originally appearing on moretanthanmost.today.com, 6/22/2008
Oh to be young, angry, and a Black female.
Leave it to a certain news outlet we all know and deride to spark terror of imminent lesbian gang domination, and terrorist fist jabbing (good thing I’m too poor for court-side, and have always viewed exploding pounds as slightly corny). Now Rupert Murdoch’s pride and joy has taken on the inexplicable fury of Black women as personified in First Lady prospect, Michelle Obama. But, now that I’ve had a day to digest it all, I’m not mad at them.Ever since this really awesome (self-imposed) C-Span marathon in the primary season, during which she so eloquently addressed her husband’s candidacy, Mrs. Obama has become my homegirl. (Go ahead: MAKE THE T-SHIRT!)
One would be wise to chart her lifetime achievements. She’s done a whole lot more than idly stand behind or beside her baby-daddy. She’s Princeton. She’s Harvard. She’s a community organizer - and what’s more - she’s a wrap-and-go, press-and-curl acquainted Black woman from the South Side of Chicago.
In other words, she’s quite the anomaly. Much like Maxine Waters. Much like Cynthia McKinney. To get a little vintage, much like Shirley Chisholm–the original female firestarter in U.S. Presidential history. I should mention, these women are no shrinking violets. Recall McKinney’s tussle with Capitol Hill police in 2006. In 2007, I stood on the National Mall listening to thousands of protestors chant “Impeach Bush!” as Maxine Waters nodded in tune, “Yes.” And Shirley Chisholm’s campaign slogan, in 1972, was “Unbought and Unbossed.” So, to put it mildly: don’t try her.
You shouldn’t trip the threshold of any of these women without a valid reason, and Fox commentators did well to link Michelle Obama to this legacy of perceived brown-like-earth-crayons angst. Having said that, there is a tendency in Western culture to package Black women’s ambition and proclivity for advancement with anger. Mainstream may recognize this pairing as the alleged ‘assertivebitch’ conundrum facing (white) women (like Hillary Clinton) everywhere. and so the ABW, or Angry Black Woman trope, becomes a (more) politically correct space for Fox to call me, Shirley Chisholm, Cynthia McKinney, Maxine Waters, and Michelle Obama by our right name, “BITCH(es)!!!”
Now, of course, it’s downright sacrilege to breathe the “B” word in the same sentence with such heavyweights, but Fox, even on a subconscious level, understands there are one too many epithets midway down the alphabet to launch the “B” word at Michelle Obama. So why in the world would I go so far as to commend them? Tina Fey called it the ‘new’ black. Really, being a ‘bitch’ as modernity conceives of it has actually always been a pretty Black ‘way’ to go. Need an undercover insurgency on the plantation? How about someone to actually organize that boycott? You have a dream? Well I have Ella Baker. But with the hyper-commodification of Black rage and ventilation (cough…hip hop..and jazz…and…), the increasing market appeal of being a “bitch” (as celebrated on SNL), I will eventually strike no fear in the hearts of many as a Black woman, dammit! When I bark, you’re supposed to expect BITE–because I will.
And that’s exactly where Fox went right. A firm woman+platform=? Actually, wait…she’s still kinda just laughed at as a bitch. Now a firm BLACK woman+platform=? Angry. At least if you remember we’re Black, we get to be angry. Maybe you still don’t know what Michelle Obama said in the course of 10,839 words BUT–you gotta love how angry she is. We know something’s wrong. We don’t know what. But she sure is Black. And angry! If you take that away, you’ve neutralized my moxie. It’s not (yet) hot for us to hear “Angry Black Woman” out of the mouths of pop culture conduits or commentators. So until then, I’d rather you didn’t make me what “bitch” is becoming. (At this rate, even the magazine will be in grocery stores…)
If you do, I’m no more than a Che Guevara popped collar shirt or a Bob Marley ringtone. You’ve made me the equivalent of Ginger Beer on ice - after the ice has melted! Once you take away my stereotypical right to be pissed off about something - God forbid it happen to be the current demise of our alleged democracy - you leave me as victorian as Leave It To Beaver if Leave It To Beaver met the Vietnam War. This is why it really pains me to hear news of expert advisors being assigned to Michelle Obama to “soften“ her image, even “feminize“ her (I love the subtlety of gender role definition). If Michelle Obama looks like a force to be reckoned with, it’s because she is.
This is gully, son. This is gully.
So, thanks Fox News: way to restore my rage. Everyone else? You betta start reckoning!