Cal Thomas said on Fox News last week that black women on television “are usually angry about something,” and singled out Michelle Obama, who also has made the cover of National Review as an angry “Mrs. Grievance,” and been referred to by Michelle Malkin as her husband’s “bitter half.”
With the predominantly white feminist movement still smarting about the loss of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, black women have risen to Mrs. Obama’s defense.
Even as Mrs. Obama appeared on ABC’s “The View” in an effort to “soften” her image, one trio of black women launched a Web site, MichelleObamawatch.com., to monitor the coverage of the woman already disparaged as a “Baby Mama,” a racist and an unpatriotic radical.
Comedian Whoopi Goldberg, a panelist on “The View,” thanked Mrs. Obama for “helping to change a perspective of black women,” particularly “dark black women,” who too often are shown on television “with no teeth … and unable to string two sentences together.”
Mrs. Obama, who said she doesn’t dwell on negative publicity, acknowledged that she is still unknown and that “people aren’t used to strong women.” Still, her husband’s nervous campaign handlers established a “Fight the Smears” link on their Web site to counter some of the charges.
Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., remembers when a group of black women formed African American Women in Defense of Ourselves during the 1991 furor surrounding Anita Hill and Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. She suspects a similar movement will coalesce to rally around Mrs. Obama, who was feted Monday night at a $1,000-a-ticket Obama campaign fundraiser at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
“Not just black women, but all women should be standing up. The same voices that were so upset about Hillary Clinton and writing about gender bias ought to be standing up now,” she said. Bennett students view Mrs. Obama as a role model, “a phenomenal black woman,” Ms. Malveaux said.
E. Faye Williams, national chairwoman of the National Congress of Black Women, is among the commentators speaking out. In her weekly syndicated column, she asks, “Since when did the right wing become frightened of black women?”
“They’ve always entrusted black women to cook their food and to run their households. Some even considered black women to be their confidantes. So, how did they become afraid of us in the person of Michelle Obama?” Ms. Williams said. “Lay off Michelle Obama.”
George Mason University public policy professor and political commentator Michael Fauntroy points out that Sen. Barack Obama received nearly 98 percent of the black female vote. He attributes much of that to their affinity for the candidate’s wife. “I’ve heard lots of black women say that if they had a choice between him and her, they’d pick her.”
Mr. Fauntroy’s wife, Lisa, is vice president of business and legal affairs of Discovery Communications in Silver Spring. Her path to success is not unlike Mrs. Obama’s and “she’s like so many of my friends and colleagues - professional women who are supportive of their husbands.”
Style consultant Helen Asenath Moody agrees that Mr. Obama draws votes from black women, in part, because he married “a brown-skinned sister.”
“When Michelle Obama rises to her full 5 feet 11 [height], I’m telling you, they say, ‘There I am,’ and when her man stands beside her and they see how he loves her, all the way down in their souls, that makes them feel good,” the Washington social maven said. “And they say, ‘Oh, yes, we can; oh, yes, we can be happy; and oh, yes, we can be adored as black women.”