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Getting Touchy With the Queen

My, don’t we get odd about personal boundaries! The first African-American First Lady put her arm around the Queen, during last week’s presidential visit to Great Britain, and people went into spasms.

Would the same brouhaha have ensued had Michelle Obama been White? I may be told I’m “making something out of nothing,” but I don’t think so.

Witnesses say Her Majesty initiated the contact. Actually, though Mrs. Obama had her arm around the Queen’s shoulders, the Queen had her hand on Mrs. Obama’s rear end. Can you just imagine the hysteria if the situation had been reversed?

Doubtless the difference in positioning resulted from the fact that one was much taller than the other, but had the Queen been the taller of the two, this would scarcely have sufficed, in the minds of the shriekers, as an excuse.

There’s an easy resolution to this. Buckingham Palace says protocol does not mandate that Her Majesty is untouchable. But we’ve had a couple days of sheer silliness, all the same.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks always feel that we must tread carefully, too. We are forever on guard lest we touch someone in a way that creeps them out — however innocent, on our part, it might be. We must watch what we say, and even how we look at straight people, lest they take it wrong.

Is the flap over the Obama-Windsor embrace “just one of those things” every First Lady must take with the territory? Maybe I’m too touchy, but I don’t think so. Remember the “terrorist fist-bump” panic after the Obamas’ love-tap during the campaign?

I don’t think the media need go out of their way to be politically correct, but thus far there’s been little evidence of oversensitivity on their part. They’re careful, but in their communication, there is still a subtle code.

The unmistakable drift is that a Black First Lady transgressed by getting uppity with the Brits’ precious White Queen.

We’re where the African-American community was fifty years ago. Politicians are still afraid to get too close to us, even rhetorically. President Obama himself sometimes seems to have that problem.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to dine with sinners, or even to touch lepers. Yet the fabulous Pope, in his Prada shoes, cannot bear to so much as utter a kind word about us. And the bishops, surrounded by the innocent young boys they’re now so determined to protect at any cost, throw us to the wolves instead of taking responsibility for the exploitation of children that, for so long, they condoned.

There are at least a few queens who can get as touchy as they want to. But as for us, we’d better mind our manners.