Following First Lady Michelle Obama‘s commencement speech at Tuskegee University on May 9, the American media has made it clear that they’ve gotten disturbingly comfortable in categorizing her as the old as day, unfair stereotype of an angry Black woman. Rather than listen to the authoritative speech she gave on racism and overcoming adversity, the political machine chose to render her as ungrateful and spoiled. One website even had the gull to refer to her “history” of race talk as “microaggressions.” However, this current news trend has ultimately said a lot more about how the often male and White-led media view the hurdles and hard-won victories of Black women than they do about the honesty of Obama’s journey. Being that she is the great-great-great granddaughter of a Black American slave and today first Black woman First Lady of America, her voice carries a mighty weight of perspective.
Though raised in a decent home, Michelle Obama was otherwise surrounded by Chicago’s South Side‘s version of too many boulevards of broken dreams. Against falling under to crime, drugs and reckless behavior, she rose every time to the occasion of academics and soon developed a career as a lawyer. As we know, she would eventually meet fellow aspiring politician Barack Obama and rest would be kismet and groundbreaking history.
In 2015 as her husband is in his second term as the 44th American President, along the way Mrs. Obama has spoken more openly on prejudice in America, especially in wake of American tragedies such as the Baltimore riots turned uprisings. Based on the pendulum the media is regularly swinging on, they like to either sensationalize the bruises of Black America or sugarcoat it as “in the past.” Evidently, they would prefer FLOTUS to play nice and just smile about America 24/7, even as Black and brown children are unarmed and gunned down in what’s become a lingering epidemic of police brutality and racial intolerance.
Before revealing the ignorance of particular publications and writers, below is an excerpt of what the First Lady said in front of the 2015 graduation class of Tuskegee University, a long-standing HBCU:
…they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the ‘help’ — and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.
Back when my husband first started campaigning for President, folks had all sorts of questions of me: What kind of First Lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on? Would I be more like Laura Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Reagan? And the truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate’s spouse. That’s just the way the process works. But, as potentially the first African American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?
Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover — it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and machine gun. Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me.
FLOTUS’ speech was painfully real but necessary. Despite the gilded lifestyle that the First Lady has experienced as the First Lady, Michelle Obama has never once been too far from connecting to the aches and hopes of a determined Black America. Now, what did the critics have to say in review? They actually accused Mrs. Obama of being solipsistic and pitiful in her speech. Much of their commentary was uncomfortably disrespectful.
Rich Lowry, of Politico.com, scarily penned “Michelle Obama’s Lifetime Of Microaggressions.” Check out a terrible excerpt right here:
But even the mighty apparatus of the imperial presidency can’t protect the first lady from irksome interactions with the insufficiently sensitive or deferential. In a People magazine profile in which the Obamas told of their struggles with racism, Michelle Obama recounted how hurtful it was that when she once visited Target, a women asked her to help get something off a shelf. Perhaps because she was tall enough to reach it.
(I personally had to suck in my breath and look away for a moment after reading that last line. THE NERVE).
Michelle Obama doesn’t seem to fully realize that the narrative arc of being the wife of a political candidate celebrated by nearly every organ of elite culture on his way to a landslide victory in a presidential election, to becoming a “fully-formed first lady,” isn’t exactly that of the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
So I guess no Black person’s experiences post-1890 is eligible as a struggle because they weren’t of the Reconstruction era? Mr. Lowry, you can take that stadium right over there for a seat. And by the way, don’t come back.
Perpetual troll of Black people Ann Coulter commented on Mrs. Obama’s speech on the Hannity show on cable FOX News. She suggested that Obama was “letting out her Reverend Wright” amongst other stupid ideas she thought we wanted to hear:
It’s exactly as I predicted. We had finally gotten rid of a lot of this racial demagoguery in response to the O.J. verdict and Obama and his enablers in the left-wing media brought it back in order to gin up and keep a certain segment of the black community angry and voting against Republicans. But I think they have opened up a beast they’re not going to be able to control now.
OJ? The evil queen of race-baiting struck again. So racism ended when OJ got off. Twenty-years later, I happen to disagree.
Following is another preposterous statement about the Tuskegee speech. This one from the douchebag Glenn Beck:
I’m not comparing what anybody has gone through [to] slavery. Or [saying it’s the] same as what Martin Luther King went through. But we’re not the country of Martin Luther King’s time anymore! We are being dragged back to those days.
Dragged, huh? So who killed the unarmed lives of Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Terrell Tony Robinson, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray?
I want to make sure it’s very, very clear. When we say ‘their’ honesty, we’re not talking about black people. We’re talking about this particular black person and her husband. We question them like we do the Bushes, like we do with the Clintons, like we do with the Huckabees, like we do with … Harry Reid, Lindsey Graham, John McCain.
They decided to go the other way. They could have changed race relations forever. And they took us back to the 1960s on grudge politics.
And lastly, there is Angela McGlowan, a Black woman contributor for–wait for it–Fox News as well. She made this disturbing quasi-revelation:
Why didn’t the First Lady share the reason why she got into Princeton was probably because of affirmative action? The reason she became an associate at a law firm was probably because of diversity, that they needed a woman. I’m not saying she wasn’t qualified. But they needed a woman, and a woman of color. That’s a twofer.
One must maintain a particular grade point average and extracurricular activity in order to obtain a scholarship of any kind to a higher education institute. Even if affirmative action was in Obama’s favor, she still had to earn her undergrad degree.
From Lowry to McGlowan and anybody else that willingly chose to have the First Lady’s words go over their head, sorely failed to comprehend the analogies she had made. As the first Black woman First Lady, it was completely apt of her to discuss the struggles and victories of the past and present on the site of the original Tuskegee Airmen. Where does the media get off in judging and ridiculing the veracity of any Black person’s journey?
Mrs. Obama’s truth aligns with so many Black people in America, and without a doubt, Black women. When she thoughtfully asked out loud if she ever came across “too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?” That is the mind frame of a Black woman everyday. All these critics wanted to do in their commentary was mock Michelle Obama. As she did earlier this year at the Black Girls Rock ceremony, via a similar “agenda”, she encouraged all the Tuskegee graduates to keep going and stay Black and proud despite the challenging, cold world out there that awaits them. In mocking the First Lady’s words, critics had also mocked the millions of Black people that have fought hard to get an education, live an upstanding life and be an example to the next generation because racists and America’s dreary past have offered otherwise cards.
And on a last note. When Lowry encapsulated FLOTUS’ speech as “whining”, is it possible to think that is how a Black woman’s story is viewed? “Whining”? Was The Color Purple “whining”? Was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill “whining”? How about “Lady Sings the Blues?” What you decidedly chose to label as “whining” (Mr. Lowry) is actually the reality. The (what sometimes feels like an) uphill battle of being a Black girl in America, living amongst the wolves of racism, sexism and socioeconomics. But there’s nothing scarier than a Queen that knows her worth and that is precisely what mortified all of these commentators about Michelle Obama’s speech. Having gotten over plenty of humps herself, during her reign as the First Lady, she’s inspiring other Black people to stay determined.