Friday, January 9, 2009

Are Black Women Looking for a Heroine?

As Black Americans, are we always looking for a hero or heroine? I was forced to stop and examine this question because of an online conversation I had with someone about Michelle Obama. I had sent to this person what I considered a very well-written article, American Girl, by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic. Coates has deftly made the correlation of being black and being American as being synonymous with his portrayal of Michelle Obama. I do not know if the person I sent the article to did not read the entire article or just did not get it because her remark was that she was sick of the drama around Michelle Obama and black women seeing her as some kind of queen, and that black people are looking for a hero.

Wow. That was two days ago and I have not responded as yet. I thought it was best to get my thoughts together because I did not trust what I wanted to say or that it would come out the right way. So, I am asking, is this true, are black people looking for a hero? I had forwarded several articles about the Obamas and especially the ones on Michelle. Many of them were black women writing about Michelle as a shining example of the ultimate black woman. Some of them were quite adoring, a little syrupy maybe, but I found no problem with them. So I am thinking now, are we putting the future First Lady on a pedestal; are we building her so high on the throne because we are hungry for someone to look up to?

Speaking for myself and myself only, I do not put anyone on a pedestal. Only God can be elevated to the status of royalty as far as I am concerned. But I give credit where credit is due. I feel a kinship, a sense of sisterhood with the future First Lady. In a world where black women are vilified and disrespected on an everyday basis, of course I delight in a woman such as Obama, beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, a devout mother and wife as being an example of a black woman we ALL can be proud of. That is it, plain and simple. Nothing more.

Just after Thanksgiving, I was sent an email about submissions to an anthology for a book of letters to Michelle Obama to be published by SUNY Press. It was due in a couple days, December 1 and I wondered what I had to say that would be significant but I sat down and typed up something I was finally pleased with. To my surprise and delight my submission was accepted. The goal was reached to have the book published in time for the Inauguration January 20. So now, I am doing some shameless promotion of Go, Tell Michelle, African American Women Write to the New First Lady. Am I in need of a hero or heroine? I don’t think so. Do I think First Lady Michelle Obama is worthy of being recognized and feted? She is all that and a bag of chips.

Go, Tell Michelle

Behind the idea for the book: Uncrowned Queens


Angelia... said...

Congratulation Dera.
I know that I am not in need of a heroine, but surely we can admire someone without making them a heroine or hero. I find Michelle interesting and smart and a wonderful wife and mother, all of which are traits I admire in any woman...and you are so right, only God gets a pedestal...great blog!


Raven said...

Great blog. As black women we have so few public examples of a black woman who is attractive, intelligent, family oriented and who share a loving realtionship with a man of equal status that we do seem to burst at the seams with pride when it comes to Michele Obama. It's like a breath of fresh air, finally we have someone to represent to the world the type of black woman we see so often in our midst but is often overshadowed by the "goldigger", "sex crazed" or "baby mama" image the media bombards the world with. Finally, there is a sista who has the stength, class and style we admire and find so familar. Fair or not, Michele Obam is one of the few public examples of the strength and beauty that black women possess. And we are thrilled.

Beverly said...

Congratulations on your submission being accepted.
Very nice blog!
I am not in need of a heroine but I am glad to see a black woman like Michelle Obama front and center.
With her intelligence, poise, being a wonderful wife and mother are all qualities to be admired but by her being a black woman does make be proud.

JC Martin said...

Congrats Dera.

I am not in need of a hero or heroine. God is all that I need to trust and believe.

However, it is good to see on television, a woman with her hair combed, all her teeth, and well spoken. She is in deed a better reflection than the video girls. She is an example we can use to encourage our children, both male and female. Strive to be as good if not better than the Obamas of the world.

There is no harm in that. I don't believe anyone is worshiping her, but I do believe they look up to her. We all looked up to someone at someone in our lives, whether they were good or bad.

Yasmin said...

Congrats far as Michelle...I'm proud of her I would be proud for anyone who achieves their objectives...nothing more...nothing less.

Southern Diva said...

Great post Dera, and I'm going to "Amen" the comments of everyone else. I will say that the one thing that stands out about Michelle to me is that she is a woman who knows her own mind and does not "go along to get along". In numerous interviews, both Barack and Michelle talk about how they discussed, as a couple, whether he should run or not. It wasn't taken for granted that he would run and she would back that. There had to be compromises on both side. She is a woman who is a TRUE partner in her marriage, puts her family above all else, and cares about what is happening in the world around her. On top of that, she is intelligent and sexy (a virtual walking clothes hanger, which is why designers love her and folks want to see what she is going to wear next) and down to earth.

