Double standard…uppity, brave or truth

Every now and then a public story will touch a nerve deep within me and I can’t let it go because it is too close to home. I realized that last night when I found myself up later than I had intended to stay up after hearing the story about the current First Lady of the United States and the run in she had with a heckler at a private event.

For those not interested in reading the story, the basic gist is that Michelle Obama was speaking at a private fundraiser held in a private home. Mrs. Obama was apparently in the middle of her prepared speech when a gay rights activist who has been identified as Ellen Sturtz started yelling for “President Obama to issue an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” It seems that Mrs. Obama wasn’t in the mood for that and replied by saying “One of the things I don’t do well is this,” “listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving.”  Various reports mention that Mrs. Obama looked Sturtz in the eye and that’s where the story gets a bit strange. Sturtz claims she was taken aback by Mrs. Obama’s response to being heckled in the middle of her speech and to say the media is having a field day is an understatement.

Some members of the media have stated that Mrs. Obama was out of line, really? Someone yells something at me that I can’t personally do anything about and I am required to be a big sweetheart about it? There was nothing offensive about Mrs. Obama’s response because as a society, our track record of respect given to women of color is sketchy at best. Mrs. Obama was firm and polite; there is also the fact that a private event was probably not the place for Ellen Sturtz to take direct action, no matter how effective such tactics can be.

Of course what is most fascinating is that reaction to Mrs. Obama falls almost neatly along racial and class lines. Many white commenters online have alluded to Mrs. Obama being uppity, being rude, thinking she is something special. Um…this woman is accomplished in her own right, a double Ivy League grad, successful professional and the backbone of the president of the United States. That guy who was and still is the first non-white President of the United States. I think it’s safe to say she is not an average Jane.

However for those of us who fall outside of society’s favored class, we are hearing something else in this so called event. We are hearing the same old chorus that attempts to stifle us when we speak our truth, the chorus that says we must do XYZ lest we appear to be scary and fall into that tired and overused trope of the Angry Black Woman who is a 1st cousin to Sapphire. The Angry Black Woman is any and every Black woman who dares to show emotion, to reveal our truth. To be a Black woman is to know that you must wear your mask 99% of the time because this culture will not validate our feelings, our feelings will be turned against us, used as a sign of our defaults.

Michelle Obama did what many a professional Black woman has either had to do or wanted to do at some point in her life. She didn’t stuff herself down; she stood strong in her truth. Period. How that truth is received depends on people being willing to examine themselves and why when certain people speak their truth, it is uppity, yet when others speak their truth, it is brave, it is accepted.

Truth in America is all about the double standard and until we are ready to tear that standard down we will never progress far no matter how we dress things up.

PS: Yeah, yeah…typos. This post was written on the fly wedged between meetings.

12 thoughts on “Double standard…uppity, brave or truth

  1. I think I would have shit my pants, but then again I wouldn’t heckle the First Lady. Because, really, I don’t see the point. I do think the way it’s being framed is unfortunate and definitely borderline ABW. Like she had lasers too.

  2. The disrespect that this first lady and President have had to endure has been astounding. I think she handled masterfully. Enough is enough. Mrs. Obama’s temperament seems to be a little different than her husbands in that she has no problem calling nonsense, nonsense. I remember when they were on the Oprah Show and he released his “long form birth certificate”(which people are still saying is false), the President said that “We were bemused” by people saying he wasn’t born in the United States. She quickly said, that she wasn’t bemused and thought it was ridiculous. President Obama has to deal with a certain level of b.s. because of his position, but the first lady isn’t going to do that.

    Also, speaking of disrespect, did anyone see the Attorney General Holder at that Congressional Hearing a few weeks ago? He stood up to Issa and he also touched on the disrespect that he has received as Attorney General. Watching that hearing, I realized why so many people don’t like Holder. I suspect it has less to do with these so-called “scandals” and more to do with the fact that he won’t kowtow.

    • I am smiling because I thought the same about Holder: the dislike is related more to his refusal to be a good, answering boy than the “scandals.” I forget which congressman he was responding to, but I damn near cheered because he refused to back down. Had that man so flustered he said, “…casting aspersions on my asparagus.” I am still laughing at that.

