GENDER/OPINION/POLITICS/RACE

We Are Michelle Obama

I was reading a few articles about Michelle Obama’s guest appearance on “The View.” One writer bragged about her choice of fashion (selecting a black and white dainty dress), and another praised her for showing a “human” side, stating that it was “an effective counter to insinuations that she’s angry and aggressive.”

I thought to myself, “Here we go again.”

We’re seeing how the media is trying to paint Michelle Obama as an angry black woman. They’re digging up what they perceive as dirt and even making it up as they go along, as in the case of the phantom video of Michelle using the term “whitey.” Nobody has seen the tape, but somehow, we all know about her so-called offensive language.

I’m not really worried about the Obamas. I feel Michelle ain’t nothing to play with, and being a black woman who grew up on the Southside of Chicago, I just assume she can take a few stabs and give them as well. I also believe that by Barack being “an outsider,” as he referred to himself in his book, “Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” in some regards he is free of the cultural psychosis that plagues some black men.

But I am concerned about our people. I’m concerned about our reaction to the media using the angry black woman stereotype. If we’re not careful, and buy into it, we are welcoming the divide and conquer strategy.

Right now in the African-American community, we generally (I hate to generalize) have a unified house where both sexes are rooting for Obama as he makes his way to the White House. It is, and has always been, bad news for the powers-that-be to have black folks unified and working for a cause that could uplift us from poverty, unemployment, racism, sexism, poor education and health care, etc. Unity is power. Watch out.

We know that in order to break up a happy home all you have to do is put one against the other. Just look at our history.

There was a divide during the civil rights and black power movements when black women started to advocate for basic human rights for women. There was a growing consensus about how white racism affected our community, as explained in the book “Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African American Communities.” The chapter entitled “Black Liberation Versus Women’s Liberation” states:

“It was widely accepted that racism had emasculated Black men, prevented their legitimate claims to manhood, and compelled them to demand their rightful place as men (even patriarchs) in a white male-dominated society that had rendered them powerless. Secondly, Black women, more privileged by the racial social order because they are less threatening, are powerful matriarchs who need to step back and support Black men’s long overdue quest for manhood. In other words, racism privileges Black women and situates Black men at the bottom of the heap, reversing the natural order of things with respect to manhood and womanhood. Since Black women are on top, presumably, efforts must be made to restore Black men to their rightful places. The twin myths of Black emasculation and the Black matriarchy have contributed to serious polarization within African American communities around the politics of gender, and the assumption is that the latter is the greater evil.”

And when women black women refused to keep quiet about the injustices they experienced from whites and black men, they experienced a black lash. It’s something that we haven’t fully recovered from today. It is a sore spot that can easily be exploited.

Michelle is an Ivy-league educated black woman who’s made over $200,000 annually as an attorney. With these successes come stereotypes. She doesn’t even have to open her mouth. When you add the additional layer - she’s outspoken, opinionated, driven and not afraid to challenge the status quo – you get the angry black woman. I feel it’s a stereotype that some black men buy into because they do feel we have some sort of advantage over them. Black women’s plight is not better; it’s different and needs to be immediately addressed like the plight of our men.

That is the lesson we can learn from the past. We need each other. We need to respect each other’s hardships and address it with the same fervor as we would our own. I just think women got a head start on this one.

Brothers, we need you all to stand for us too. And, not when you get yours. We need you right now. Only then will we have a united front and be ready to rebuild our community.

I am dreaming of a day when black men see black women’s issues as their own and speak out against it behind closed doors and in public.

Envisioning you with much love, light and fulfillment. See you next week.

Yaminah Ahmad is editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Voice and contributing editor to Collective Voices, a newspaper published by the non-profit, SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. More information on the group can be found at www.sistersong.net. Ahmad can be reached at missyaminah@gmail.com.


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