Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Juan Williams on Michelle

The tired, old angry-black-woman stereotype is alive and well, I see. While I was off the last couple of days, it reared its offensive head thanks to Juan Williams on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" who said of First Lady Michelle Obama, "She's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking . . . her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts to coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O. to being something of an albatross."

Juan Williams on Michelle

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The president and first lady
The president and first lady

The tired, old angry-black-woman stereotype is alive and well, I see. While I was off the last couple of days,  it reared its offensive head thanks to Juan Williams on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" who said of First Lady Michelle Obama,  "She's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking . . . her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts to coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O. to being something of an albatross." 

Wheeew. Now, I worked with Juan during my early days in the business when I was at the Washington Post. I have nothing but pleasant memories of him. He was friendly and encouraging to a young reporter. That's why I'm going to assume that Williams just - ahem - mispoke. Because, honestly, I can't recall Michelle Obama's ever attempting to categorize herself as a victim or somehow blaming America for anything. 

What I do remember is how her words were twisted to make it appear she was somehow unpatriotic. For the record, what she said was, "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." Before long, she was satirized on the cover of New Yorker magazine with a caricature of her in camouflage and with her hair in an afro.

According to an online journalism column called Richard Prince's Journal-isms, Williams was on the Tom Joyner radio show cleaning things up a bit. He said his point was, "She's got to be careful about how she defines her role. . . . Too often people get their images distorted." Fair enough. Not a bad point. Too bad for Williams, that he didn't put it that way the first time.

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