Michelle Obama’s No Angry Black Woman and Neither Am I

January 11, 2012  |  

I don’t know where President Obama’s current approval rating stands, but I know my approval of the first lady just shot through the roof. Where Obama refuses to acknowledge the racism that underpins so many comments, voting choices, and actions set out against him, Michelle Obama just puts it out there plain and simple.

Speaking about New York Time’s reporter Jodi Kantor’s new book, The Obamas, Gayle King asks Mrs. Obama about her portrayal in the book as angry, unhappy, burdened, and frustrated by her position as first lady on “CBS This Morning.” Michelle Obama responds:

“That’s been an image people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I’m some kind of angry black woman.”

It’s an image people try to paint on black women as a whole all the time. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t white, Asian, Latina, Indian, and all women feel angry, unhappy, burdened, or frustrated at some point in their lives? Don’t these women express that anger, unhappiness, and frustration? Don’t people often sympathize with their anger, unhappiness, and frustration? Why are those feelings suddenly grouped together as a permanent temperamental disposition to describe black women when we express those same emotions?

Offering a response that any mother in America can identify with, the first lady says:

“If there’s any anxiety that I feel, it’s because I want to make sure that my girls come out of this on the other end whole.”

“I just try to be me. … There will always be people who don’t like me.”  But, she says, “Who can tell me how I feel?”

Michelle Obama is absolutely right. It’s no secret that society loves to limit black women’s expression. That limitation includes positive feelings of love, happiness, comfort with our bodies, and even sexual liberation, but we’re especially critiqued for sharing negative emotions, no matter how diplomatic we come across and how legitimate our concerns. I can recall incidents with a previous employer where I’d defended myself against false allegations and in doing so was told I was unprofessional, argumentative, and disrespectful—words no one had ever used to describe me, because quite frankly, I’m often more passive aggressive than I should be. When I reflected back on the situation, it was clear that the authority figures took any sort of attempt from a black woman at protecting one’s reputation or standing up for oneself as aggression or a personal affront. Yet, when I would point out the tone in which I was being spoken to by white women, I was asked whether the issue was my perception.

Even in romantic relationships, the first time a black woman raises a concern or issue, you can almost see the “great, I’ve got another angry black woman on my hands” thought bubble circling above the man’s head, if he isn’t so bold as to just go ahead and let those words come out of his mouth. There is an entire spectrum of emotions that grow in intensity from disappointment, to frustration, to full blown anger. Why is it always assumed any time we say something someone may not want to hear, our emotions are on 10?

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  • Marcia1belle

    How about we STOP trying to conform to societal norms or caring what society expects, just be you as Michelle Obama says. Just be you. There are 6billion+ human beings on earth today. It is ridiculaous to imagine that anyone could placate all of them and not have anyone say anything negative about them. It will happen.

    The socultion is not to worry about when or how it happens, but to bew true to yourself, whatever your values and moral compass are – the rest is, quite frankly, no one else’s business. And I personally don’t get why so many people seek approval outside of God and the people who really matter: family and true friends

    At the end of the day, that’s really all we can be – ourselves.

    The people who mind don’t matter; and those who matter don’t mind us just being ourselves!

  • JoAnne

    I love Michelle Obama. She’s “real” in a way so many other first ladies haven’t been. She doesn’t come across as an angry woman, but someone who is down to earth. BTW, I’m white.

    • Love_Sexy

      Co-sign….She do seem down to earth and that is why I love her.

  • Ssljc

    look ppl, WE R BLACK, and as long as we share this earth with other races, they WILL ALWAYS try to paint us in a negative light. Its clearly a sign of insecurity, jealousy and fear of our power, strength and beauty.  We are a race of ppl thats been fought against since the beginning of time and a race of ppl that look to the MAN above for guidance and protection. We have endoured much and overcome most, of course they r afraid. whether they want to admit it or not, its just what it is. Until God himself come for this world, they will cont to hate & belittle us. But, thats ok, cause each WILL be held accountable for his/her action. Stay strong & focused, we WILL overcome this too. 

    • Love_Sexy

      So true and very well said.

