We have a fabulous First Lady. She is intelligent, caring, professional, ambitious, attractive,humble, stylish and supportive. Despite the stereotypes and personal attacks on her character, she maintains her composure and is a role model to many. Let me be clear, I admire Michelle Obama.
However, when someone tells me that my mother or other professional Black women are Michelle Obama, for some reason, I always feel uncomfortable. Firstly, as flattering as it is to be considered on par with the First Lady, I do not like that certain people act as if professional, elegant and graceful Black women were non-existent before Michelle Obama entered the white house. Before Michelle Obama there was Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Ida Wells Barnett, Madame CJ Walker. There have always been intelligent, caring and professional Black women in the Black community. Michelle Obama is not some rarity or exception to the rule, there are plenty of elegant, intelligent Black women out there.
The other thing that bothers me is that it seems like as Black women, we are either Bonquisha on the corner or Michelle Obama, there is no in-between.
It’s as if we’re seen as either these classless, loud women who hang out, half-dressed on street corners (Bonquisha stereotype) or we’re the rare, exceptional Black woman who is professional, intelligent and classy. If you’re considered an articulate, intelligent Black woman, you are automatically placed in the exceptional Michelle Obama category, if you don’t fall into that Michelle Obama image, then you’re placed in the Bonquisha category. You can never just be you…What I mean by that is, Black women can never just be human, we always have to be constrained to some stereotype.
Why is it inconceivable that a Black woman can just be herself…why can’t you be intelligent, caring and still be you. Why are Black women constrained to these dichotomous images where there is no grey area? I know plenty of Black women who talk in so-called “Black vernacular,” and they are very intelligent and educated. However, society places them in the demeaning Bonquisha category just because of the way they talk. In effect, the Michelle Obama stereotype denies Black women who are intelligent and caring the right to recognition just because they do not meet the requirements of a seemingly positive stereotype.
Black women are individuals. We run the gamut when it comes to our personality, background and disposition. The way we talk, behave or our educational background should not restrict us to these dichotomous stereotypes.
As much as I admire Michelle Obama, it’s still a stereotype to call a professional, educated Black woman ( or any Black woman who isn’t Michelle Obama) Michelle Obama, it’s still dehumanizing at the end of the day because it denies you the right to individuality by constraining you to a stereotype. It’s just as dehumanizing as placing all Black women in the Bonquisha category.
As proud as I am of Michelle Obama, I am not her nor am I Bonquisha…I’m just me.