Kind of Red

April 1, 2009

The First Lady, Our Lady

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 1:51 am

bitch |bi CH|
1.    a female dog, wolf, fox, or otter.
2.    informal derogatory a woman whom one dislikes or considers to be malicious or unpleasant
o    informal a thing or situation that is unpleasant or difficult to deal with
informal a thing or situation that is unpleasant or difficult to deal with

Mrs. Michelle LaVaugh Robinson Obama is not a bitch.  Though she be many things—mother of two brilliant, beautiful, young girls, wife of the Forty-Fourth President of the United States of America, Ivy League alumna (two times over), extraordinarily accomplished career woman, the embodiment of “hope unborn” for millions of Americans, inspiration to an entire generation of young women and young men alike—she is not, nor has she ever been a bitch.  Nevertheless, Mr. Burt Prelutsky, a regular contributor on, has struggled to take hold of such a revelation.   Last week, in an article on the site, he wrote these words, “The burning question in my circle is: if the First Family gets a female dog, will she be the First Bitch or will she have to settle for second place?”  This was after he made other such disparaging remarks such as, “After all, in spite of the fact that affirmative action got her an Ivy League degree and a $7,000-a-week salary and, moreover, has sent billions of dollars for no particularly good reason to Africa, she insists this is a mean country.”

Mrs. Obama
Though I profoundly disagree, I understand the affirmative action comment. As noted in William G. Bowen (former President of Princeton University) and Derek Bok’s (former President of Harvard University, former Dean of Harvard Law School) The Shape of the River, affirmative action is a fiercely disputed moral issue.  It’s an issue that closet racists often use to bemoan their own failings.  Did not get the job you believed you qualified for?  The darkie took your spot.  Did not garner admittance to your coveted undergraduate institution?  Affirmative action most certainly is the culprit.  It’s a misguided assumption (which is a whole other entry in itself), particularly because it ignores the goals and implementation of the policy while erroneously seeking to explain a perceivably inequitable outcome.  Additionally,  proponents of the idea always seem to fail to acknowledge that affirmative action has aided more white women in accessing unprecedented opportunities than any other people group (you think Mr. Prelutsky would make the same comments of Mrs. Clinton’s Yale degree?).  Nonetheless, one may understand the comment considering the source, but the female dog portion is abhorrent.

In short, the female dog comments represent the brand of infantile aspersions, the asinine accusations, that mindless simpletons like Mr. Prelutsky find themselves resorting to only when they lack even the mere semblance of a meaningful thought to insert into the public debate.  Had Mr. Prelutsky possessed the dignity to express legitimate critiques on Mrs. Obama’s public image, perhaps his words would carry weight.  Had he attached his obvious disdain for her to actual facts, we might suggest they were worthy for more than sifting through and discarding.  He chose to do neither, and consequently his words carry as much weight as leaves bustling in the wind, and as like those bustling leaves we must rake them and discard them like the fallen leaves of autumn.

Mrs. Obama

As is the case for millions of other Americans, life would have no remarkable difference for Mr. Prelutsky had the nation not chosen to begin trying to absolve itself of its original sin.  Mr. Prelustsky certainly has a limited understanding of the notions of racial discrimination and overcoming them as demonstrated by his words.  Others have noted how the phenomenon of white privilege can veil the understanding of white Americans of the benefits they receive merely because of the hue of the skin that adorns their flesh and the culture that affirms it.  For example, in her article on white transparency, Professor Barabara J. Flagg noted, “In this society the white person has an everyday option not to think of herself in racial terms at all.” She further observed, “In fact, whites appear to pursue that option so habitually that it may be a defining characteristic of whiteness: To be white is not to think about it.” People of color, as the very categorization itself indicates, have no such luxury.  We are constantly reminded of our difference.  We are African Americans, Asian Americans and Latino Americans, never simply just Americans.

Had she chosen to be the embittered, “angry” woman the media seeks to portray her as, Mrs. Obama could.  Our nation’s history, tortured by its racial caste system,  is riddled with the embattled tales of triumphs and tragedy as we have trod the “stony road” in quest of freedom.
Mrs. Obama

Nevertheless, she has overcome the obstacles laid before her by an inherently unjust, unequal system with grace, poise and elegance.  Mr. Prelutsky’s bigoted comments fail to value the incredible features on Mrs. Obama’s resume.  He fails to acknowledge how Mrs. Obama trod this stony road as she began her meteoric rise to the White House with her husband.  She was reared in what Dr. King called the most racist city he ever visited.  There she thrived in her studies and graduated salutatorian of her high school class.  Mrs. Obama later attended one of the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate institutions, which only deemed people like her fit to walk through its doors five years after she was born.  There, at Princeton University (go Tigers!), she excelled (that’s what cum laude means Mr. Prelutsky) and continued her scholastic career at our nation’s oldest, most prestigious law school.  She went on to hold an associate position at the highly-touted law firm, Sidley Austin, serve as an Assistant to the Mayor of Chicago, serve as the Executive Director of the Chicago Office of Public Allies, serve as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the University of Chicago, become the Vice President for Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Hospital.  

Examining her place in history . . .

Observing her place in history . . .

Mrs. Obama represents what we may become in our finest hour.  Yet, when we see the First Lady, we do not merely see her for the remarkable figure she is, but in her we also see “the culmination of years of heartbreaking work by tens of thousands who preceded” her.  In her, we see the courage of Harriet Tubman, the wisdom of Sojourner Truth, the vision of Ella Baker, the tenacity of Fannie Lou Hamer and the struggles of countless other unsung heroines who placed their lives on the line for this very day.  She stands on their shoulders, and shows us what we all may become because of their sacrifices.

Maybe to some Americans the idea that two people such as our President and his wife could ascend to such heights seems unfathomable.  Particularly when the two hail from such humble origins, walked among us and have chosen to become a part of the very fabric of American communities in ways in which no other First Family in the modern era has ever dared.   This too seems untenable, but it is true, and we witness it everyday.  We witness it, yet oftentimes we merely fail to realize it.  In this regard the making of history occurs so closely to us we fail to see it, just like the nose on your face.  Mrs. Obama is no bitch, never has been, never will be.   She, quite simply, is history made. 

Official Portrait

Official Portrait


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