Archive for June, 2008

The Comfort and Convenience of the Angry Black Woman Label

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.

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From Tambra Stevenson of Creative Cause. If you are a woman and you’re in the DC Area please check out this important event. The Roundtable is free and open to the public.
As the author Alice Walker noted in her 2007 book release, we are the ones we have been waiting for.
And the classic acapella group, Sweet Honey on the Rock, sings, “we are the ones we have been waiting for?’

So with all the noted research social and health inequalities impacting our sisters–those with degrees and not—what are we waiting for?

Does it have to be your sister, niece, or daughter for you to realize that you are the one we have been waiting for!

Must we die being superwomen – from stress-related disorders causing the mental health, chronic diseases, etc.
What are you waiting for?

Does it have to take another Megan Williams of W. Va., Benita Jacks of Washington, DC, the girl who is so depressed

she eats her anger away, the 10-month black female infant who was raped in DC, or the Howard student who was raped?
Health and healing begins with us…if we don’t speak up, it’s like all of us giving up.

In this month’s Heart and Soul magazine, a black woman shares her story with bipolar.

In the PBS documentary stories of highly educated professional black women with families still

suffer from higher levels of stress impacting their babies’ outcomes. Do you think there is a coincidence?

What do you think needs to happen?

This is not just an American issue, this is a global issue. Women of African descent suffer the worst health care and receive the lowest to no wages compared to anyone else. The information is on the web, just Google!

Like politics, change starts local and with ourselves.

With a Gen Y population of 76 million mostly women, we have an unbelievable opportunity to

galvanize from the grassroots to the grasstops. We can create change from our computers to
the streets and to the suites.

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Join us and bring a friend to make history and set the personal

and political agenda on young black women’s health! This event is part of the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Black Women’s Health Imperative which is holding the National Black Women’s Health Conference. Learn more at www.blackwomenshealth.org.

Setting the Agenda: Young Black Women’s Health Roundtable
with the Black Women’s Health Imperative, KIMsense.com, and

DC Young Women’s Leadership Committee

Thursday, June 19, 2008
6:00 – 8:00 PM

Omni Shoreham Hotel
2500 Calvert Road, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Metro: Woodley Park (red line)

For directions use: www.maps.google.com (car) or www.wmata.com (metro)

Open to the public. Free. Get a special gift. RSVP via email or Facebook.

Questions? Email tambra@creativecause.org.

Want to be a host committee? Email me your name, age, hometown and what is your health story.

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No Voice. No Policy. No Power. No Progress. We are the ones we have been waiting for.