The Grace to be the First
Yesterday was the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America: Donald J. Trump. Now he and Melania Trump are stepping into roles that they have never occupied before and I pray they will do the office dignity, if not for themselves, then for the legacy of America. And at the same time, we see the former POTUS and FLOTUS of the past eight years, Barack Hussein Obama and Michelle LaVaughn Obama, exit the roles they have occupied for the past two terms. I have mixed feelings about this.
While it is no secret that I have never been a fan of the politics and spirituality (or the lack thereof) of the Obamas, there is something I feel I need to say, to address. And no, it is not the beyond impeccable fashion sense of Michelle Obama that has consistently wowed me over the years, and made her the most fashionable First Lady of the United States since Jacqueline Kennedy. I have given the current FLOTUS her just due in that regard time and time again. And Lord knows she deserves it! No, it is another matter entirely.
Barack and Michelle Obama, along with their beautiful daughters, Sasha and Malia, have demonstrated something no other president (except perhaps the Kennedys and only then to a short extent) have had to demonstrate: the grace to be the first.
The Grace to be the First
Now when I say “grace” in this context I do not mean a spiritual grace to prosper in a calling or even a charismatic gifting although the Obamas certainly have charisma in spades. I speak, rather, of the grace of dignity; of graciousness and gracefulness. Barack Obama was the first black President of the United States of America and while I will eternally disagree with his politics and spirituality, as a black woman and an American, I am forced, nay, compelled to applaud him for the dignity in which he operated when it felt like a great portion of the nation was set firmly against him. Not because he was a Democrat. Not because he was young(er). And not even because of some of his questionable familial, educational, and social ties. Because he was black. Because he was black and dared to dream that he could occupy the most powerful seat in the nation and world.
Growing up black in America and I would imagine, in the rest of the Western World, you hear or learn sooner or later that:
Viola Davis knows this. Misty Copeland knows this. So many unsung heroes and celebrities who were blacklisted knew this. But to vie for the presidency is a whole new level of understanding.
There were people whose racism had been hidden for years. For some of them, it surfaced when a black man dared to believe he could be POTUS. For others, it surfaced when it looked that that same black man who did, in fact, achieve the presidency, would be replaced by a white man whose words and stances are grossly immoral and whose marital, familial, professional, and personal history are peppered with indignities toward women, handicapped, blacks, Hispanics, and basically anyone who opposes him for any reason. Either way, racism has, again, reared its ugly head in recent years. And while I am well aware that the catch-phrase “race-baiting” was and is often used against anyone white who disagreed with or disliked President Obama, in many cases it was sadly true. We all remember the hideous catch phrase “put the white back in the White House” during President Obama’s 2012 run for a second term against white Mormon, Mitt Romney. The sentiment resurfaced again in 2016 with the most confusing election of American history to date.
And the attacks became more and more personal and didn’t just target the president. They targeted his wife and daughters too. Only just yesterday, I saw an ignorant commenter on Facebook referring to the former First Lady as “Moochell” as they proceeded to rant about how classless she was. Many other comments over the years have sunk to the dirty, low level of calling the FLOTUS a man and saying that their daughters were adopted (from Africa). U N B E L I E V A B L E . And I believe the long-standing racist history of the FBI is also largely to blame for the severe lack of security during the Obama presidency.
There was even one Republican party staffer, Elizabeth Lauten, who attacked the Obama girls for being...well, teen girls. In my opinion (and I’m sure the opinion of many others), this woman would not have felt so free to openly criticize these girls had they been white.
Every single member of this family was placed under a magnifying glass in an attempt to prove that they were not fit to be there because of their colour, and to prevent this “travesty” from ever happening again. And yet with all of this subtle prejudice and blatant racism, the First Family maintained their dignity in the face of it all.
For that, I applaud them.
I don’t know when America will elect another black president. I hope it will be soon. Many are taking a dim, even hopeless view, of this entire situation and Trump Presidency, feeling as if America’s darkest days are ahead of her simply because Donald J. Trump is president. I have drastically mixed feelings about this, but I will save those for a different post. One thing I know, regardless of who is president, God is yet on His throne. And He’s not surprised, nor is He about to fall off of it for any reason.
While I have always utilized my social media to speak out against the ignorant, prejudicial, and racial slurs that have been flung at the Obamas, I must admit, it wasn’t honestly until the last year or so that I began to realise how difficult the role of being the first black POTUS, or FLOTUS, or Daughters was - and how well they did it. In all honesty, if I were to be elected as President of the United States, I would call upon them because they were the first; because they understand what it’s like to be judged by the colour of their skin and not the content of their character, despite the fact that they occupied the highest House and positions in the land. They understand that no matter what your title is; no matter what you wear; now matter how you comport yourself; no matter the financial, economic, or political power you possess; some people will still only see you as a “nigger” in nice clothes who doesn’t deserve to be there. They see a person who was given that position, not someone who could have ever possibly earned it.
Putting the Love Back in the White House
And among other things, it must be said that Barack Hussein Obama L O V E S him some Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama!! Like, fa real fa real! We praise the likes of John F. Kennedy for all he achieved as the first Catholic person to hold the office, yet he consistently and proudly cheated on his wife whenever he got the opportunity (and encouraged his brother, Bobby, to cheat on his wife as well). We laud the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his Civil Rights achievements and rightly so, yet even with the appearance of the greatest love story between himself and his beautiful wife, Coretta, even he was still known as a philanderer. But not Barack Obama. No sir!
And that man loves his daughters, as does his wife. I could criticize the way they’ve shown this love and the comments they’ve made seemingly in support of it, but this is not the post for that. I believe they love and parent their daughters to the best of their ability, and their girls are the beautiful proof of two parents with a loving marriage and a largely healthy home life. Not one scandal has taken place. No stories about the POTUS sleeping with aides or interns. No stories about the FLOTUS having flings with Secret Servicemen. And in fact, the affection between them is quite unmistakeable, natural, and authentic; never forced.
Barack Obama is no longer the President of the United States, but he is still Michelle’s husband as well as Sasha and Malia’s dad, and I think he is very happy with those accomplishments.
Sadly, this same morality is not seen in the new First Family, although I do truly hope that reality changes.
But one thing I know, my Bible says “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour,” (Rom. 13:7 KJV). So President Obama, First Lady Obama, Sasha and Malia, I honour you for being the first black First Family and for doing it well. Many could learn from your example in that regard. And I hope that tomorrow, and every day after, little boys and girls of colour will wake up across America and around the world knowing that they can achieve their highest, biggest, and brightest dreams because of it.
Thank you for your passionate service to our nation. God bless you.