Last night, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to be among the 20,000 Americans in Chicago to see President Obama’s final farewell speech. The speech was widely watched and well attended by politicos and celebrities alike.
But what I loved most about yesterday was the way President Obama made it a point to go on and on about our First Lady Michelle Obama. And everything in me is not the kind of woman that gets easily excited when a man shows his wife love and attention in public. I've held steadfast to this ill-informed notion, even in my own marriage that if you got it (the good, nurturing love) then don’t flaunt it.
At a time where the ability to marry for some is still being debated. At a time when Black women, particularly those who intend to marry Black men, are torn apart and ridiculed by those on the right who want us to hurry up and marry and by those on the left who want us to (in choosing black men) somehow ‘level up.’ At a time when hetero black love is seen as both fleeting and unstable. At a time when even in that unraveling, it is always on the shoulders of black women. Barack made us sit in his adornment of her. And I wanted to eat every bite.
I didn’t want to relish in it, but my God it was glorious. The way that President Obama insisted on it. To make every one of us stand before her. He waited on it. He waited on us to gather our purses from our laps, stand and clap. He made us fuss over her. When she misses our compliments he reemphasizes them. He knows she was the catch. He knows it and he wants us to know it.
And she is well-degreed, skilled, and extraordinarily accomplished as an executive in her own right. But what I love most about her is that she is a very particular woman that he is loving on in public. She’s a Black woman. Of a particular shade. With a particular body type. The arc of her back slides down at a particular angle that makes it hard for us not to notice. Her hips are spread in a particular way that’s very familiar to me. She’s a black woman of a particular age. With a particular height. With particular edges that require ancestral love and a history of attention. And our white hegemonic society rarely holds up the Michelle Obama's as desirable and worthy of a standing ovation.
And most of all, our first Lady is descended from very particular people. She is unequivocally a descendant of African American slaves. At a time where even in the larger African diaspora, everything except THAT has been upheld as a standard of brilliance, beauty and worthiness. She is coffee with no sugar and light cream. She can say with joy and a mischievous grin that she and her daughters dance on the lawns built by her ancestors. She is black with a full stop. No explanation needed.
Her presence has been a proxy of my own blackness. She makes me weep. In a bucket.
Because they can never unhear her voice. They can never unsee her face. Her body. They can never unsee the way her arm stretches above her head to light a Christmas tree. They can never unsee the way jumpropes, blushes at the old Black women that whisper in her ear, the way she sings church hymns in old black churches from memory. They can not unsee her eyeroll. The way she commands a room. And when they cry in their bucket of white tears, they can never undo the smile on my face every time I see her.
And I know her presence won’t create world peace, but my God, didn’t she do it? She showed up every time. She is the very best of us. She is the very best of me. She made me a better woman. She made me own it. To stand in it. And because of Michelle LaVonne Robinson Obama from the southside of Chicago, not only will I never be the same but I won’t her hide again.