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  • Frankly I’m sick of white folks books getting published directing insults at all black women. I’m glad Mrs. Obama made it clear how she feels and her husband, Pres. Obama needs to follow suit and really express how he actually feels, put it out there. Wasn’t Tiger Woods wife a white woman, but didn’t she chae him out of the house with a baseball bat and smashed his windows causing him to wreck his vehicle and who got criticized and punished for those actions, we all know, Tiger, but everybody wanted to feel sorry for her and make it seem like awwww she’s been cheated on…but in actuality she was cheating on Tiger, and to even go as far as demolish a 2.5 mil home she had , what kind of person does that? She’s got a problem and it has nothing to do with Tiger…. I’m sick of the white world thinking they are right about everything and everyone else has a problem……I could go on and on but I will rest  a bit now cause it goes as far back as slavery, yes I took it there and will because until this country makes it right for all of it’s citizens, America is gonna hit rock bottom because of the attitude of those who think they are better than others and they make it so!

  • Frankly I’m sick of white folks books getting published directing insults at all black women. I’m glad Mrs. Obama made it clear how she feels and her husband, Pres. Obama needs to follow suit and really express how he actually feels, put it out there. Wasn’t Tiger Woods wife a white woman, but didn’t she chae him out of the house with a baseball bat and smashed his windows causing him to wreck his vehicle and who got criticized and punished for those actions, we all know, Tiger, but everybody wanted to feel sorry for her and make it seem like awwww she’s been cheated on…but in actuality she was cheating on Tiger, and to even go as far as demolish a 2.5 mil home she had , what kind of person does that? She’s got a problem and it has nothing to do with Tiger….js I’m sick of the white world thinking they are right about everything and everyone else has a problem……I could go on and on but I will rest  a bit now cause it goes as far back as slavery, yes I took it there and will because until this country makes it right for all of it’s citizens, America is gonna hit rock bottom because of the attitude of those who think they are better than others and they make it so!

    • Love_Sexy

      Co-sign……Very good points you made.

  • I love Mrs. Obama for keeping it real and holding her head high against this mess.

  • I live alot of props for Mrs. Obama for holding her own and not allowing the BS to get in the way. 

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  • Ccloveshack

    “There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” Marianne Williamson
    I’m sick of people hating on us because we are strong.  Black women have always been and will always be strong.

    • Muriel

      How are black women strong? Our men are leaving in droves.  Our kids are dropping off like flies.  And too many of us will never marry. 

      • Fda

        Muriel, we know that you are not the black woman you are posing as.

        • Muriel

          Im black, just wondering why we use that phase, “We are strong, ” as if it holds any weight.  Fantasia made a song about being a strong single mother.  I didnt think it was true then and more and more women are noticing that now.
          Strong bw need strong men behind them.  Too many of us choose to not have this then raise sons as single mothers who are weak…but WE ARE STRONG… rubbish

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  • Love_Sexy

    I am so sick and tired of BW being labelled “angry and bitter” or BW is “this and that”….,,I guess this is the year to attack the BW…..I have never seen so much hatred toward BW since I started reviewing blogs and the sad part is that its coming from so many different people….This has really been an eye opener for me but I guess you never stop learning about life……You can not lump all BW together……BW have always possess strength and backbone which make non-black people intimidated……But to say BW are all hateful or argumentative is wrong……..I never see women of other races being accused of such behavior when you know it do exist……But is it fair to lump them all together?…….No!……If standing up for yourself , having confidence and backbone make a BW be labelled “angry or bitter” so be it……Keep it moving!

    If anything Michelle Obama carry herself with much Grace and Class…..I am proud of her…..There are many BW who are like her as well.

  • MixedUpInVegas

    The Obamas have had all manner of snide, rude and outrageous insults thrown their way, and they have shown nothing but class and strength.  Michelle Obama, in particular, is an elegant, well-spoken woman who refuses to stoop to the level of her detractors.  It must get tiresome for her to have to maintain the high road in the face of the onslaught, but she has done so with grace and dignity.  I admire her.  She is an example to all women on how to handle adversity with style.

  • MixedUpInVegas

    The Obamas have had all manner of snide, rude and outrageous insults thrown their way, and they have shown nothing but class and strength.  Michelle Obama, in particular, is an elegant, well-spoken woman who refuses to stoop to the level of her detractors.  It must get tiresome for her to have to maintain the high road in the face of the onslaught, but she has done so with grace and dignity.  I admire her.  She is an example to all women on how to handle adversity with style.

