Michelle Obama Tuskegee University speech: What did she say about racism …

12 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

First lady uses Tuskegee’s story to inspire graduates.

First lady Michelle Obama addressed a crowd of graduates and their families at the 2015 commencement ceremony at Tuskegee University, in Alabama, describing her personal battle with racism as the first African American first lady in the White House. WASHINGTON – Michelle Obama says she had to fight misperceptions due to her African-American race during the 2008 White House campaign that saw her husband become the first black president of the United States. The first lady, who grew up in humble circumstances in Chicago and became a successful corporate lawyer, has rarely discussed race during her husband’s two terms in office. “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,” Obama said Saturday. “Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating? Obama drew on personal experiences during the surprisingly candid commencement address at the historically black college, where the military’s first black pilots trained. “So there will be times, just like for those airmen, when you feel like folks look right past you, or they see just a fraction of who you really are,” Obama told the crowd in Alabama. “The world won’t always see you in those caps and gowns.

And then they went on to become scientists, engineers, nurses and teachers in communities all across the country — and continued to lift others up along the way,” Obama said. “The defining story of Tuskegee is the story of rising hopes and fortunes for all African-Americans. They won’t know how hard you worked and how much you sacrificed to make it to this day — the countless hours you spent studying to get this diploma, the multiple jobs you worked to pay for school, the times you had to drive home and take care of your grandma, the evenings you gave up to volunteer at a food bank or organize a campus fundraiser. But in intertwining her personal journey with that of African Americans generally, she effectively raised this question: How much has America progressed on race relations and how can this generation prevent being defined by discrimination? In an almost half-hour address, she also recalled other racially insensitive comments, including when Fox News television said she was her “husband’s crony of color” and “Obama’s baby mama” – the latter US slang for an unwed mother.

Last week, as if to validate my opinion of him, he went after Michelle Obama for playing the “race card” at the dedication of a museum in New York City. I don’t want them to think People magazine got it right when it ran as the headline her dismay over being pictured as a fist-pumping Black Panther on a cover of The New Yorker in 2008.

During her speech, Obama talked about Tuskegee’s rich history, one of the top black universities in the US and the training place of the US’s first World War II African American pilots. It made me wonder: ‘Just how are people seeing me?’” Mrs Obama then aired a laundry list of slights she said black Americans deal with on a regular basis: “We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives. In fact, she was talking out of experience. “I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum,” she said. “And growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself. Maybe she hasn’t and just thought she would be, or maybe they didn’t fawn enough and that’s why so she’s telling herself stories about what they think of her.” Obama said during her address. “Yet when they hit the ground, folks treated them like they were nobody — as if their very existence meant nothing.” “Now, those Airmen could easily have let that experience clip their wings.

The way he looks at it, Obama is not entitled to her experiences, certainly not to talk about it. “I mean, even if you’re a committed liberal, you don’t want to hear this stuff all the time,” he said. “You’re here at a museum dedication and you want to hear an angry first lady stand up and start complaining about stuff like this?” Well, yes, Rush, I do. And those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country.” But those frustrations are not an excuse to give in to despair and anger, she said. “Those Airmen, who rose above brutal discrimination, they did it so the world could see just how high black folks could soar. This is hardly the first time Michelle Obama has come under attack from white critics who infer — think about it — that she has no right being black. Du Bois’ 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, he wrote about it this way: “It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. She challenged students to do their part, mentoring children, volunteering at food banks and after-school programs and helping others achieve their college dreams.

Because while we’ve come so far, the truth is that those age-old problems are stubborn and they haven’t fully gone away … And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry. She knew that many people would not always look at the graduates as the product of hard work. “Instead, they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. But just as Eleanor Roosevelt articulated the experiences and plight of the poor as well as racial and ethnic minorities, so does Michelle Obama articulate the black experience.

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