Quote of the day

New York magazine on the delicate balancing act of being Michelle Obama.

Published August 13, 2008 7:35PM (EDT)

I'll put my queens and jacks on the table: I've liked Michelle Obama ever since the beginning. I liked that she made jokes puncturing the perception of her husband's infallibility; I liked that she wore white pearls as big as jawbreakers; I liked that she was an Ivy League-educated lawyer who seemed to genuinely embrace motherhood. But for some people, Michelle has been a more challenging figure.

"Her humor is heartfelt -- but can be sarcastic," wrote Aries Keck in a recent Salon story about Michelle Obama's round table with Norfolk, Va., military wives. "Without context, it can sound like complaining." And that is one of the more reasonable critiques of Michelle Obama. Less reasonable critiques involve her lack of patriotism and/or terrorist fist jabs.

In a fascinating story in this week's New York magazine, Vanessa Grigoriadis takes on the racial dynamics of the Obama marriage, and along the way offers a complex portrait of Michelle Obama. The whole story is worth reading, but this portion gets special props as our quote of the day.

She's a type we've rarely seen in the public eye: A well-educated woman who is a dedicated mother, successful in her career, and happens to be black. This has created confusion for some people, who seem desperate to find a negative quality in her: She's too big, too masculine, too much like a drag queen. While Obama may be able to play with urban tropes, like dusting off his jacket a la Jay-Z or speaking in a black patois when the time calls for it, Michelle has been increasingly forced to curtail her personality during the campaign, lest she attract rumors of uttering a verboten, anachronistic word like "whitey" … Michelle must project herself as black to one community, but she also must act white to another, whatever either adjective means nowadays.

By Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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