  • sash

    For me I am seeing different types of black woman now airing their opinion

    (whereas before they would have remained to themselves), putting another perspective on things because there are certain types of black women who come on these sites and fall for silly comments, get overemotional and then say something that makes it seem like every black woman in the world has an issue with certain topics or a way of acting, when we all do not. 

    • Love_Sexy

      Co-sign!

  • sash

    For me I am seeing different types of black woman now airing their opinion

    (whereas before they would have remained to themselves), putting another perspective on things because there are certain types of black women who come on these sites and fall for silly comments, get overemotional and then say something that makes it seem like every black woman in the world has an issue with certain topics or a way of acting, when we all do not. 

  • BW Fan

    I am glad black woman are standing up for themselves. It’s seems to be the year when black women strike back, you had Riri, and Kelis last year and now the Prez’s wife. Many black woman are realizing that you have to do it yourself, build up your own image as well as knocking back and refuting the bad rep/stereotypes. Those waiting for a black man to defend you, you’re sooner wait for a unicorn to ride you off into the sky, because many of them are happy to ride on the bandwagon of negativity aimed at black woman as long as no one is looking at them.

    This bw are angry thing also comes out of jealousy, today I read comments about Halle and Naomi, on Halle’s engagement to Olivier Martin, I saw comments of her being this and that, people insulting her and bringing up why the guy didn’t marry Kylie instead. Naomi looking great for Cavalli campaign, people were calling her bitter, the throwing a phone at her staff incident and insulting her in other ways, It was just a few but you could feel the bitterness coming from the person.

    Most of these comments were coming from white people because it was on white websites. They like to perpetuate these myths so that they can remain favored, same with some black men.

    That’s all it is. Well, black woman are no longer going to allow you to insult us for no other reason because your insecure and need to ride on myths/stereotypes, lies, to feel better about yourselves.

    • sash

      ***you’ll

    • sash

      ***you’ll

  • I think some people often misinterpret certain qualities as being angry. I would like to know why, though.

  • Cherry

    That’s right Antup, Cortez was attempting to provoke a reaction from us, glad you caught it! Unfortunately, I think the label of the ABW will always live on because society will never let it die.  We as BW have to shake it off knowing what people think, but don’t care enough to live our lives the way we think we should and make sure that we are happy within ourselves when we lay down to sleep at night.  We have to stand up for ourselves no matter what, as long as we do it with class and decorum (and it can be done ladies)
    PS. I love my FLOTUS! Her number one fan!!!

    • sash

      I agree, we are seeing it more and more everyday now, from black women in the spotlight also deciding enough is enough and standing up for themselves and in doing so, for black women.

      The other people who want to ride on the bandwagon of negativity directed at bw because many before thought no-one was going to stick up for us, need to realize we are beginning to stick up for ourselves, so you have to direct your wagon at someone else if your need to put down others is attached to your self esteem that much.

  • Nola

    Mrs. Obama is absolutely right!! This is an old and tiresome label that is applied to black women when other people are intimidated by our intelligence and confidence!! We have always been judged by a different standard by others!! I am proud of Mrs. Obama and other women of color that are like her!

  • No_moedrama22

    I have had this happen to me on several occasions, its really annoying…

  • Cortez

    Most black women are angry, especially the one’s that frequent online forums such as this one. Why do you think black websites showcase interracial dating articles? They know the worst of the worst black women are going to show up and write all sorts of angry remarks about black men and white women.

    Many of you keep saying your not angry but why can I find so many amateur blogs online of black women complaining about everything? Why can one click of the mouse take me to thousands of videos on You Tube of black women fighting each other? If you aren’t angry why has female violence in the black community skyrocketed?

    • AnnTUp

      Most black women are angry=/= the worst of the worst black women.
      While I agree with you that there are a disproportionately larger number of ‘angry’ Black women on websites such as this.
      I’m 100% confident that you would also find a disproportionately large number of angry White men of Fox’s website as well, a large number of angry White Feminists of Jezebel, and a large number of angry Black men on TheGrio and The Root.

