Radio Sandwell African / Caribbean News

Michelle Obama describes pressures of being black First Lady

2015-05-11 10:42:41

Michelle ObamaThe Obama family outside the White House at Easter Photo: @WhiteHouse

Michelle Obama says she had to fight misperceptions due to her African-American race during the 2008 White House campaign that saw her husband become the first black president of the United States.

The first lady, who grew up in humble circumstances in Chicago and became a successful corporate lawyer, has rarely discussed race during her husband's two terms in office.

But a string of recent cases of alleged abuse of police force against African Americans, and related unrest in Baltimore, made it hard to avoid.

"As potentially the first African-American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations, conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others," said Mrs Obama on Saturday.

"Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?" she asked in a frank commencement address at historically black Tuskegee University in Alabama.

Michelle Obama

For the first magazine cover featuring Obama in 2008, The New Yorker parodied her as a radical and a terrorist.

"It was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and a machine gun," she said.

"Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I'm really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder just how are people seeing me."

In an almost half-hour address, she also recalled other racially insensitive comments, including when Fox News television said she was her "husband's crony of colour" and "Obama's baby mama" - the latter US slang for an unwed mother.

"Back in those days, I had a lot of sleepless nights worrying about what people thought of me," she said.

"I had to ignore all of the noise and be true to myself - and the rest would work itself out," she added, winning cheers from graduates.

Aside from mastering details of administration policy, "I also worked to ensure that my efforts would resonate with kids and families - and that meant doing things in a creative and unconventional way," said Mrs Obama.

"So, yeah, I planted a garden, and hula-hooped on the White House lawn with kids. I did some mom dancing on TV... And at the end of the day, by staying true to the me I've always known, I found that this journey has been incredibly freeing."

Michelle ObamaMichelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres dance to Uptown Funk

Frustration, "can feel isolating. It can make you feel like your life somehow doesn't matter. And as we've seen over the past few years, those feelings are real," the first lady added.

"They're rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible, and those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country."

But while being a minority in the United States can be tough, she said, it was no reason to lose hope.


Share this story

Related Stories

Afro news around the web

Africa Top10 Lifestyle & Travel News

Find your purpose for fulfilment

'They deserve more respect'

Voice35 Years: Third black person dies in police cell

Africa’s 5 Busiest Airports

Entrepreneur Empowers Black Men To Reclaim Their Narratives

R. Kelly Performs In North Carolina Amid Protesters And Rubs Cell Phone Between His Legs In Defiance

Venture Capitalist Firm To Invest $36M In Black Women Founders

Londoners embark on ‘The Big Walk’ to celebrate community

The homeless young mother who turned her life around

Image Slider