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What Happens to Black Women Who Boldly Speak Truth…

Peniel E. Joseph|The Root   in  ·
May 29, 2015

Two remarkable black women made news this week. Michelle Obama, the most scrutinized African-American woman in the 21st century, did so by acknowledging unspoken truths about race, class and gender in public during a landmark commencement speech at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

The other, Saida Grundy, a newly minted Ph.D. from Michigan scheduled to begin a new job as an assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University, did so through provocation, speaking loudly and impolitely about race, privilege and power in tweets that caused a national firestorm.

The controversies surrounding the first lady’s speech and Professor Grundy’s tweets remind us of the way in which brilliant, intellectually provocative and bold black women are forced to navigate the public sphere.

In her candid remarks, Michelle Obama discussed the major and minor assaults that she has endured since her husband, Barack Obama, ran for president. From being described as practicing a “terrorist fist bump” while celebrating a primary win with her husband and being depicted on the cover of the New Yorker in an Afro holding a machine gun, to being falsely accused of hating white people and America, Michelle Obama has emerged as the metaphorical black female body: under constant assault, surveillance and violence, but heroically able to transcend what tried to destroy her.

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