      You can’t set the parameters of your argument in order to provoke a
      negative response, so that you can simply say “I told you so, look at
      all of these angry Black women attacking me.”

      I implore you to un-furrow your brow, take your color blinders off, and revisit the statement “…these women come in all shades of black, brown, white, red, green, and yellow.”
      Take just one more click of the mouse, perhaps venture past page 2 of a google search and you will see that ratchet is and ratchet does come in every race.
      Have a (non-sarcastic) Nice Day.

      • Love_Sexy

        Preach it!

      • FDA

        Right on Anntup!

    • Corajoneswhite

      Because we have stood by you and covered for you.  We have been without and made excuses for your inconsideration’s.  We have always been expected to sacrifice all for our families.while people like you has never appreciated the black woman for who she is and what she has done to help better her people.  Men like you have always measured your woman by what you so handily use the white woman.  Okay. have you treated us to the privileged that the white woman has always had? Okay lets compare you to the white man.  He has always been in control of you.  He has the money and the power.  He thinks more with his head than You do, who think with you gentiles.  Women need  strong men to feel secure and when she does not have that  she  develops a defensive posture to defend yourself,  If we had someone strong to depend on then we would have time to show our feminine nature,  We want to be loved and cherished, to be valued, to be protected, we long to be understood and taken care of mentally and not blamed because of your short comings as a man in head and control of himself and a leader for his family.  President Obama is an Ideal Man and his wife loves and Respect him for who he is.  There are many strong black men who understands what I an talking about, a race is  no stronger than its men and some of you are pitiful still hiding behind your woman instead of stepping up to the plate.    

      • Suggestion

        You unknowingly proved Cortez’s point.  One of black women’s problems is that they always want to stick up for black men although black men are quick to throw bw under the bus.  Read the comments on this website regarding interracial relationships.  BW will profess their undying love for bm while the bm will dog bw out – brag about dating non bw while criticizing bw for dating  non bm.  If bw wanted to be loved and cherished then they would stop promoted this “I dont need a man bs,” stop having OOW children from non loving relationship, and they would expect and request more.  Bw are angry b/c choices they have mad have left many of them single and although bw raised them, many of our sons choose other races.  Why?
        Im a black woman, happily married and I see both sides of the coin.  But you said it all, we give and give then get upset when we allow our men to not give back

      • Suggestion

        You unknowingly proved Cortez’s point.  One of black women’s problems is that they always want to stick up for black men although black men are quick to throw bw under the bus.  Read the comments on this website regarding interracial relationships.  BW will profess their undying love for bm while the bm will dog bw out – brag about dating non bw while criticizing bw for dating  non bm.  If bw wanted to be loved and cherished then they would stop promoted this “I dont need a man bs,” stop having OOW children from non loving relationship, and they would expect and request more.  Bw are angry b/c choices they have mad have left many of them single and although bw raised them, many of our sons choose other races.  Why?
        Im a black woman, happily married and I see both sides of the coin.  But you said it all, we give and give then get upset when we allow our men to not give back

      • Ssljc

        WELL SAID!

    • reese

      But it is still mines behind our men which has been up there.  Who kills black women the majority of the time the same ones who kill black men 97% black men.   So if we are angry what are black men?

    • reese

      Oh and you forget the ones of us who say that black men can date who they want.  And the brothers on newsone talking about Halle and her ir.

  • Iroberts688

    I have always asserted myself if I’m being wronged.But By nature I’m an easy going nice person.If someone thinks I’m an angry black woman when I speak.up for myself then so be it.

  • P_ling6

    I blame all those Tyler Perry’s “Madea” movies.

    • guest

      the stereotype was around long before “Madea” movies were…

      • Uliberal

        But Tyler “talentless hack” Perry did not do us any favors by reinforcing them in those tacky movies. That’s the problem!!

      • Uliberal

        But Tyler “talentless hack” Perry did not do us any favors by reinforcing them in those tacky movies. That’s the problem!!

  • Msmykimoto2u

    Lovely article. I love Michele Obama. She always keeps it 100%

  • AnnaRenee

    They try to paint black women as ANGRY. Well sometimes that makes us angry!  Why they so angry at a black woman being happy?   I love the FLOTUS, she’s grace under fire!

    • Love_Sexy

      Agree 100%