Washington Post Article On Michelle Obama

Monday, July 21, 2008

I don't normally post articles, but I'm posting an excerpt with a link to the remainder because I think it's an interesting piece.

Black. Female. Accomplished. Attacked.
By Sophia A. NelsonSunday, July 20, 2008; B01

There she is -- no, not Miss America, but the Angela-Davis-Afro-wearing, machine-gun-toting, angry, unpatriotic Michelle Obama, greeting her husband with a fist bump instead of a kiss on the cheek.
It was supposed to be satire, but the caricature of Barack Obama and his wife that appeared on the cover of the New Yorker last week rightly caused a major flap. And among black professional women like me and many of my sisters in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, who happened to be gathered last week in Washington for our 100th anniversary celebration, the mischaracterization of Michelle hit the rawest of nerves.
Welcome to our world.
We've watched with a mixture of pride and trepidation as the wife of the first serious African American presidential contender has weathered recent campaign travails -- being called unpatriotic for a single offhand remark, dubbed a black radical because of something she wrote more than 20 years ago and plastered with the crowning stereotype: "angry black woman." And then being forced to undergo a politically mandated "makeover" to soften her image and make her more palatable to mainstream America.
Sad to say, but what Obama has undergone, though it's on a national stage and on a much more prominent scale, is nothing new to professional African American women. We endure this type of labeling all the time. We're endlessly familiar with the problem Michelle Obama is confronting -- being looked at, as black women, through a different lens from our white counterparts, who are portrayed as kinder, gentler souls who somehow deserve to be loved and valued more than we do. So many of us are hoping that Michelle -- as an elegant and elusive combination of successful career woman, supportive wife and loving mother -- can change that.
"Ain't I a woman?" Sojourner Truth famously asked 157 years ago. Her ringing question, demanding why black women weren't accorded the same privileges as their white counterparts, still sums up the African American woman's dilemma today: How are we viewed as women, and where do we fit into American life?
"Thanks to the hip-hop industry," one prominent black female journalist recently said to me, all black women are "deemed 'sexually promiscuous video vixens' not worthy of consideration. If other black women speak up, we're considered angry black women who complain. This society can't even see a woman like Michelle Obama. All it sees is a black woman and attaches stereotypes."

Read the rest here.


12kyle said...

""Thanks to the hip-hop industry," one prominent black female journalist recently said to me, all black women are "deemed 'sexually promiscuous video vixens' not worthy of consideration."

I have to disagree. You know a hip hop head like me has to say something (even tho this aint the basis of the article). Here's my .02

I'm not gonna say that the images that you see in rap videos aren't disturbing. Rap needs to be cleaned up. I will admit that. I won't defend that point. However, I don't think we can use that as an excuse to how the world views our sisters. The bottom line is this...Michelle Obama can't be viewed like those women b/c she carries herself with dignity and respect...just like most black women that I know. I don't feel that our women are being viewed like that. I just don't.

I think we have to keep in mind that the actions of a few do not represent the character of most. Sometimes...we are too sensitive about these things. There are white women who are in music videos and porno videos who don't represent their race. Does Paris Hilton represent for all white women? No. I think we can't allow ourselves to be blinded and be "too sensitive" about the images that we see.

Michelle Obama is the shit! Period. I'm not gonna associate her with these $5 chicken heads on the videos that you see on BET. They have a place in this world too...just not my world. At the end of the day, they are gonna do what they feel that they need to do to get ahead. At all costs.

12kyle said...

Sorry for the ramble...i got on a roll like a Baptist preacher. lmao!!!

Smarty P. Jones said...

LMAO @ Kyle, not a "baptist preacher."
Well Brotha Kyle, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on your point that black women aren't being view as sluts, vixens, hoes and the like.
OK, you may be a hip hop head like a lot of other people of color but the music being passed off as hip hop today is primarily being consumed by young, white teenagers.
A lot of these kids are from the 'burbs and they don't often get exposed to a lot of black kids and they form their opinions and views of black folks based on the images they see on BET and the limited space we get on other shows.
Generally, I wouldn't quote anything or anyone from that pseudo-news mess that is Fox News but it proves my point. One of those ancient contributors, Cal Thomas said, "Look at the image of African American women that you have on television ... you don't really have a profile of non-angry women ..."
My point is we're being viewed and in some cases looked down on and objectified based on the images they get from television.
With that aside, traveldiva, this was an excellent column. I loved every word of it.

12kyle said...

@ Smarty Jones
Great points. I don't disagree with the article. I think it's a great article. I think where I have an issue with it is the finger pointing at hip hop. Does those images of a big asses shaking help our image? No. My point is that I don't think those images that are being passed define sistas like Obama, TravelDiva, you, or my wife.

I just don't think that we are giving those people enough credit to make rational decisions about who those women are and who you are. I see your point, tho. I just think that there are more issues there. Does it need to be cleaned up? Hell yeah. But it's all good...we can agree to disagree.

TravelDiva said...

LOL. Thanks Kyle. I hear both points. I think the jezebel image in hip hop videos does have an impact on how people view black women. I don't think Michelle Obama is viewed that way--I think she's seen more as the sapphire--even though she doesn't lend herself to that, I think people assume she is a neck popping, angry sista.

On the jezebel front, I can say just from international travel--when a lot of men see me and my friends in the club or out and about--assumptions are made that we are sex crazed, loose, black american chicks--and these are perceptions from white, African, whatever and I do think it has a lot to do with hip hop because that's kind of where they are getting their info from. I actually was offended in this African club in Lisbon because this rapper/singer said that black American rappers call their women bs and hos but we respect our African women. And I was mad because I was like that's not all hip hop and I got my American pride all riled up. But my friend with me just kind of shrugged and I was like, well, I guess that is how we're depicted in a lot of mainstream hip hop; and I do think a lot of people receive and accept that image because that's the image they are being inundated with. The difference between white women and black women, is that Paris Hilton is skanky, but for every Paris Hilton, there are a million other positive images of white women in the mainstream media. I don't think the same can be said for black women--although there are plenty of examples of michelle obamas out there.

Marcus LANGFORD said...

NY'er did a pretty funky job at portraying mrs. obama! Where do they get off doin' some mess like that!?

I find her to be a breath of fresh air; she is what we need to see more of-empowered and supportive african-american women! we are not really blessed with too much of that today in society or at least it is not strongly publicized as much as gyratin' booties on BET, so yes, michelle obama needs our support as much as possible!

:::Marcus LANGFORD:::

TravelDiva said...

Speak on Marcus!

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