The Michelle Obama Effect

Michelle ObamaAs the initial euphoria, excitement, disbelief and sheer joy of Barack Obama’s win infused the psyche of the American people (and myself), I have, like everyone else, concentrated most of my postings on him. The last several days, however, have reminded me of something I realized the very first night but hadn’t processed yet: there will not only be a Black man in the White House, but an entire family, including one smart Black woman. Her name is Michelle, and she gets to show America and the world what a REAL Strong Black Woman looks like.

It’s been more than 40 years since the American Civil Rights movement. During those four decades, American black women have struggled with

  • a sharp rise in the number of Black men imprisoned for long periods of time, often for non-violent crimes;
  • pressure from the Black community to only be with a Black man, thereby limiting her choices at a time when 1 in 9 black men between the ages of 20-34 is in prison (( Source: Final America’s New Slavery: Black Men in Prison))
  • the dissolution of the marriage in the Black culture (too many black women are single mothers, struggling to raise their families
  • the denigration (note that word, too, with it’s origins in the Latin word for black) of their strengths and capabilities through their portrayal as vapid, money-hungry sex objects in Black music videos and in sometimes black tv shows;
  • the pressure to under achieve, because being intelligent or knowledgeable is seen as “acting white”
  • AIDS, the leading cause of death for Black women ages 25-34 in America, the 3rd leading cause for women 35-44, and the 4th leading cause for black women 45 – 54 (( Source: CDC))
    • The list actually goes on and on, but you get the idea.

      It’s not easy being a “Strong, Black Woman” in America.

      For the first time in decades, however, we will have a chance to see a modern, strong black woman, literally the rock behind the great man. She will not be gaudy, or half naked, engaged in a hair-pulling, scanty-clothes-ripping “cat fight” with some other woman who’s dating “her man” on the horrible Jerry Springer show; she won’t be loud and obnoxious in the quest to show how strong SHE is; she won’t be shaking a tightly clad booty on the dance floor, or rubbing up on a man, not even her husband. Instead, she has been and will continue to be a model of distinction, calm assertiveness, firm self-expression, and poise. That is what it truly means to be a Strong Black Woman, and Michelle Obama has the distinct honor of displaying it for us.

      She exudes the confidence portrayed in one of my favorite poetry recitations ever, by a 7 year old girl named Arbeny Davis on the Jenny Jones Show. That child would be at least 18 now, because I first saw this more than 10 years ago. I give it to you here, and hope you will enjoy it.

      The poem is called “What if I AM a Black Woman?“. In case you find it difficult to understand her, I have the text below.

      What If I Am A Black Woman?

      What If I Am A Black Woman?
      Is it a disease? Well, if it is, I sure hope its catching
      Because they need to pour it into a bottle, label it, and sprinkle it
      All over the people, men and women who
      Ever loved or cried, worked or died
      For any one of us.

      So…What if I am a Black woman?
      Is it a crime? Arrest me!
      Because I’m strong, but I’m gentle,
      I’m smart, but I’m learning,
      I’m loving, but I’m hateful.
      And I like to work because
      I like to eat and feed and clothes and house
      Me, mine and yours and everybody’s,
      Like I’ve been doing for the past 300 years.

      What if I am a Black woman?
      Is it insane? Commit me!!
      Because I want
      Happiness,not tears;
      Truths not lies;
      Pleasure not pain;
      Sunshine not rain;
      A man not a child!

      What if I am a Black woman?
      Is it a sin?
      Pray for me! And pray for you too,
      If you don’t like women of color because we are…
      Midnight Black,
      Chestnut Brown,
      Honey Bronzed,
      Chocolate Covered,
      Cocoa Dipped,
      Big Lipped,
      Big Breasted, and
      all at the same time!

      So what if I am a Black Woman?
      Does it bother you that much because
      I want a man who wants me…
      Loves me and trusts me, and respects me
      And gives me everything because
      I give him everything back, PLUS!!

      What if I am a Black woman?
      I’ve got rights, same as you!
      I have worked for them, died for them,
      Played and laid for them,
      On every plantation from
      Alabama to Boston and Back!

      What if I am a Black woman?
      I love me, and I want you to love me too,
      But I am as I’ve always been,
      Near you, close to you, beside you,

      For over 300 years,
      Your Black woman…
      Love me!

      Author Unknown

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