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Powerful Women and Their Personalities: Accept It

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Powerful Women and Their Personalities: Accept It

Powerful Women and Their Personalities: Accept It

Powerful Women and Their Personalities: Accept It

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One charge that some critics level at Michelle Obama is that she's "angry," a charge that's often leveled at women in the public eye. The program's host explains why she thinks women who play important roles in society have every right to show the public just how angry they can get, and why critics should just accept it.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now I have one more thought about Michelle Obama. Now we hear from some conservative commentators that Michelle Obama, wife of presumed Democratic nominee Barack Obama, is angry and that is something we just cannot have in a first lady. One commentator, you can guess what network, went so far as to inform us that most of the black women you see on television are angry and, well, that's tough for Americans to swallow.

Could I just tell you, it has not escaped my attention, and I hope not yours, that these televised gab fests rarely seem ever to include any black women, and that makes me, well, I don't want to say angry, but it does make me wonder why these people think they are qualified to have all these opinions about a group of people when they don't seem to actually know any of them. And it has also not escaped my attention that there seems to be no shortage of angry white men on television and on the radio of whatever political persuasion, and that does not seem to have stopped Americans from giving white men many important jobs in America like president, fortune 500 CEO, members of Congress, things like that.

But let's set all that aside, and just deal with the argument, shall we? It seems to me that the two black women you see most regularly on television are broadcasting mogul Oprah Winfrey and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Come to think of, Secretary of State Rice did seem kind of annoyed the last time I saw her. She was talking about the campaign of terror being directed at people who might actually dare to vote their choice in the elections in Zimbabwe and have, as a result, been beaten, maimed, and in some cases killed. And let's not forget the other dictators, nuclear arms purveyors, and human rights abusers with whom Secretary Rice regularly contends on behalf of the nation. Anger, so unbecoming. Didn't Mom always say you'd get more with honey than with vinegar?

Now Oprah. She didn't seem angry to me when I saw her show last, maybe she was talking to comedians Jim Carrey, Carol Burnett, and Steve Carell. But come to think of it, I have seen her angry at people who've taken sexual advantage of children, who've abused women, who've lied and broken trust with the public in some way. The nerve! Why hasn't she gotten the message? I don't know, somehow she's managed to succeed, but somebody really should mention to her that that anger thing, a career killer.

Now one commentator, Cal Thomas, went onto inform us that the black women you see on local TV every night are also usually angry about something. To quote him, they've had a son whose been shot in a drive by shooting. So I take it that the fact that homicide is a leading cause of death in some communities should not make these women angry? The fact that the rate of HIV/AIDS in black and brown communities is skyrocketing should not make them angry? Historically high foreclosure rates that are now wiping out a decade of economic gains should not make them angry? So what should it make them? Now that I think about it, the real puzzle to me isn't why some black women are angry, my question is, why isn't everybody?

(Soundbite of song "Work in Progress")

Ms. MARY J. BLIGE: (Singing) Work your thing out. Work your thing out. Work your thing out. Work your thing out. 'Cause so many of your girls, I hear you been running from the beautiful queen that you can be becoming. You can look in my palm and see the storm coming. Read the book of my life and see I'm overcoming. Just because the length of your hair ain't long and they often criticize you for your skin tone, run and hold your head high because you're a pretty woman. Get your runway stride home…

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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