8 Moments In Michelle Obama's DNC Speech That Told The Truth About Black Motherhood

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Ever since the Obama family entered the national political consciousness, First Lady Michelle Obama has been a leader, a style icon, and just hands-down the ultimate in #MomGoals. As a mother, it’s especially difficult if not impossible to not admire her, especially given the extraordinarily high scrutiny under which she and her daughters live, and how high the stakes are for the Obamas, as parents, leading America’s First Family. During her primetime address at the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia, Michelle Obama told the truth about Black motherhood and, in a matter of moments, solidified my boundless affection for her.

The First Lady has worked tirelessly to make all of America’s kids healthier and better off, even in the face of vicious, often racist and sexist attacks on her dignity. Still, and through it all, she has remained poised yet humble, fun and accessible without sacrificing an ounce of the gravitas befitting her status or professional accomplishments. It's no surprise, then, that she spoke powerfully about her family’s experience in the White House, and what's at stake for her daughters and all of our children in this next election.

Because she is #BlackGirlMagic personified, she managed to capture the joys and struggles all moms face, while simultaneously telling some especially poignant truths about Black motherhood, in particular. In doing so, our First Lady set a standard all moms should strive for.

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When She Described Sending Her Girls Off With Secret Service Agents For The First Time


My chest got so tight during this particular moment. I could almost hear every mom in America drawing in and holding our breath when she said those words, all of us knowing how it feels to have to leave our hearts in someone else’s hands and hope they make it home, intact, at the end of the day.

Of course, there's an added significance here for this particular family, of one of the most frequently threatened men in the world, and for all of us who feel that target on our backs simply because of the skin we live in. Every day, we have to send our children out into a hostile world, and every day we have to rely on other people to protect them, people who have demonstrated time and again that they're not always worthy of that task. Or, in the case of Black moms not relying on the highly trained and vetted yet still imperfect Secret Service, public servants who may actively hate us, or view our innocent children as a threat instead of people worthy of protection.

When She Preached About Taking The High Road


Black moms know that even if we want and deserve to, we and ours don't have the privilege of getting to “fight fire with fire.” We have to teach our kids how to summon the strength to take the high road, and to figure out how to deal with even the most disgusting abuse and violence in ways that are almost superhuman, because we know that anything less than that absurdly high standard will be used to justify even worse attacks than the original ones we’re responding to.

When She Talked About Being A Role Model

The honor and the burden of being a Black parent, especially if we’re in a position of any power or prestige, is that we know we have to set a higher example for our own kids and for all the others like them. Even if we wanted to just look out for ourselves, we don't have the privilege of having our triumphs or struggles reflect only on us. We know that, quite unfairly, our actions count for and against our entire community.

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When She Talked About Fighting For Everyone To Succeed

Mrs. Obama honored the longstanding tradition of reminding young people that their talents and accomplishments don’t belong solely to them, but to the community as a whole. Like all communities, which have their roots in non-capitalist, collectivist societies, good Black parents pass on a tradition of extending a hand to the folks coming up behind them, because uplift is a community project.

When She Basically Said We Make A Way Out Of No Way


This is perhaps the truest statement about Black families and community anyone has ever said on such a significant platform. For all the racist nonsense white supremacists, and others who blindly parrot them, will try to say about “pathology” in our community, the fact is: we are the queens and kings of making a way out of no way. Mrs. Obama is paying tribute here to generations of Black folks who have survived kidnapping, enslavement, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, ongoing state violence, and all manner of “polite” discrimination and societal neglect by strategizing and sharing even the most meager resources.

When She Said We Need A President Who Values All People

Anyone, of any color, (who has a conscience) is rightly horrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency. He is not merely a bully (as he is often described), he has discriminated against and cheated people in the past, and he incites racially-motivated violence in the present. We know exactly what he means when he says he wants to “Make America Great Again,” while waxing nostalgic about "the good old days," when Black protesters were roughed up, invoking Civil Rights era images of protesters being attacked with dogs and fire hoses. When Michelle says she wants a president who knows everyone in this country matters, she's getting real about the need to elect public officials who won't put people of color, and our children, in mortal danger by dehumanizing and scapegoating us.

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When She Talked About Coming Together And Leaving Something Better For Our Kids


In addition to alluding to an ethos widely attributed to people on the African continent, she also echoes generations of Black parents who have seen it as our goal to leave our children better off than we are. While that desire burns in most parents’ hearts, regardless of background, it has a special significance for those who have often had to overcome significant obstacles just to survive, let alone thrive. For many, the thing that kept them, going despite crushing odds, was the prospect of experiencing something better in the future, either in the afterlife or through their children’s success.

When She Told The Story Of How Her Family Came To Live In A House Built By Slaves


There’s just so much here. In just a few words, she reflected on the pain and exploitation America was founded upon, while honoring the generations of Black people whose toil, organizing, struggle, and sacrifice made her family's triumph (and ours by extension) possible. In doing so, she captures how simultaneously sweet and momentous a stunningly ordinary thing, like playing with the family dog on the lawn, can be for families like ours, when you’ve had to fight so hard for such normalcy. That her black children play with their dog on the White House lawn — well, let's savor that image for years to come.

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