When we think of a First Lady, any First Lady, we often reflect on how distinct, prestigious or significant her role is. As the virtual Ambassador for the President, the First Lady usually provides a more human side for the highest office in the land. She is an extension of the Commander-in-Chief, while still carving out her own vital role whether it be in politics, education, nutrition, health care or any other realm.
But never has a First Lady been so disrespected, ridiculed, demeaned or vilified in the manner that Michelle Obama has. With such high approval ratings (at times even higher than her husband), there’s a clear explanation for the continual attacks against Mrs. Obama – her race – and come to think of it, his race.
During the Presidential campaign of ’08, many Black women like myself were beyond excited to see a strong Black woman as the next potential First Lady. An educated, extremely intelligent female who dedicated much of her efforts towards working in the community and uplifting others, Michelle Obama represented what many of us either strive to be, or already regard ourselves as. And the fact that President Obama, a biracial man, married an independently minded and strong-willed woman like Michelle, only solidified our appreciation and support for this couple. It’s exactly that admiration and love for Michelle Obama that conservatives and those with an ax to grind hate so much. And they’ve proved over and over again that they will try to do anything to tarnish her image.
When Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, the verbal assaults against Michelle already began. First, they attempted to turn her comments about being proud of her country into a negative, as if she was somehow unpatriotic her entire life. During the rest of the that period and throughout Barack Obama’s Presidency, the right continued throwing insults against Michelle for everything from the clothes she wears to her fight against obesity, to supposed lavish vacations. Following in conservative footsteps, now everyone appears to think it’s appropriate to make outrageous claims against the First Lady. The latest example: British publications printing stories of Michelle spending $50,000 on undergarments.
The fact that White House press secretary Jay Carney had to take time on Monday to denounce the underwear rumor is proof that the allegations against the First Lady are out of control. And now that we’re in an election year, things are likely to get worse. Because Michelle Obama represents so much of what we love, they will do everything they can to smear her image and that of the President. It’s our duty to make sure that they don’t succeed. Make no mistake: smearing them is an attempt to diminish our own self-esteem.
I asked my mother the other day if she’s ever seen any First Lady repeatedly insulted like Michelle Obama has been. The answer, not surprisingly, was a definite “NO.” Throughout it all, Mrs. Obama has taken the barrage of attacks with grace and dignity, while disproving everything with her actions – just like a strong Black woman would. And I should know, a strong Black woman is me; she is you and we cannot allow her to be slandered.