If you’re wondering where I’ve been–The answer probably lies here. I am a contributing blogger to Pushback, a project of Campus Progress. The following is a re-post of an article I wrote about Michelle Obama and the recent attacks by Cal Thomas, who referred to her as an “angry Black woman.” Updates will be slow as I try to split my time between my blog, their blog, and life in general, but be sure to check out Pushback!
We had to have seen this one coming.
Michelle Obama is in line to potentially become the first African-American First Lady. She is educated, strong, has had a successful career so far, and is the mother of two little girls. And I have to add that she has impeccable style to boot. As a black woman, I look up to her as a role model.
So of course Fox News was going to take every opportunity to take jabs at her. “Fist Jabs,” even. Here we are again. According to Feministing, conservative pundit Cal Thomas accused Michelle Obama as being an “angry black woman” on an episode of Fox News Watch last weekend:
CAL THOMAS: In this campaign, we are being asked to accept three things simultaneously, the first woman with a credible chance of being president, the first African-American with the chance to being president and, whoever Michelle Obama is going to be styled, the angry black woman, first lady? This is an awful lot.
THOMAS: I want to pick up on something that Jane said about the angry black woman. Look at the image of angry black women on television. Politically you have Maxine Waters of California, liberal Democrat. She’s always angry every time she gets on television. Cynthia McKinney, another angry black woman. And who are the black women you see on the local news at night in cities all over the country. They’re usually angry about something. They’ve had a son who has been shot in a drive-by shooting. They are angry at Bush. So you don’t really have a profile of non-angry black women.
(You can read the full transcript here.)
I can’t say I’m surprised; I’ve come to expect this sort of offensive idiocy from Fox News and its commentators. But it’s still worth taking a look at why some people are so quick to paint Obama as “angry,” whether in reference to her quote about being “proud of [her] country for the first time, the “whitey” hoax, or her Princeton thesis, and why the “angry black woman” archetype is so damaging and counterproductive.
One of the most hurtful things about this theme is that, in addition to painting black women as scary, it also implies that we have a certain sassy, angry “attitude,” and therefore need not be taken seriously. The image of the neck-rollin’, finger-snappin’ “Sheneneh” character we were introduced to by Martin Lawrence comes to mind (as though every black woman does this when she’s angry). Such a character isn’t someone you debate or argue–she’s someone you laugh at or ignore.
Along those same lines, the “angry black woman” designation implies that the issues we care about as black women–racism, sexism, classism, health care, and the achievement gap in our education system, among others–are not important enough to get angry about in the first place. The black women Thomas mentions, Waters and McKinney, have, in their own ways, fought for social justice and equality in their communities. But his stereotype undercuts their efforts: they’re not angry or passionate because of the fights they are fighting, Thomas is saying–they’re angry and passionate because, well, that’s simply what black women are.
It’s a convenient way to dodge the real issues in favor of a ready-made, widely disseminated caricature. And that’s exactly what Michelle Obama’s race-baiting critics are hoping to do: avoid the real issues.