  3. Oh, and I also want to add that President Obama has done more to advance gay rights in this country than any other President in history. While I think he have a long way to go in equality, this kind of outburst was unnecessary and ill-timed. BTW, despite being the President, who has advanced gay rights the most, you want to know who GLAAD honored this year with the humanitarian award? It was Bill Clinton. If you recall, Clinton was the one that gave us DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He campaigned in the South on signing DOMA in 1996. That is who GLAAD chose to honor. It shouldn’t be surprising, because after DADT and DOMA, the larger LGBT Community and activists supported Hillary Clinton, who used her time as FLOTUS as part of her experience. I am a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. However, I don’t remember there been much scuttlebutt about her husbands disastrous policies to the LGBT community. They supported her without question.

    That brings me to the racism in the LGBT community. But that would be a long discussion.

  4. I understand Ms. Sturtz’s frustration. As good as this President has been re: sexual minorities, there is still a long way to go. That said, however, I don’t personally feel that that was the proper place, and even if Ms. Sturtz or anyone feels as though it was, Mrs. Obama had absolutely EVERY RIGHT to not accept it. This should so be a non-issue, and IMHO if she were white, it would have gotten a passing mention at most. I am sick to death of hearing how all this shit is just honest opinion and has nothing to do with race. As sure as I’m alive, the very vast majority of the criticism of these people has everything to do with race, and the tone in which much of it is delivered is ALL about racism. Post-racial my ass.

    And BSIM, couldn’t agree with you more about Clinton. And racism and discrimination and othering in the LGBT community? Now that’s a really, really, really long discussion.

  5. Living in DC affords me the ability to hear news from so many sources and perspectives. This story has had various responses, none of which is surprising. Overwhelmingly, when I was near the Hill that day, it was met with tight lips and wrinkled brows because “why did she have to respond at all?” Um. She was speaking. People paid to hear her speak and no one has the right to interrupt her. Her response was clean and direct, not rude. But of course it was immediately met with “how dare she.” To all those who uttered/thought those words, all I can muster in response is HOW DARE YOU. Take away her role as first lady and you still have all her accomplishments worthy of respect.

  6. You nailed it. Our first African-American. POTUS and FLOTUS have been subjected to unimaginable attacks from racial harassment to outright displays or racial hatred. Racism is alive and well.

  7. I am so pleased you wrote this post. Oh, Lord. No sooner does that sh*t go down, I’m dealing with the same nonsense — only in the workplace — and like Mrs. Obama, when you take people to task, call them out on their sh*t or whatever it is that you do that makes it clear — firmly, yet politely — that you are not putting up with the behavior, it’s like, “What? How DARE you.” Like I said in a tweet: You shout at me like a dog, you best believe on your mama’s life that you won’t make that mistake with me again. I have never ever seen such disrespect of a U.S. President and First Lady in all my life. NONE of this behavior (for all the discord and mockery of Bush #2) took place during any of the previous Administrations. I’m appalled, and under the cloak of “free speech” people have lost their d*mn minds about appropriate behavior.

    So when our kids talk the way they do in school to those in authority, when they do so in front of adults or to adults on the street, don’t wonder why. Remember, you reap what you sow. We may not be happy with every political decision made by a sitting President, but wow, the challenge to this President has been like a b*tch backhand slap. Where was this when Reagan, Clinton, Bush #1 and Bush #2 were in office? *crickets* Utter disrespect and, as for Ellen Sturtz, she better count her d*mn blessings it was Mrs. Obama, who had the poise and grace to handle the situation the way she did. She pulled that mess on the street with the wrong person, she’d probably be eating her teeth or worse.

  8. This old white lady is sorry and ashamed to admit that racism is alive and well in this country 🙁 Brainy Pint you nailed it.

  9. I LOVED that Michelle put the protester in her place! You wanna yell at FLOTUS? Then prepare to get smacked down.

    Your blog kills me…I went to college in Maine in the early 90s, and was always astounded that everyone was so white (and I’m white!).

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