Adam really gets at the problem of Juan Williams here. There are people in this world who are offended by the profanity of hip-hop, whose biggest problem is its profanity--its gratuitous use of the word bitch, nigger or fag. But then there are others, I think many of us who love the music, who aren't so much offended by the words, as what's behind them, as what they say about how we feel about ourselves, about the women who raised us when our fathers ran off, about our sisters, about our only partners.
But there are plenty of homophobes who don't say fag--we call them Vote Yes on 8. Likewise, there are plenty of sexists who would never use the word bitch--we call them Al'Quaeda. Williams is obviously not a terrorist, but he's a hip-hop scold of the highest order. And yet, as Adam point out, for all of hip-hop's misogyny, I simply can't imagine a rapper insulting Michelle Obama, in the blatantly sexist manner, that Juan Williams did:
...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.
That's so fucking money. But the truth is that men who run around talking about how they "don't date black women" aren't a scourge on black women--they're a scourge on white women. And this is really how I see Williams. Michelle Obama is the First Lady of the United States, and right now she's got it clicking on all cylinders. Her husband is now the most powerful man on the planet, and arguably the most powerful black man in history.
Think on that.
Better yet, think on this. The sisters will be fine. They've seen so much worse than Juan Williams. Ditto for Michelle. What did Gandalf tell Grima?
Keep your forked tongue behind you teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a witless worm.
I would stay still, if I were you...