The Chicago Tribune's Exploring Race blog has posed the question "What if Michelle Obama was white?" This "well, duh" question has already been explored by most black blogs and the universal answer is that he wouldn't have even been a senator, let alone president.
But they asked anyway, you know, for poops and giggles I suppose and they will likely get some passionate responses (and passionate responses to those responses), but the reality is despite all of our progress in the better acceptance of interracial couples, it's hard to get elected to office when you are a black person married a white person.
Case in point: Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. who I wrote about earlier this year. A member of our quasi "black aristocracy" (as in he comes from a political family of influence and means), Ford reached prominence on his family name and good looks, then ran a campaign for the senate where he lost by a narrow margin. Some say he was hurt by his religious pandering. Others say he was hurt by a Republican backed commercial that portrayed Ford as a white woman chasing, playboy bunny hound.
Which was kind of, sort of true, but mean/racist because what did that have to do with being a senator? Then Ford married Emily Threlkeld and ALL. KINDS. OF. HELL. broke loose in "Blackland."
Comments from Big Head DC's blog:
"I think he has not given his political career any thought. If he runs for any office again, surely he won’t win. You don’t carry the black vote and marry white. I will never vote for him again."-- Pat, Memphis
"The reason so many blacks are upset is because Harold Ford Jr. has always courted the black vote and black people except when it comes to his marriage. I am sure when he is running for office and goes into the black neighborhoods he will not take his white wife along. This also gives black women the assumption that as black men progress their appreciation of black women decreases. It also gives the impression that they are saying “I have made it and here is my trophy”!!!!!" -- Connie, Memphis
"The only use Harold had for blacks period in the 9th Congressional Dist was votes. After 10 years of his representation we ALL need Anus Reconstruction Surgery. He did a number on us. This young man took Self Serving Politician to a new level." -- Anonymous
And there is this long, over-the-top, angry note which pretty much sums up how well this all went over with some blacks. It essentially accuses Ford of treason, then slaps him around for a perceived slight against Martin Luther King, Jr.:
This couple had the nerve to have their engagement party on MLK’s 40th anniversary marking his assassination in Memphis. This was very disrespectful to the dead leader and to the community. It was insensitive and disrespectful to have an engagement party on this day at all. However adding injury to insult, MLK and his black wife did not make the sacrifices that they did so that well off black men can marry white women as trophies. (Seventy) of black families are being raised by single mothers, which is leading to the deterioration of the country as a whole. Children who are abandoned by their fathers are becoming negative statistics and impacting the entire society. Many black men do not value black women enough to marry them and raise their families, partially due to the after effects of slavery and the medias propaganda that white women are more desirable and should be valued. As a politician this man is supposed to be a role model, by this action he is setting the example that well off black men should abandon their responsibilities to their communities and marry trophy white women who should be valued more than black women. His fiancée is an unattractive woman, with a seemingly mediocre background and would probably never have married an attractive well off man of her own race. So one would get the impression that this is not love, but that he is showcasing a white “trophy” on MLK’s anniversary, which is the height of disrespect and in my opinion shows that he is brainwashed, confused and needs deprogramming. Many people view this marriage as political suicide.
You don't have to be an sociologist or a psychologist to figure out that despite our progress there are a still a lot insecurities in the black community and nothing brings them out more passionately than that shunted feeling black people (especially black women) get when black men who "make it" marry outside their race.
When you're used to getting kicked around it's hard not to take it personal. Even I get that feeling from time-to-time and I like to considering myself pretty egalitarian about the issue. I'm almost two people about it with the logical side of my brain saying people should be judged by their character and can marry whomever they want because their marriage is about them, not me and I wouldn't want someone nosing in my personal business, casting judgment on my intentions.
But my gut wants to strangle Elin Woods.
It's insane because Tiger Woods is not my personal property, so what do I care? Yet I do. This is because I grew up watching black women get unceremoniously dumped all the time. Or seeing them not in the running at all as viable mates. I can't help it. I take it personal, but I temper my response, my logic reminding me that this is NOT about me.
Plus, being a trophy wife isn't exactly an ideal thing, considering a lot of it is hedged on your appearance, but it's the wanting to be desired that gets us. Everyone wants to be desired. Everyone. Especially black women. Hence why being married to a white person, particularly a black man married to a white woman, is a death knell to getting the black vote.
Black women and older black voters make up the bulk of the black vote and they are the ones most likely to not approve due to that giant "I've been personally affronted!" feeling they would have every time they'd see someone like Emily Threlkeld's smiling face. And any smart person running against someone like Ford would use this rift against him, never quite saying he was a sell-out, but would repeatedly question his loyalty to his constituents, arguing that Ford would only serve his own interests, not that of the community.
It just wouldn't work. All things aren't that equal in Blackland yet.
Not that white people are 100 percent comfortable with this notion either. There's a reason why a lot of politicians are as personally boring as possible (straight, married to someone who is not "exotic" in any kind of way, Christian, usually with some kids), because that's what voters what. There are exceptions to the rule (Jeb Bush is married to a Latina -- but then he was governor of Florida, so that probably helped him), but for most politicians the rule of the day is to be married, preferrably within their own ethnicity and religious sect, be Christian, be heterosexual and not to have any kink in the closest that could come out to haunt them.
(Like paid hookers or interns or Euro sex clubs or nasty text messages or cocaine or secret half-black, out-of-wedlock children or male pages or hook-up trolling in airport men's restrooms.)
None of that stuff. Can't have it. Americans are both notorious freaks and prudes all at the same time, hence all the politicians have to at least be able to appear as close to June and Ward Cleaver as possible. People want the fantasy. They will vote for the fantasy.
For many in Blackland, a white woman is simply not part of that fantasy.