Maybe the person who wrote the nastygram response should ask herself what is truly bothering her about the public adoration of Michelle Obama? I don't think it's the heroine worship. Maybe there's a little self-hatred going on. I'm just saying. Anytime folks start tearing down another person, it's usually about the individual doing the griping, and not the intended target. We can all do what Michelle has done in our own lives. We can do it with our families, our communities, counties, states, and country. One step leads to the next. If that's what you want to do. Don't be mad because someone is getting recognized for their hard work and committment. Rest assured, Barack would have had it much harder without his wife's support.

Whew! I apologize for being so long winded.

Congrats on your submission being accepted. I'll be one of the first to check it out.

Linda Chavis said...

What Raven and Southern Diva and ALL said LOL

Niambi Brown Davis said...

Congratulations, Dera! More than hero worship, it's a collective round of applause and a sigh of relief that there is an African-American woman who has balanced the "representation" scales. There are many women like Michelle, but too often they get pushed in the background by the the popular and imbalanced image of sisters promoted on the numerous reality shows, in some music, movies and books. She's "every woman" in the best sense of the wor.d.

'Cilla said...

Wow... Dera, you are always on point with your commentary. I believe that women have been called names and given such aweful representation, particularly by the youth and rappers, that people simply take for granted an honorable, intelligent, kind and caring person looks like. I admire all that Michelle Obama represents as a mother, wife, sister and First Lady.

Rosa J said...

I agree with others. I need no Heroine but my Mom. I am glad to see a Black Woman who is
1.Not holding up an arrest picture.
2.Attractive and intelligent
3.Family oriented her emphisis on her Children.
4.All the rest of the negatives the press prefers to show.
5. Wearing CLOTHES
Our young girls NEED someone to look up to as a model of peace and quiet,intelligence, and not scarec of standing up for what she believes in and NOT the way out clothes, hairstyles, and poor english that some seem to think protray them as a "Black Woman"
Remember I am old LOL

suga said...

I think that many Black women are just happy and proud to be able to identify with an iconic figure in the sense that she could be our girlfriend, cousin, sister and she's not an actress or musician...she's a REAL person.

Dera Williams said...

Angelia- Thanks, yes we can admire without adulation.

Raven, thanks. It is indeed nice to have a good example of womanhood period.

Beverly thanks, it makes it extra nice that she if Black.

JC thanks. Sadly, the portrayals of black women is usually demeaning.

Thanks Yas. I think most of us don't get it twisted. It's a good think to admire an accomplished woman.

And that's the other part. Michelle is part of a formidable couple. Thanks for the support.

Linda. LOL. Thanks

Niambi, yes,yes, as quite as it is kept, the face of black women is not balanced. I would be willing to bet the majority of black women have more in common with Michelle than the video vixens.

Hi Cilla,
Women like Michelle are overlooked everyday supplanted by party girls.

Hey Rosa,
I love your checklist. You always keep it real.

That is the thing. She is our sister, cousin or friend. She is not a rarity.

Phyllis said...

Go Dera, Go Dera, Go Dera! I'm so happy for your success! Keep it coming!

Re: Michelle -- I'm looking forward to seeing her around for the next four (hopefully) eight years....I think it will do wonders to have a constant, positive image of black womanhood front and center to contradict the negative images that are so prevalent in the media. Same deal with the little girls -- let them be the norm, rather than the exception in mainstream media.

Uranie said...

Congrats on your story being accepted. Great Blog

Dera Williams said...

Thanks Phyllis for your kind words and support. Yes, black womanhood is on spotlight.

Thanks Uranie. Glad you enjoyed the blog.

Dera said...

hi Dera,
Of course congratulations are in order!
I think your point of kinship is quite accurate. Heroism raises one to a level equivalent to a higher power. No human being equates with that. However, Michelle O'Bama represents all the positive attributes that, in actuality, dominate African American womanhood. The negative steretypes; promiscuousness, low self-esteem, identity crisis and slothfulness that prevail in the media, have been albatrosses hung around our necks to attempt to identify who we are.
Michelle's exhibited qualities of love of God, love of family, self confidence, and determination are traits of the kinship that exemplify the true link that defines and binds us together. Raising these qualities to a new level through Michelle O'Bama will hopefully force the world to face reality and rethink African American womanhood.
"Your namesake'

Dera Williams said...

Dera, thank you so much for your response and support. It sounds weird to be calling someone else by my name but I'm loving it. Yes, we must continue to sing the praises of our black women who are doing great thing and keeping it together.