Saturday, May 25, 2024

Black moms, my mom and Michelle Obama…

May 9, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( What I’m liking most about Michelle Obama being first lady is this: She puts on public display an image of black women and black mothers that many African-Americans can identify with, but that others have viewed as an anomaly. I’m not talking about her being a Harvard-educated lawyer or dressing in designer clothes or personally knowing Oprah. That sets her apart from most of us.

But her loving relationship with her husband and her devotion to her children are familiar to many of us who have grown up in black households. It’s the stereotype of the wild-haired, bedraggled-looking “welfare queens” or booty-shaking, single teen moms that gives us pause.

Sure, those people exist. But they’re not who most black women are. The last census showed 62 percent of black women worked for a living (as opposed to 60 percent of white women). The census also showed that 79 percent of blacks and 89 percent of whites earned at least a high school diploma. Nearly 30 percent of each group had some college education. For blacks, the majority of both were women.

It is true that 65 percent of black births were to unwed mothers. But that’s not the same as saying 65 percent of black single women had children. The census shows 39 percent of black women are childless, and 43 percent of black families are married couples.

So the idea of a Michelle Obama-like black mom is not a fairy tale, not the exception. It is the heart-warming reality a lot of us know.

In many ways, Obama reminds me of my own mother. A few of the physical characteristics are there: My mother was tall and striking (though not as polished as Obama most often is), and had a calm, regal air that I envied. She exuded warmth and comfort, and was always doing for others without a hint that it could be a bother or extra work. She really liked helping and caring for other people.

But Mom never neglected us. When we were growing up, my siblings and I each felt special in our mom’s eyes. I can still feel her hug, her arm wrapped tightly around me just as it’s wrapped around my brother Adam in this picture.

My mom was the sweetest, kindest person I’ve ever known. Others felt the same way. I know because nearly 20 years after her death, people are still telling me so.

I sense that Michelle Obama is in that mold. Yes, she’s outspoken, confident and an emerging style icon, but she exhibits a genuine caring for others. It could be a public persona she’s adopted for her very public role, but it’s the kind of black woman and black mother I’ve seen many times before.

And the loving looks and affection between a black husband and wife that Michelle and Barack Obama often show aren’t simply the stuff of an occasional TV sitcom. I saw that in my family, too. I was actually taken aback hearing Barack Obama repeatedly refer to his wife as his beautiful or lovely wife. That’s how my dad would refer to my mom.

One of the best things parents can do for the healthy development of their children is to be openly loving with each other. It provides the kind of grounding kids need in order to see life’s infinite possibilities and to know that their achievements are only limited by their dreams of what can be.

Michelle Obama has called herself the Mom-in-Chief, noting that her chief job is making sure she does everything she can for the welfare of her two daughters. She’s no different from most other moms in that regard – black mothers included. Many blacks see that. Maybe others will begin to see it too.

Written By Fannie Flono

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