On October 3, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. This anniversary came just weeks after stunning photographs surfaced of the exquisitely Black couple hosting a White House dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan. Black Twitter (and, we assume, everyone else) couldn’t get enough of the Obamas stunting on the entire world—with Michelle flawlessly rocking a formfitting Vera Wang gown while adjusting her man’s bow tie. We are witnessing an exquisite, international show of Black love with the Obamas in the White House, and I couldn’t love it more.
What a time to be alive.
But there’s always that one person (with many followers) who has to rain on our proverbial #blacklovematters parade, and use a photograph of the Obamas to spread some fake deep message about what Black women need to do in order to reach Michelle Obama’s level and become the first lady of their lives. And although it isn’t always Black men who preach these messages (sisters certainly post and agree with these kinds of sentiments waged against other sisters too)… it most often is them.
Lucky for us, it was a Black man, activist Shaun King, who called out this ridiculous tweet arguing that Black women aren’t loyal to and/or patient enough with Black men for them to reach their Barack Obama “presidential” status. The tweet reads (along with a then and now photo of the Obamas), “Ladies: He might not have it all right now, but be faithful, stick by his side and one day he will give you the world.”
Talk about the audacity of nope.
King made many observations about the quote (that need to be repeated over and over) here:
“Levels on levels on levels of bullsh*t being said in this photo—which has been shared 6,000+ times
“For almost their entire adult lives, [Michelle Obama] made more money than [Barack Obama] did. In her last role as a VP at the University of Chicago hospital she was making over $300,000 per year, and that was in 2005.
“Michelle Obama has a BA from Princeton and a law degree from Harvard. Nobody, her husband, or anybody else GAVE HER THE WORLD.
“The caption in this photo implies that Michelle found a scrub, she stuck with him, and he eventually became a king. That’s a damn lie too. She was already working at a law firm and they met AT A LAW FIRM while Barack was a summer associate there completing his education at Harvard Law School. He was the opposite of a scrub—he was the ambitious Editor of the Harvard Law Review and was already serving the community in meaningful ways.”
Generally, I laugh at memes and such like the one Shaun King mentioned in his Facebook post. I have turned in my “unyielding allegiance to Black men who most likely wouldn’t spit on me if I was on fire” card. I understand, as an almost 40-year-old divorcée, that it is not my responsibility to choose partners based on potential, and that doing so does not show my commitment or loyalty to uplifting the Black race. The shame is that many of the 6,000+ sharing the asinine message mentioned are young Black women, and that’s why the tweet is important to discuss.
Michelle Obama was certainly more accomplished than Barack was when they met. To some degree, she did see a certain potential in Barack that she felt was safe to invest in. But, as Shaun King pointed out in his post, Barack Obama was destined to be successful and an equal partner to Michelle. She wasn’t a reputable attorney dating a rapper with a mixtape, paying for studio sessions with hopes that he’d become the next Jay Z.
It seems only Black women are asked to date and partner without expectations concerning a man’s income, education level and overall level of success. And although this may be necessary to some (I am not oblivious to the fact that Black women are the most educated group of women in the U.S., and for that reason may earn more—and have a different quality of life—than some Black men), being patient while a partner “gets himself together” should not be an obligation. Moreover, no woman should be shamed because she desires a mate that is an equal partner—whether that equality stems from finances or ideas about gender and familial roles.
It’s a new day. I have been the woman who was loyal and patient to partners whose potential and goals didn’t match mine. I have wasted years uplifting the ambitions of the men I loved more than my own ambitions. I won’t teach my daughter, or any woman that I love, to be sacrificial in that way while waiting on a man to “give her the world,” because (as I had to learn for myself) the world is already ours.
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and soldier of love. Follow her musings on Twitter at @jonubian.