dnA broke it down as to why Juan Williams deserves the Shelby Steele Award.

And, after thinking about it some more, dnA explains why Williams truly is foul.


I’ve been rolling Juan Williams’ statement about Michelle Obama around like a wad of gum, trying to figure out why it bothers me so much. The first thing is that Juan is a genuinely nice guy, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of talking a few times. But the second, and the much bigger thing, is that I realized that I’ve never heard –and I don’t think I ever will hear — a rapper call Michelle Obama a bitch. But you don’t have to call a woman a bitch to treat her like one.

I’ve tried for a long time to reconcile my love of Hip-hop music with its unapologetic misogyny, or even the fact that so many friends I’ve known since knee-high flick around the word like spent cigarettes no matter how many times we argue about it. The bitches/sisters explanation is patently unsatisfying, it’s basically a reinvention of the old madonna/whore dichotomy. I can’t really come up with an explanation, other than that there are ugly sides to most of the things we love. But Williams is one of the most vocal critics of Hip-hop; of what right-leaning black pundits refer to as “street-culture.” I see little that’s different in what Williams is saying about Michelle from what you might hear from Young Jeezy. This isn’t an isolated statement about something someone said last year, it fits into an established narrative of who black women are. Rather than being the hyper-sexualized Jezebel popular in rap music, she’s portrayed as the masculine ball-buster, the kind of women ignorant men write “why I don’t date black women” essays about, trying to convince themselves that there’s something rational about hating the kind of woman who gave birth to you. Williams’ statement makes me angry not because it’s about Michelle, but because it’s so manifestly not about her, but about black women in general. And maybe with some kind of messed up, terrible rationalization I can divorce myself from what happens in Hip-hop because I know Jeezy isn’t talking about my mama. But when people talk about Michelle like this, they’re talking about this universe of brilliant, accomplished black women who never seem to get their due. They’re talking about the women I know; my mother, my aunts, my cousins. And it makes me furious.

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