First lady right to call it what it is
LAURA WASHINGTON LauraSWashington@aol.com January 15, 2012 8:16PM
Updated: February 17, 2012 8:09AM
The angry black woman is fighting back.
Last week, first lady Michelle Obama responded to a prevailing stereotype of the African-American woman as a militant creature who doesn’t know how good she has it and doesn’t deserve it anyway.
It dates back to the shackles and slave ships. Remember “Sapphire,” the character in the racist “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” that popular minstrel “comedy” show from the 1940s and 50s? Sapphire was hostile, mouthy, unreasonable, hands on hips, taking on men at every turn.
Last week, Obama appeared on “CBS This Morning” in the midst of a media storm around the new book The Obamas by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor.
Tell-all books are an inescapable price for fame. And any book with tidbits from behind the locked-down doors of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — accurate or not — is destined for best-seller land.
Kantor reported on conflicts between Obama and her husband’s top aides, her supposed reluctance to move to the White House after her husband’s historic election, and she allegedly pushed her views on presidential politics and policy.
It conjured up Michelle Obama as Sapphire. Hostile, mouthy, unreasonable, hands on her hips, taking on men at every turn.
Obama told CBS that while she had not read the book, she rejects the imagery.
“I guess it’s more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here, a strong woman — and, you know? But that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I’m some angry black woman.’’
Some say she should ignore the critiques. Every first lady has been there. Mary Todd Lincoln was supposedly a nut job and shopaholic. Eleanor Roosevelt the Negro Lover, Jacqueline Kennedy the elitist snob. They called Nancy Reagan a meddling “Dragon Lady.” Hillary Clinton was a lamp-throwing ball buster.
I am glad Michelle Obama talked back. Race, America’s dirty laundry, affects so much but is spoken of so little.
Why is it that in fiction and fact, the angry white man is a glorified commodity?
They cheer as Clint Eastwood dares, “Make My Day.” They root for generations of mobster murderers, from the Godfathers to the Goodfellas. Howard Beale’s famous “Network” rant, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” has become an iconic motto.
Our cable and radio channels are overstocked with angry white male mouths, who roll up the ratings. Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, Lou Dobbs. Yet a black woman who states her mind is as un-American as sweet potato pie.
The Obamas’ unrelenting critics view the first family as an affront to their hateful, stilted view of American life. They will never accept the fact that a highly educated, accomplished and poised black woman is in the “White” House.
I am so glad Michelle is there, to remind them.