bombard Ms. Obama’s dignity with the cheapest invectives money can buy is intentional. Evading wouldn’t do much good; neither would a reactionary, knee-jerk approach.
Black people must begin to see the fiduciary obligation we have to protect the sanctity of our past, present and future. Michelle Obama will remain a punching bag for racists (on the left and right), until the line in the sand is drawn, and a warning shot is blasted into the sky of affirmation.
We must affirm the integrity of this worthy woman, and explain our decision to those who plan on making her the receptacle of their rage.