Melissa Harris-Perry: Michelle Obama 'Has Buried Mammy'

By Melanie Arter | November 25, 2013 | 3:44 PM EST

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry

( – MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry on Saturday defended first lady Michelle Obama from criticism by a reporter who called her a “feminist nightmare,” saying the first lady “has buried mammy,” a term used for black female slaves in the South who nursed the master’s children.

“You misunderstand the place that Michelle Obama occupies as the first African American first lady. You seem to think she's trying to steer clear of the angry black woman stereotype, but when she calls herself Mom-in-Chief, she is rejecting a different stereotype - the role of mammy,” Harris-Perry said on her show.

In an article titled, “Leaning Out: How Michelle Obama became a feminist nightmare,” Cottle pointed out that some feminists were hoping the first lady would use her position to “‘preach’ about everything from Supreme Court nominees to the racism fueling some administration critics to ‘issues of reproductive and sexual health.’”

“Are you serious?” Harris-Perry asked in response to the article. “You and your handful of feminist sources claim that first lady Obama is not a feminist, because she says her most important job is being a mom-in-chief to her two daughters.

“In a week when right-wing hatred of the president forced a nuclear change in the very rules of the Senate, your advice to the first lady was to come roaring out of the White House battling for reproductive rights?” she asked.

“You’re wrong to write off the first lady’s priorities as fluff,” the MSNBC host said.

“She’s fighting childhood obesity, one of the biggest public health crises of our time, and she’s not out there just flexing her biceps and mom-dancing with Jimmy Fallon. Her Let’s Move campaign has helped thousands of child care programs offer healthier food and more exercise. And for the first time in years, the CDC says there’s a significant decline in obesity in pre-schoolers,” Harris-Perry said.

According to Harris-Perry, when Mrs. Obama calls herself the Mom-in-Chief, she “is saying that her daughters, her vulnerable, brilliant, beautiful black daughters are the most important thing to her.”

“The first lady is saying, 'You Miss Anne are going to have to clean your own house, because I will be caring for my own.' And instead of agreeing that the public sphere is necessarily more important than Sasha and Malia, she has buried mammy and embraced being a mom on her own terms. So you can call that your feminist nightmare, but for a lot of us, it is our black motherhood dream,” she added.