The first lady and her heckler: Who's right? Who's wrong?
If you ever needed a reminder that first lady Michelle Obama is a black woman, you got it. In case you forgot, before Barack she was Michelle LaVaughn Robinson from the South Side of Chicago.
Late Tuesday, Obama was speaking at a Democratic Party benefit when Ellen Sturtz, 56, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocate of the group GetEQUAL, interrupted and demanded that President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order.
“One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” the first lady said to applause from guests at the fundraiser. “Do you understand?”
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She reportedly left the podium and walked over to the protester, face-to-face, saying, “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”
The Internet has been inundated with you-better-go-girls, she-tried-its, and every other black-woman-ism you could imagine since Michelle Obama “shut down” this white, lesbian protester at a private fundraiser. Folks on “Team Michelle” are thrilled in a very “sister girl” way over her method of handling the heckler.
The aftermath of the exchange sparks more insight than the exchange itself. Some have questioned whether it was cool for the first lady to lose her cool. Others are giving her props and labeling Sturtz as a rude, agenda-pushing radical, a critique levied at gay rights activists since the equally “in-your-face” street protests of Act Up in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They say Sturtz got what she deserved.
The oversimplified, polarized dialogue this event has spawned reveals our need for a clearly defined victor and victim, and how stereotypes help us determine who is who.
But the truth is, nobody “won.”
In our reality TV-saturated culture full of Gone with the Wind twirls, we would much rather watch a train wreck than call a draw.
It’s concerning that the first lady automatically gets kudos, because, well, it confirms the widespread belief that all black women are clearly angry all the time. She may be the first lady, but in the eyes of America and the African-American community, she is a black woman first. That firecracker attitude is practically expected of the mythological “strong black woman.”
On the other hand, some argue that Mrs. Obama hasn’t gotten a pass at all — that as a black woman she cannot win and the floodgates of criticism will soon open.
We’re still waiting.
The vast majority of people commended the first lady for what many see as a proud race moment — the first black first lady straightens out a white woman that has the gall to disrespect her in public. Perhaps out of anticipation of angry-black-woman-backlash, folks, especially black women, have preemptively jumped to her defense.