Monday, July 21, 2008

Michelle Obama's Being Defended - One Article at a time

Hat tip to Michelle Obama Watch for pointing out these four interesting articles on Michelle Obama.

In Black.Female.Accomplished.Attacked

Sophia Nelson writes a good article on how many Black Professional Women see themselves in Michelle Obama and the attacks that have been placed at her feet.

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.

This article dovetails and is reinforced by one at the Detroit Free Press:

Michelle Obama credited with helping recast image of U.S. black women

There's a new joy and excitement among many of the patrons of the Spiral Collective, a collection of businesses owned by black women in Detroit.

Their happiness centers on Michelle Obama, a woman they say puts a refreshing face on America's image of African-American women.

"People who come in here are absolutely in love with Michelle Obama," says Janet Webster Jones, who owns the Source Booksellers, one of the four businesses in one building at the corner of Cass and Willis in Midtown. The others are an art gallery, a natural hair care salon and an eclectic boutique.

Jones and others say that Michelle Obama knocks down old stereotypes of black women: Sapphire, the angry black woman; Mammy, the caretaker and nurturer of her own children and everybody else's, and Jezebel, the loose woman.

Jones' daughter, Alyson Jones, 34, says the modern-day jezebels are booty-shaking hoochie mamas popularized in hip-hop videos.

"So Michelle comes along and she completely dispels all that," Janet Jones says. "She represents someone who came from humble beginnings to achieve a high level of education. She has a strong self-identity as a female.

"You know she likes to wear dresses and high heels and she's almost 6 feet tall. And she's a loving wife and a great mother."

"She normalizes black women," says Alyson Jones, an elementary teacher at Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse, a charter school in Detroit. "She's not the bitter black woman pundits have tried to make her out be."

I wrote awhile ago about my belief that part of the burden that Michelle has on her shoulders is :
1. recasting the narrative of the Black Family
2. beating back the stereotypes of the Black Woman

The Black Family - her own story, which flies in the face of all the stereotypes and pathologies that are shoved by the MSM. And, then, the family that she has created with Barack.

Tavis Smiley had Frank Rich on a few months after Obama announced. He asked Rich if America was ready for a FIRST FAMILY- were they ready for a Black First Lady and 2 little Black kids running around the White House. Rich obviously hadn’t thought of it, and naively said, he didn’t think it mattered. I believe it does, but I think the Access Hollywood interview was very good in order to present another image of the Black FAMILY.

I agree with the Free Press story.

No, it’s not fair to place that burden upon Michelle Obama, but nobody said life was fair, and this is the price she has to pay in order to help her husband become President.

The final two stories are

Michelle, Meritocracy and Me
By Theola Labbé-DeBose

In it, Ms. Labbé-DeBose discusses how her belief in the so-called meritocracy that is supposed to be America, slaps up against the reality of being Black in America, no matter how talented said Black person is.

Princeton, for those who don't know, was the LAST of the Ivies to integrate. So while Harvard, Yale, etc., didn't have 'Colored Folk' running around in massive numbers, they DID actually have Black folk at their schools. Princeton lagged behind them by nearly a century. Black folk were only admitted into Princeton mid-20th century.(First Black Graduate -1947) When Michelle Obama was on that campus, they had barely completed a generation of integration. I didn't blame Michelle Obama one iota for what she wrote in her Senior Thesis. Made perfect sense to me, if you were a thinking Black person with some semblance of Black consciousness. I'm Black Ivy too, though I see Michelle Obama and her contemporaries at the other Ivy League Schools as part of the group that paved the way for later students like myself.

The final article is from a German Publication:
Michelle Obama: A 'Revolutionary' That'll Be Good for America

I don't agree with everything in the article, and find parts of it awkward, but I do give them credit for at least putting it out there that Michelle as First Lady truly will be 'revolutionary' for this country. So many folks attacking Michelle Obama won't even admit to that point, so in that respect, it's a positive.

I was so excited to see two articles written by Black women defending Michelle Obama.( I do not know the race of the Free Press reporter). Written by Black women who understand Michelle Obama's story, and know it to be valid. I hope, as time goes on, we see more of these. More of the Invisible Black America as it emerges from the shadows.

Update: I have been informed that Cassandra Spratling is Black. So, we had three of the selected articles about Michelle Obama written by Black women.

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