It’s interesting…how John McCain’s hotheaded ways are admired as part of his so-called maverick qualities, a willingness to follow his passions and go against the grain; it’s part of his essential Americanness. Michelle Obama’s candor, by contrast, is seen as entirely foreign and not a little threatening. Yes, he’s given more slack because he’s a man. (And yes, Teresa Heinz Kerry, another independent-minded presidential candidate’s wife, got similarly roughed up by the media in 2004.) But Michelle is given zero slack because she’s a woman and black. And let us never forget, in the bigger picture, black anger — or even just plain old dissatisfaction — always raises the specter of slavery and the unfinished business of social justice. In any context, to say nothing of a presidential election of historic proportions, such anger threatens a still widely accepted narrative of America as a good place, a fair place. Presidential elections are all about voters connecting emotionally to candidates, identifying with them, and Michelle is not making that connection happen as easily people would like. But her reasonable expectation that we see her reality, some of which is shaped by a difficult racial reality, is part of the paradigm shift that we are resisting like mad. In a discussion of what Obama’s candidacy could mean, NBC’s Chris Matthews lauded Barack but dispensed with American racial matters as “all that bad stuff in our history.” A recent New York Times profile, in distinguishing Michelle’s background from that of her husband, described her as being “a descendant of slaves” — as if that’s a unique fact rather than a collective one that applies to the vast majority of the millions of black Americans whose families have been here for hundreds of years. That slavery is even remarked on at all says much about how blacks are still viewed by their fellow Americans, even sympathetic ones, as the ultimate outsiders.
– Erin Aubry Kaplan, Who’s afraid of Michelle Obama