As a black woman plagued by the anxiety of dealing with a pandemic, Michelle Obama’s new Netflix documentary Becoming is the inspirational tale I desperately needed to see. The former First Lady’s biographical film reminds us all about the power of our stories — and why we need to vocalize our experiences.
What do you know about Michelle Obama?
Michelle Obama’s Netflix documentary Becoming is a complementary feature to her New York Times best-selling memoir of the same name. The book shattered sales records and became the best-selling book of 2018. Just like the book, the Netflix doc documents her background growing up in the southside of Chicago and her life as the first Black First Lady.
The film is shot during her sold-out book tour for Becoming. As Obama makes appearances across the nation, her impact on the American people is astronomical.
One of the many reasons why Obama has connected with so many people, including myself, is her authenticity. She spent eight years playing the role of First Lady, where she constantly had to stick to the script. Now that she is freed from that role, she is speaking from the heart and telling the audience her story.
Dealing with Racial Microaggressions
A constant topic of Becoming is the connection between race and how people perceive you. During a stop during her book tour, Obama told the audience about the story of when a high school guidance counselor advised her to not apply to attend Princeton.
Teachers said the same thing. Obama did not listen to the naysayers around her and continued on her path towards a successful career in law.
I relate to that story on such a deep level, like many other people of color can. From the snide comments teachers have said to me to the many times I have been followed around a store, I deal with microaggressions each time I step outside my front door.
It takes a world of strength to constantly fight towards your goals and aspirations when the world is constantly trying to convince you you are not good enough to have them.
Criticisms ran rampant for Michelle Obama during the 2008 presidential election. As a 13-year-old in 2008, I was far from engaged in politics. I remember nothing about how the Obamas were portrayed in the media. But, as I watched archived news footage play during Becoming, I was shocked. The media was constantly bombarding her with incredulous claims and trying to force her into racial stereotypes.
Many Americans believed we were in a post-racial America because we had elected our first black president in 2008. But, with criticisms constantly cloaked in racial undertones and blatant racism from Americans that just could not deal with the fact of having a black First Family, it was clear America was just as focused on race as it always has been.
But, just as Michelle Obama once said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, they “went high”. She, and the rest of the first family, focused on doing their jobs and progressing the nation. I can’t imagine how mentally strenuous it would be to deal with the scrutiny that comes from becoming the most well-known woman in America.
Being Black and Successful
Once a black person reaches a certain level of success, people often say they have transcended race. It has been said about Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson, Prince, Beyonce, and President Barack Obama. This notion of “transcending race” says blackness is only a boulder in your life’s path you are meant to jump over if you want to be successful. With this mindset, embracing your identity as a black person in America while striving for success is nearly impossible.
I have been told countless times that I have needed to shed my blackness to be successful. From the way I wear my hair, the music I listen to, the way I talk, the way I walk, it has all been scrutinized and picked apart to “help me succeed”.
To see someone as successful as Michelle Obama deal with those criticisms and be open about experiences is invaluable.
Michelle Obama, and the other black celebrities listed, are not successful despite their blackness. They are successful because of it. Race is in the foundation of our identities and plays a large role within our familial structure, where we grew up and the struggles we have had to face.
Just because people from other races connect with Michelle Obama, doesn’t mean her identity becomes unimportant. Her identity is her power.
The Power of Telling Your Story
The message of Becoming is understanding the power of your story. One of my favorite quotes from this documentary happens when Michelle Obama is talking to a circle of young black women.
One of them is dealing with the struggles of feeling invisible and asks Obama how she has handled those emotions in the past. During Obama’s reply, she says, “We can’t afford to wait for the world to be equal to start feeling seen.”
I have constantly felt like the world is trying to shut me up. I strongly believe many others share the same sentiment. With the heaviest of the world’s events on your shoulders, it is easy to feel like you don’t matter and you can’t make a difference.
Becoming will remind you that feeling couldn’t be farther from the truth. Your story, no matter how trivial and mediocre it may seem to you, is the essence of who you are. Listening to Obama’s story made me feel more comfortable with telling mine and finding beauty in its highs as well as the lows.
Just a Girl From the Southside of Chicago
Most of us have people in our lives we idolize. It could be a favorite singer, basketball player, or politician. Michelle Obama is that person for many people. When we are only a spectator to the lives of those we look up to, we can only know so much.
Michelle Obama’s Becoming gives the viewer a glimpse of the woman behind the persona. At the end of the day, Michelle Obama is just an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary situation. Just like Mrs. Obama, the trajectory of our lives could be changed in a moment’s notice.
But she is not just the first Black First Lady. She is a daughter, mother, sister, and wife. Seeing her navigate those relationships, as well as the relationship she has with herself, is just as inspiring as seeing her be the First Lady for eight years straight.
Have you read Michelle Obama’s Becoming?
Watching Michelle Obama’s Netflix doc Becoming reminds me there is still good out there in the world. In a world suffocating with bad news, Becoming is an inspirational biopic that proves the impact of letting your story be known.
It taught me many things about Obama’s life that I wasn’t aware of. I may even pick up her memoir online to learn a little bit more about her story. Watching Becoming surely added a smile to my face, and I am confident it will do the same thing to you.
Have you seen Michelle Obama’s new Netflix documentary? What are you “becoming”? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.