So I reread it and began to see what everyone was seeing that I didn’t. Here was a black man, who was reared by white folks, lived in lots of foreign lands outside of the United States (thus removed from the black community) and, dated mostly white women. Yup, now I understand why folks’ anxiety levels are up. But if this was a GOP plan to derail his presidency, it is quite a dumb one. President Obama could stand at a podium on national television and say “I Hate Black People” and 98 percent of black folks would still find some justification to support him.
In other words, black folks are just that emotionally connected Obama and more importantly what he symbolizes to let something as trivial as an ex-girlfriend shake that. Plus, even after spending years chasing Becky, Obama ultimately settled down with a sister. But that doesn’t mean this story didn’t strike a nerve in the hearts of some, or else they wouldn’t have reacted as they did. So I ask again, what if he hadn’t married Michelle? What if Genevieve Cook was Genevieve Obama, would the black community continue to be the loyal constituency base or would he have even made it to the White House?
I believe that as a community, we are so starved for that public representation of a two-parent nucleus, which would defy the images of single parent households and the unmarriable black woman, that has been presented to us in the mainstream media. Therefore any and every image of that representation has to be protected at all cost – that includes the Smiths, The Carters and of course, the Obamas. Likewise, it has been a long-time meme about the connection of black men’s ability to succeed, professionally and financially, and his relations to white women. Comedians (ahem Chris Rock) joke about it, Jill Scott wrote frankly about it and many folks understand fully the hurt that comes with seeing someone of your own group give in to the “hierarchies of femininity” – as recently evident by the shitstorm over Usain Bolt’s new white girlfriend.
What stands out most about Barack is not only is he married to a black woman but he is the first black President and his wife (Michelle Obama) is the first black woman to hold the distinctive title of a First lady in the history of the United States of America. This status alone spits in the face of the thinking that Black women are a hindrance socially to a Black man’s ability to succeed in this country. And politically it is paying off. According to a Kaiser Poll released late last year, about four in 10 black women say their overall impression of black women has improved because of Michelle Obama. This black first lady goes far with black women, who statistically speaking, are more likely to vote than black men.
Folks have long speculated that one of the major reasons former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. lost his senate race in Tennessee was because of his marriage to a white woman, which proved to be suspicious to some black voters. According to Danielle Belton, of The Black Snob,
“He’s safe. Boring. At times too conservative to even BE a Democrat. He’s more of a Blue Dog than anything. And while there are lots and lots of black people who are socially conservative, but liberal on justice and economic issues, Harold Ford Jr. has long left the world’s most nasty, self-loathing taste in people’s mouths. And having a white wife DOES NOT HELP HIM. This is just a reality. While most of the folks who hang out in Snob Blog country are pretty cosmopolitan in their thinking (I believe most of you just dislike Harold for being a crappy politician), we all know that there will be more than a few folks who will question his loyalties to the community and nothing raises a giant red flag to these folks like not marrying one of your own.”
Folks may try to refute it but Obama’s family, including his marriage to Michelle Obama, is a big part of his public and political identity. It’s evidenced by the number of “The First Black Family” photos being passed around social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, where we see daily affirmations in the comment section about their union being a perfect example of a strong black family. What that says is that despite our desire to transcend race in this country, black folks are still aware that everything we do is political – from our hair choices to how we are portrayed on television and yes, even who we marry. Michelle is probably Barack’s greatest asset in the black community. She probably helped him in 2008 when more black women came out to vote than black men and will probably help him again this coming election. Not saying that folks would totally have dismissed his candidacy but with a white girl named Becky on his arm, black folks probably would be more willing to scrutinize his actually policies and he might not have garnered the same level of enthusiasm among black voters.
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