Disclaimer: I do not intend to give too much away but I definitely want to address points that she raised being black, a woman, a mother and a wife to the Former President of the United States of America. If you do not like spoilers then maybe you should hold off and read the book first (only if you want to) before reading this post.
The title of this book captured my interest. This blog is centred around the idea of ones becoming. And I truly think the velveteen rabbit describes this journey excellently.
One thing that I did not count on was how relatable I will find The Former First Lady. This begins right at the start of the book when she expresses her love for needing to excel at school. As a fellow proud nerd, I couldn’t help but pull my shoulders back, hold my head high (if only in the comfort of my room) knowing she was the same. She may not have called herself a nerd but not many kids will go back to their school teacher demanding a retest to proof that there were good enough. Whatever her reason right on the set, Michelle Obama was not one to quit easily.
As some of you may know, I am part of the #IssaMovement team and last year we organised our first debate on the very topic broached in this book 40 pages in. 10-year-old Michelle is questioned by a cousin “how come you talk like a white girl”? This part really stood out to me. I have not always been quick with the slangs and had been thought to speak ‘properly’. To use the right tenses, grammar both at home and at school. I attended primary school in Ghana, so please imagine my utter confusion when I moved to England and was confronted by this notion. Since when did speaking English (not broken or with slang) equate to being a white person. I had a lot to learn. In the book, she addresses it from both perspectives. I have always been frustrated by those who have thrown that term at me. However, I do understand the underlying reasons that has caused this very notion within our community.
“the question was pointed, meant like an insult or at least a challenge but it also came from an earnest place……our parents drilled into us the importance of using proper diction, of saying ‘going’, instead of ‘goin’ and ‘isn’t’ instead of ‘ain’t’…..speaking a certain way – the “white” way as some would have it – was perceived as betrayal, as being uppity, as somehow denying our culture.”Becoming-Michelle Obama
Get a Passcode for your mind
We all know that she was a Princeton graduate, but before she applied she was told by her college counsellor that she was not “Princeton material”. That lady is clearly eating her own words right now but imagine if she had listened to that and never applied? Would she Still be the same Michelle Obama that we know, maybe, maybe not. What I want us to take away from this is that the same way we have a passcode on our phones and won’t just let anyone go on our phones, is the same we should develop a passcode on our minds and not just let everyone in. Everyone is not going to see your vision. That’s ok you can see your vision so you need to focus on that.
Angry Black Woman
The last thing I want to touch on is the term, “angry black woman”. This has so many underlying issues I will not be addressing in this post. Check this link for great poetry to have more insight.
“Since stepping reluctantly into public life, I’ve been held up as the most powerful woman in the world and taken down as an “angry black woman”. I have wanted to ask my detractors which part of that phrase matters to them the most – is it “angry” or “black” or “woman”. “
That term takes away the seriousness of what one is addressing and rather focuses on the deliverer. This takes the attention away from the social issue that should be the focus of debate. Maybe it’s all the phrases that matter to them maybe it’s none. But before you go branding someone with a title ask yourself why.
“It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There is power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This is how we become”.