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Strong Black women under attack

ELINOR TATUM Publisher and Editor in Chief | 2/16/2012, 11:06 a.m.
When guidance counselors need to care

Black women have one of the hardest jobs in the world. At times we are subjected to being objectified as sex objects, at other times we have had to face sexism and racism, and we always have to deal with pernicious stereotypes that include the Angry Black Woman.

But where did that particular stereotype come from? And why have we, as strong Black women, let it stand?

As we come into a presidential election year, the image of the Angry Black Woman will rear its ugly head all over again. In the last few weeks, we have seen it in our glorious first Black first lady, Michelle Obama, who has been challenged by the media and some Republican pundits as an Angry Black Woman.

The always elegant and clearly brilliant Obama is keenly aware of this stereotype, having grown up in our community in Chicago and gone to Princeton University in the 1980s-no bastion of liberalism, then or now.

Whether you are Obama or a single mother living in the Polo Grounds Housing Projects trying to raise your children, there is a big difference between being strong and being angry.

And while we may be angry at some of the things that go on in our communities and in the wider world around us, we do not define ourselves, and won't be defined, by anger. We stand strong and firm in our beliefs and our identities, and our strength should be celebrated, not frowned upon.

As we look at this depiction of women of color-Black women in particular-we must come closer to home and look at the depictions of our friends and neighbors by local media.

Recently, there was an incident at a Harlem restaurant that involved several distinguished and accomplished women. All are highly educated, major contributors to the social, cultural and political life of our community. A disagreement with the management resulted in these women feeling that they were not being treated appropriately.

The renowned women responded with a letter in our publication last week. There was also a letter from Inez Dickens, who represents our community in the City Council, which voiced her concerns about their treatment and general treatment of Black people in some of the newer establishments in our community.

White media has now decided to join the conversation begun on these pages and in our community. In their stories, however, there have been misrepresentations and, in some cases, downright lies.

Unfortunately, what we see happening is that strong Black women who are standing up for their rights are being caricatured by the media that takes so little care in knowing our communities or the men or women who live in them.

And while this incident was unfortunate, what I find more insidious about the depiction of what happened is that once again we are put on the defensive. Here we have a situation in which individuals have come into our neighborhood and opened a business without understanding the community.

Being the welcoming people we are, we have welcomed them and been patrons of their businesses. In return, we expect to be treated with dignity and respect. This is what all Black people want, whether they are from Harlem or 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.