You may have heard that David J. Garrow is working on a biography about Barack called Rising Star. In it, he alleges that a young Barack proposed to a woman named Sheila Miyoshi Jager. She turned him down not once, but twice, so he moved on and later met Michelle. The rest has been historic (if not legendary) relationship goals.
Admittedly, there was something about the news that got under my skin. At first, I wondered if she was Black (as if that matters…but she’s not). Then I wanted to know if he might have loved her more than Michelle (that was a bit more complicated).
The Washington Post review certainly tried to paint a picture of Barack that pitted his heart against his political ambition, tearing them apart. Yes, Sheila was almost The First Lady, but as Brandy told us in her 1999 classic song of the same title, “almost doesn’t count.”
After getting over the initial shock that we were almost not blessed to witness the love between Barack and Michelle, I had to wonder why this (unconfirmed) revelation bothered me.
Certainly, the societal dynamics of race and dating crossed my mind. Black women are told in a million little ways that we are the least desirable. We’re told that we are rarely, if ever, a man’s first choice–no matter how beautiful, or intelligent, or charming, or incredible we are. The framing of this story struck that nerve.
That nerve was yet again plucked by a related story on TMZ.com that implies Michelle may very well have been the first and only Black woman Barack ever dated. Suggesting, of course, that he preferred non-Black women. There’s literally no other reason to publish that nugget of information.
It was also suggested in both pieces that the reason Barack decided to date a Black woman was because of the political capital it might bring him in his career. The suggestion here is that Michelle wasn’t good enough on her own (we know she was). It’s suggested that she, as a Black woman, had to bring some sort value other than just who she was a person in order to be worthy of love or attention. All women of other races need to do be considered desirable is just exist. Heaven forbid that this Black man destined for greatness could pursue a Black woman just because there he was attracted to her. No, there had to be some added benefit for him to consider dating a Black woman. It had to be window dressing for his ambition.
But, here’s the thing: None of this matters. It doesn’t matter what kind of women he dated before Michelle or even how many. Considering Barack’s family makeup and home life, it’s no surprise that he dated the rainbow.
As a biracial man, Barack grew up in mostly White or Asian spaces. Is it impossible to consider that perhaps there were just not as many Black women to choose from where he was when he started dating? Couldn’t his dating history have just as much to do with location and availability as it did his dating preferences? We see that once he had greater access to eligible Black women that he also chose to get serious with Michelle, a Black woman (and who knows how many others he may have casually dated before her). That’s what matters.
But as we know, Barack was persistent in getting Michelle’s attention. That’s what matters.
Furthermore, it’s not an uncommon thing to have more than one love before you settle down. This particular case of the ex shouldn’t be anymore significant. Everyone has a past. Barack may have had serious relationships before, but they all ended. They’re over. They’re canceled. They were done a long, long time ago. Barack’s relationship with his ex–or any of his exes–are non-factors. That’s why they were written out of Barack’s Dreams of My Father.
The truth is, Sheila might have been one of his great loves, but she was certainly not his greatest love. That would be Michelle.
No matter what Barack had with Sheila, he still married Michelle. After he met her, there was nobody else. He found The One, and no other woman was going to measure up. Period. That relationship should be respected, and there’s no reason to bring up old flames that have long since been snuffed out.
So, the next time we hear about Barack’s exes, we can pay them absolute dust because they’re failed romances are old, irrelevant news. And, if you were Sheila, would you want it to be known that you rejected Barack twice? She missed the ultimate come-up.
Any brain power spent on the Obama’s love lives can best be spent stanning out over Barack and Michelle.