I remember with a certain amount of chagrin my initial discovery that not all African American women were fans of Michelle Obama. One cold December morning in 2009, I was home for the holidays when my favorite uncle telephoned from Miami. He was talking with my mother so loudly that I could actually hear him from across the room. Apparently, he had just had a major argument with my aunt and cousin about Mrs. Obama. He was so appalled at their disapproval of the First Lady that he refused to travel with them to our house for the holidays. In a fit of outrage, my uncle yelled over the phone, “Michelle Obama is a great role model and beautiful to boot! That’s why they (my aunt and cousin) don’t like her! Why are black women so jealous of each other? Why can’t sisters be more like brothers?” Of course, everything he had said to my mother was rapidly broadcasted by her to every family member willing to listen. After a week of familial debate, most of the male population of my family agreed with my uncle, but my female relatives were divided. I sided with my uncle, and my mother agreed with whomever she was talking with at the time. (My mother is what I call a peacekeeping opinion floater.)
At a later time, I reexamined the question of my uncle that had received the lion’s share of the objections by most of my feminine relatives: Why can’t a sister be more like a brother? Yes, I know his query sounds a bit like an ill tempered, generalizing, chauvinistic, Henry Higgins comment; however, in all fairness it has some merit. I must admit that my life experience with black girls and women has ranged from deeply caring to diabolically dangerous, and the most negative experiences did involve a certain level of jealousy by my counterparts. Therefore, I could not simply dismiss my uncle’s broad assertion and relegate it to the ranting of an old male chauvinist.
Presently as I reflect on of my disillusioning unearthing of the female Michelle Obama haters in my family, I can see (but not condone) how their envy of her could drive their dislike of her. She’s brilliant, successful, attractive, powerful, wealthy, a social activist, a youth advocate, a good mother who happens to be married to the love of her life-the President of the United States. I suppose, when they compare her existence to their own, they are left wondering why-why her and not them. They look at her and see the image of the black lady next door. And unfortunately, some black females still have not been able to wrap their minds and their hearts around that particular image as being an acceptable image of great success, glamor, and power. Personally, I regard the First Lady as a breath of fresh air and as a beacon of hope for all women. And as for the women in my family, with prayer I’m keeping hope alive.