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How Dare You Come For Michelle Obama?

I recently penned an article for Jet magazine (that was picked up by EBONY magazine) in response to an offensive cartoon of FLOTUS Michelle Obama. Below is the article in its entirety as well as the links: How Dare You Come For Michelle Obama? by M. Michelle Derosier for Jet magazine and How Dare You Come for First Lady Michelle Obama! by M. Michelle Derosier for EBONY magazine.

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Full disclosure in the spirit of transparency: I STAN as hard for Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama as the Beyhive works to keep Queen Bey (aka Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter) in honey.

As a nose-in-the-book Black girl who grew up in Flatbush when Brooklyn was still too hood for gentrification, I am here, present, and on time for her rise from the South Side of Chicago to become an Ivy League lawyer, and now First Lady of the United States. As a tall girl whose height was a source of constant ridicule, I am also here, present, and on time for the regal and dignified way she carries her 5’11 frame.

While I fully admit that she’s BBF M’Obama in my head, you don’t have to be a fan – or even like her – to find Ben Garrison’s cartoon, comparing a “masculine” Mrs. Obama to Melania Trump in incredibly poor taste and disrespectful.

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Other than a pathetic attempt to gain publicity, what’s the motivation behind it? What message is it trying to send?

Are we supposed to be disheartened that yet another Black woman is found lacking when measured against white beauty standards? Been there. Done that. And you don’t have that power over us anymore. We’ve been growing the list of Black beauties and #CarefreeBlackGirls who reflect who we really are. In addition to the Michelles and the Oprahs, we’re adding the Violas, the Lupitas, the Tracees, and the Yaras, too.

Is this yet another reminder that to be Black means to achieve twice as much and receive half the credit? Don’t worry. That lesson is branded in our DNA. There’s no forgetting it.

As FLOTUS, Mrs. Obama has spearheaded four successful nationwide and global initiatives: a campaign to address childhood obesity; a call to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families are properly supported; an effort to inspire young people to dream beyond high school; and a movement to educate and empower young women.

Additionally, as a fashion icon, Mrs. Obama has done what Kim Kardashian only wishes she could – directly impact the stock price of the commercial fashion industry. According to David Yermack, a professor of finance at NYU’s Stern School of Business, “For just a generic company at a routine event, it was worth about $38 million to have Mrs. Obama wear your clothes.”

Someone please call POTUS to drop the doggone mic.

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Sadly, in the face of all this Black Girl Magic, we still find an America who would prefer as FLOTUS a woman who posed naked on a white fur rug inside a private jet for British GQ, instead of an Ivy League trained lawyer.

Am I surprised? Not at all.

Honestly, I’m not even mad at Melania. It would be too easy to go down the road of mud flinging and pitting the two women against each other, but that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. Our problem runs so much deeper, and so far beyond America.

Black female beauty in this world has often been ridiculed, oversexualized, or both. This fact comes into particular focus when I think of Sarah Baartman, an African woman who was tricked into leaving the continent to move to Europe, only to be paraded around “freak shows” to exhibit her ample bottom. Like Mrs. Obama, White cartoonists also ridiculed her figure in the name of satire.

Ironically, according to the 2015 report from the American society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), on average, a butt related procedure (implant or lift) was performed every 30 minute in 2015. And I’m sure we can guess who’s shelling out for that.

Instead of getting angry at this cartoon, I choose to celebrate the woman that’s being ridiculed. The woman who has spent eight years in the White House tirelessly serving and advocating for many of the same citizens who hold her in such contempt.

Like Beyoncé, Michelle Obama chooses to rise above her haters. She wins.

 

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#TBT, Beauty, Blogging, BlogHer, Body Image, Confidence, Criticism, Dating, Empowerment, Flatbush, Growing Up, insecurities, Introvert, Love, NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo, NYC, Self confidence, Teenager

Teenage Memory

This #TBT post is from a 2011 post about a memory from my teen years.

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I was a gangly *no curves to save my life* and dark-skin teen who always had her head buried in a book. Not exactly the Kim Kardashian beauty of teenage boys’ lustful dreams. Their rejection hurt, but what really cut deep was being rejected by boys who should have liked me – black boys. But they didn’t. There was nothing special about me in their eyes. I wasn’t fair, I did not have light eyes and my hair wasn’t especially long. I was JUST black. Nothing exotic in my genes. Greater than the sin of being homely and black, I had no butt to speak of. No junk in my trunk. No “onion” booty: described by Urban Dictionary as a “booty that looks so good, it makes grown man want to cry.”

Those awkward teenage years were exacerbated by the bully who made it his business to torture me. My bully was an overweight and and pitch-dark boy who girls found unattractive and tended to overlook. As author Richard Sennet points out in Respect in a World of Inequality, the condition of “not being seen” had produced in him “a desire to avenge.” And I was the target of his vengeance because he saw in me his most hated feature. Every day he was forced to confront the thing about himself that caused him the most grief – his skin color.

As a teen I didn’t have the foresight to understand that his problem was not with me. I was simply an easy target. His anger was rooted much deeper. His real issue stemmed from generations of black self-hate that was encouraged during times of slavery when the darker slaves were relegated to picking cotton and working in the fields while the lighter ones (those who more closely resembled their European masters – usually as a result of interracial rape) were able to remain in the house as servants and had the opportunity to be educated. Why we play the game of who carried the heaviest burden is beyond me. Slavery is slavery is slavery. But that’s another topic for another day.

Anyway, I internalized his treatment of me and spent years chasing the standard of beauty that I was sure he and others would value. I used skin bleaching creams religiously, seared my hair straight with hot combs and relaxers, and prayed fervently for the type of butt that black boys would appreciate. Imagine being God and listening to those heartfelt prayers.

It wasn’t until years later (hello Black Studies classes in college!) that I had the strength to confront my demons and work through the self-hate. While I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity, I’ve often wondered whether my bully had the same chance. I hope so, but who knows. You can’t combat issues you never acknowledge. As they say in AA (or so TV tells me), the first step is admitting you have a problem.

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What’s a memory from your teenage years?

NaBloPoMo_November

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BlogHer, Body Image, NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo

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Yesterday I showed my face on Facebook.

You’re probably wondering, okay, what’s the big deal? To understand the big deal is to understand me. I hate having my picture taken. My hands sweat and get freezing cold and clammy in anticipation of social situations that require me to smile and pose for the camera. My body is awkward, I don’t know where to look, how to smile, where to stand. Is it sexy to cock my head to one side? Why does my “smize” look so much less like Tyra and so much more like the little girl from The Exorcist?

I never voluntarily take selfies. I am not the one to jump up ready for a close-up. In fact, where the camera is, there I make sure not to be. But out of love for friends and family, I find myself exiting my hermit shell, putting on the social butterfly mask and modeling as the carefree 32-year-old everyone expects me to be. But inside I’m cringing, impatiently awaiting the end of my torture. I’ll often ask to see the photos that are taken and request a delete/do-over. Why? Because I know the photos will undoubtedly circulate on various social media sites despite my fondest wish that they never be seen. I secretly want to ask that my face be blurred out in those cases, but I fear that will only enable my laundry list of insecurities.

While I will never be (and wouldn’t want to be) the girl clogging your timeline with 1,000 selfies a day, I know I can stand to have a better relationship with my self image. Someday I hope to see my reflection the way my loved ones do. Where I concentrate on my imperfections, they see beauty. Yesterday was a start.

Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to willingly show my face to the world.

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NaBloPoMo November 2014

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