The “angry black woman” label that Michelle Obama has been tagged with by some is a caricature rooted in other people’s fears, the first lady said in an interview airing Monday.
Speaking with Oprah Winfrey, Obama said she was taken aback when the insulting description of her first took hold while her husband was running for president eight years ago.
“That was one of those things that you just sort of think, dang, you don’t even know me, you know?” she told Winfrey. “You just sort of feel like, Wow, where did that come from?”
“You think, that is so not me! But then you sort of think, well, this isn’t about me,” she went on. “This is about the person or the people who write it.”
Racially-tinged accusations of resentment have trailed the Obamas since they entered the national political stage. In one example, to dramatize the attacks on the Obamas, the New Yorker placed an image of Michelle Obama, sporting an afro and toting a gun, on its cover. The President was depicted as a Muslim terrorist.
In the ensuing years, the first lady has continually pushed back on the notion, including when a book was released in 2012 depicting her as clashing with some members of the West Wing staff.
Speaking with Winfrey for an hour-long special airing Monday, Obama said the experience exposed deep-seated fears pervading American society.
“We are so afraid of each other, you know?” she said. “Color, wealth, these things that don’t matter still play too much of a role in how we see one another. And it’s sad, because the thing that least defines us as people is the color of our skin, the size of our bank account. None of that matters.”
She said it was impossible to determine a person’s values from their race or religion. Instead, she argued people – including herself – must “act out” their ethics and principles.
“I thought, let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and then judge for themselves. And that is what I want young people to do. Just live your life,” she said.