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Real Talk: Respect Our First Lady, Please!

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Michelle Obama

It seems the First Lady just can’t win when it comes to Spain. When she visited for a mother-daughter trip in 2010 during the height of the recession, the NY Daily News called her “a modern-day Marie Antoinette." The curse of Spain struck again when Clutch broke the news that a Spanish magazine, Fuera de Serie, produced a cover that depicted the First Lady of the United States as a boob-baring slave. Yes, that really happened.
 
Mrs. Obama’s face was super-imposed on “Portrait d’une negresse,” a popular 19th century painting by French artist Marie-Guillemine. My reaction?

Let’s just say it was a loud tirade of expletives that would be alarming to good Christians and inappropriate for the ears of minors.
 
Can you even imagine Jackie Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt or Barbara Bush being depicted in this way? My God, where is the basic respect for the First Lady of the United States? I know beyond any doubt that everyone ain’t so cozy with Black folk in the White House, and they — a lot of non-Black people and some misguided ones — drink the Kool-Aid. And, let's not forget the people who have these Birth of A Nation-like worries about what Black people will do with money and power. After years of arguing with more militant friends that there’s no c-o-n-spiracy to put Black folks on the back of the bus, or “back in chains” (I see you, Biden), I’m finally off the fence. Forgive me, I’m an optimist at heart and agree. These constant swipes at the First Lady aren’t isolated incidents of ignorance or rouge racists. A lot of people are just plain stupid and they don’t like Black people, or Black women or Black success, or Black love to boot. Yes, Public Enemy was right. There really is a fear of a Black planet.
 
I keep reading that this most recent constructed image of the First Lady is part of a larger series of nudes that also depict other icons such as Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth, Abraham Lincoln and President Obama as if that somehow dulls the impact of depicting the First Lady of the United States with her breast hanging out and a rag on her head. The artist, Karine Percheron-Daniels has said, she created the portrait depicting Mrs. Obama as a slave for — wait for it — “obvious reasons” like that's explanation enough. She then had the nerve to add, “I’m sure Obama would love it.” In what world, boo?
 
Daniels also defended the series, arguing she’s giving the viewer “an alternative unexpected reality… that allows us to view famous individuals in a different way.” Uh. No. Equating modern Black women to slaves ain’t nothing new or groundbreaking. It’s a tired cliché. It’s the dead horse that keeps being re-beaten. Leave that poor thang be and leave the First Lady alone!
 
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk

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