First Lady Michelle Obama is tired of the “angry black woman” label ― she explicitly said so in 2012, after having to address her portrayal in a book by a New York Times reporter ― but it’s an offense that continues to resurface. Just last month, the New York Times Style section used “angry black woman” in a since-deleted tweet about Mrs. Obama. Now, the First Lady is addressing what’s behind the label and what happens in her mind when she hears it.
As Mrs. Obama tells Oprah during her final interview at the White House (airing Monday on CBS at 8 p.m. ET and Wednesday on OWN at 9 p.m. ET), there’s a clear sequence of thoughts that ran through her head in the “angry black woman” blowback, beginning with this initial reaction:
“That was one of those things where you think, ‘Dang, you don’t even know me,’” Mrs. Obama says. “You just sort of feel like, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’ And that’s the first blowback.”
Her next thought, she says, led to a shift in perspective. “You think, ‘That is so not me.’ But then you sort of think, ‘Well, this isn’t about me. This is about the person or the people who write it,’” Mrs. Obama says. “That’s just the truth.”
What’s at the heart of the label, she continues, is fear.
“You start thinking, ‘Oh, wow, we’re so afraid of each other,’” she says. “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… It’s our values. It’s how we live our lives. And you can’t tell that from somebody’s race, somebody’s religion. People have to act it out. They have to live those lives.”
With this outlook, Mrs. Obama made a firm decision about how she’d live her life.
“I thought, ‘OK, well, let me live my life out loud so that people can then see and then judge for themselves,’” she says. “And that’s what I want young people to do: Just live your life. Live it out loud.”
Mrs. Obama’s full interview airs on CBS this Monday, Dec. 19, at 8 p.m. ET. An encore presentation will air on OWN this Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 9 p.m. ET and will also be available on demand via the free Watch OWN app.