Let’s be clear: Millions of Black women are deeply in love with President Obama. They love the fact that Obama represents the powerful black man who remains dedicated to a black woman and raises beautiful black children. They fantasize about him in a way that reminds us that love is completely blind: Policy doesn’t usually matter nearly as much as Obama’s “presidential swag” and the beautiful family photos on the cover of Essence Magazine. This love affair never would have started had the first lady’s name been Misty Obama.
Black women also love their pastors. A man who doesn’t go to church can be tossed to the side as a potential marital partner if he doesn’t go to church, in part because faith and black women go together like Flavor Flav and his clock. Millions of black women show up to church religiously (pun intended), quote the bible regularly and even take notes when the pastor speaks. The relationship starts when they are little girls and made to feel guilty for not going to church and at least pretending to be decent, holy and utterly sanctified.
Before Barack Obama, the pastor didn’t have much competition. He had absolute power in the congregation, but never enough influence to get a front row seat on Air Force One. The emergence of Barack Obama out of nowhere garnered enough black female attention that Michelle needs to watch her back at every turn. Women identify with Michelle, looking for a Barack Obama substitute of their own and even using the Obamas as a case study for relationship advice. Some might even be secretly hoping that Michelle gets caught “slipping” so they can stand beside the president at the next White House formal.
For many black women, the announcement by President Obama in support of gay marriage was a tough moment of clarity. It’s not as if black women didn’t know that Obama supported gay marriage already, but there’s a huge difference between believing something and announcing it. Church women are good at overlooking huge flaws in the men they admire, sometimes to their own detriment. But when the man of her dreams draws a clear line in the sand, a woman can be forced to make a decision she would rather not have to make.
Another telling challenge for black women might be the pronouncement of President Obama as “The First Gay President.” Having their man stolen by a homosexual is probably the greatest nightmare of nearly every black woman in America, and I can’t begin to describe how many church-going black women were infuriated by a gay blogger projecting homosexuality onto the president. Homophobia in the black community is real, and since Oprah produced her show about black men on the downlow, any brother with a potted plant in his living room is suddenly suspect.
Black women have been President Obama’s most loyal constituency. Asking these women to abandon the teachings of the pastor and bible that they’ve loved for so many decades could possibly be too much to ask. At the same time, the ability to get these women to overlook the bible to protect their love for Obama would be a true testament to the strong emotional connection millions of black people have with the president. How the story ends will depend on the individual woman and how much time she’s spent fantasizing about the man in the Oval Office. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.