Wednesday, October 7, 2015

To Be Like First Lady Michelle Obama: Learning to Embrace Me

First Lady Michelle Obama is an inspiration. She is intelligent, beautiful, and confident. She is a role model for all women, especially women of color who have to deal with racism, sexism, and classism from those outside their communities and sadly also from those within their communities. 

Hearing First Lady Michelle Obama speak candidly (in the video below) about her personal struggles dealing with racism and sexism, during the time of her husband's first presidential bid, with the media and opinion polls openly picking her apart and questioning her every action really hit home for me. Despite her educational and professional pedigree, as a Princeton grad and successful lawyer, almost all of the critiques of Michelle Obama were steeped in longstanding stereotypes of black women as being too loud, too angry, or too emasculating. As a black woman, I struggle with how people, including my family and friends, perceive me. The way I present myself, speak, eat, dress, and choose to live my life is constantly judged and ridiculed by not only mainstream society but also by other black and brown people.

Lately, I have been especially concerned with not being viewed as an "angry black woman" (which I discussed in an earlier post). This concern has invaded my everyday thoughts. When I am teaching in my classroom, when I am interacting with people in public, and even when I am hanging out with my friends, I am checking myself. Am I talking too loud? Am I coming off as bitter or angry? Am I being too aggressive or too bold? If I feel the answer is yes to any of these questions, I try to change my tone or my mannerisms, or I completely shut down. It is a hard thing to deal with, this feeling that something is wrong with you or that you need to change yourself to make others comfortable around you. And then I think...Why do I care if people think that I am angry? Why can't I be angry? Isn't anger a natural, normal feeling? Why are people so concerned with black women's anger? Why am I worried about how people may or may not view me?

The First Lady's ability to overcome being publicly critiqued, through confidence in herself and in God's plan for her, emboldens me. Her story points out the possible light at the end of the dark tunnel of negativity and racial/gender stereotypes that I face as a black woman in America. I aspire to be like First Lady Michelle Obama, to be able to fully embrace being me. All day. Every day. To stand proudly in my truth, in my skin.


I am loud. I am opinionated. I curse. I cry easily and often when I'm mad, sad, frustrated, or happy. I am overly protective of my friendships. I'm rude. I'm selfish. I'm giving. I'm intelligent. I'm silly. I'm introverted. I'm outgoing. I am not friendly. I sometimes speak before I think. I think too much and tend to dwell. I'm insecure. I'm confident. I get angry. I am a womanly. I am perfectly imperfect. I am divinely favored. I am my mother and father's daughter. I am me and the best thing I can do is, like First Lady Michelle Obama, "have faith in God's plan for me, [...] ignore the noise,  and be true to myself; and the rest [will] work its way out."









A side of the first lady we do not often see...____________________________The Rachel Maddow Show airs weeknights at 9pm ET
Posted by The Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday, May 12, 2015