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Are Michelle and Barack Obama the New Standard?

Ebony Turner, Opinion Editor

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For decades, Black people have only had a few memorable mainstream relationships that were in the public eye. The one we all seem to refer back to as the ideal marriage are The Huxtables from The Cosby Show.

They had the perfect balance that all marriages aspire to. Cliff and Clair were both successful professionals in their field – Cliff, an obstetrician and Clair, an attorney. They never see each other as their source for self-fulfillment. In many relationships, the partners get so lost in the relationship that they forget that before them, they were living and functioning human beings prior. They knew this and never treated their marriage as some 18th century arrangement where the women has no identity, backbone and is born to serve her man. Clair was the quintessential modern wife. She was a successful partner at her law firm, and mother to five children who always kept dinner on the table and her kids’ lunch pales packed.

She lived the life of a wife that was strong enough to know when to say when. Cliff respected Clair and didn’t feel so egotistical to play the role of the nurturer so that his wife can be immersed in her career. This relationship was on television 25 years ago, and the idea of a wife – a Black wife at that – to have such duality in her personal and professional life was unheard of for America. It was treated as such when critics described how “unrealistic” their marriage was during this era. It wasn’t realistic in the eyes of major media executives at NBC for a Black couple to be married with children and practicing law and medicine.

Whether the mainstream media felt it was unrealistic or not, Black people saw this marriage as the blueprint for us all to aspire to. That is not to say that Clair never felt exhausted fulfilling the responsibilities that she had to fulfill, but she realized that life is all about choices. She chose the life she lived as well as the people that are in it, so to treat it as anything more than a fact of life is ridiculous; she never asked for sympathy for the choices she made in her life. But she was never afraid to show humility.

What we are lacking in Black families now is a sense of balance. The roles are either the man of the house and the housewife or the woman of the house and the stay at home dad. Either way, neither person is fulfilling their role or giving just as much as they are taking. The Obama’s have filled the void for the modern Black family that was there once the Huxtables were off the air. Michelle and Barack were both practicing lawyers that graduated from Harvard Law School and met while at a firm they both worked at. While the amount of kids they share is far less than the Huxtables, Michelle and Barack have an aura that resonates from their relationship that shows that they have a balance.

President Barack has clearly long since evolved career wise, it is clear that he and Michelle are equal parents. Much like Cliff and Clair, Michelle and Barack don’t subscribe to the Victorian family structure where the wife is subservient and backboneless. The role of a husband and wife is not meant to belittle or be self-serving.

There aren’t many shows that highlight strong, Black couples that are successful and balanced in their ability to carry out family and professional. The only blueprint we have to turn to, which still isn’t much since both are fiercely private is Jay-Z and Beyonce. But they are not a realistic example for most Americans, especially not for Black people. Yes, I am sure their dynamic seems functional and respectful but their careers and lifestyles are not at all average in our community. They both are not college educated and still are both respectably multi-millionaires; if anything is unrealistic, should their relationship turn into a show, this would be something NBC executives would need to be worried about.

The Huxtables and The Obama’s pre-White House are what we all should aspire to be. They are educated, respectful of their relationship, fair and able to accept their careers as a fact of life not something to complain about. I hope one day we can return to the days of The Cosby Show and have a series with that same blueprint on television. Our society is so obsessed with a fantasy none of us can live up to that we would see no real value in a faux-family that is attainable. The Obama’s are the closest we’ve got in this new decade to a couple that resembles a standard, and we should all be aspire to it.

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