In Wednesday’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd warns conspiracy-seeking lefties that Obama’s candidacy is sure to incite the GOP to attack his wife, Michelle Obama. As if Obama himself doesn’t provide us with a good enough target. No, Dowd says, the true focus will be on Michele Obama as a “female version of Jeremiah Wright, an angry black woman.”
Well, as we say here in Kansas — where we’re all typical white people, I hear — “if the shoe fits, wear it.”
Oh, I’m not saying that Michelle Obama’s a racist. On the contrary, her husband’s campaign seems to value white people. Why, just two months ago when Mrs. Obama spoke at a rally on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania her staff rearranged the crowd’s seating so a white person could have an Asian woman’s spot. “Get me more white people,” one of her event coordinators said. “We need more white people.”
With Michelle Obama, you see, it’s not all about what race a person is. It’s about what race they are not. As Mrs. Obama has made clear, it’s not really about other people’s whiteness. It’s about how white people don’t share what she calls her “blackness,” a distinction she made it her mission to examine.
Her senior thesis at Princeton University analyzed that very subject as she sought to examine “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community”. (Mrs. Obama’s thesis, written under her maiden name of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, has been temporarily withdrawn from the stacks at Princeton’s library until the day after the presidential election. A copy is available here.)
The purpose of her thesis was to examine how her fellow black students perceived their own “blackness” after attending “predominantly White universities like Princeton [that] are socially and academically designed to cater to the needs of the White students comprising the bulk of their enrollments.” Her hypothesis? That the more time black students spend around other blacks, “the more positive and compassionate they will be in their attitudes toward lower class Black Americans”. Or, to rephrase her hypothesis: if highly-educated blacks look down on lower-income black Americans it’s the fault of whites and their white institutions like Princeton.
Yet, out of a sample of 400 black students surveyed, only a mere 22% bothered to respond to her questions. When the data demonstrated that the more separatist blacks became the more hopeless they felt, and the more integrated they became the less hopeless they felt, she dismissed the findings, calling it “very weak.”
My speculation for this finding is based on the possibility that a separationist is more likely to have a realistic impression of the plight of the Black lower class because of the likelihood that a separationist is more closely associated with the Black lower class than are integrationist.”
In other words, those in favor of integration, of having friends of both races and experiencing both black and white culture just weren’t “black enough” in her views.
Still, I’m not saying that Michelle Obama is a racist. Because, you see, she is painstakingly careful to remind everyone that her husband’s support base is diverse, as she said in a stump speech, and includes “…black and white, and all colors of the rainbow.” And, she reminded her audience, in South Carolina he didn’t win “just the black vote.” In his nationwide appeal, she explains, he “won the black vote and the white vote… votes from seniors, from young, from brown…”.
When it comes to her husband’s cross-racial base of support, Michelle Obama seems downright surprised. Stunned, even. As she said of her husband’s primary win in Iowa: “Ain’t no black people in Iowa! Something big, something new is happening.”
Maybe, but not in the sense that she meant.
Michelle Obama is a woman who has clearly lived her life proud of her racial identity and what she claims are humble roots. “I was raised in a working-class family on the south Side of Chicago. That’s how I identify myself, a working-class girl,” she’s said of her childhood. And it’s that identity which she’s chosen to hold on to, despite recollections of childhood friends that she lived a middle-class life with a stay-at-home mother and a father on a city employee’s salary which, after overtime, came to $42,686. By way of contrast: in 1975, when Michelle was 11 years old, the U.S. Census shows that the median income for a family in the U.S. was $13,720, and poverty level for a non-farm family of 4 was $5,500. Her family income hardly reflects the “plight” of lower-class black families.
Even after attending a racially diverse, highly-selective magnet high school where the student body consisted almost equally of blacks and whites from throughout all socio-economic classes across Chicago, Michelle Obama has sought to remind everyone of her roots in the black community. Her educational career, with a major in sociology and a minor in African American studies at Princeton, reveals a mind seeking to understand the world as a whole, but with a specific interest primarily in her own race’s culture.
It’s telling that Michelle Obama claims humble roots that weren’t so humble, claims to understand the “plight” of the lower-class black family without having actually lived that life, and then had to study her own race, as if she wouldn’t have understood it otherwise. It’s telling that this woman once wrote that blacks who didn’t adhere to racial separatism would lack the compassion to understand the “plight” of the lower-income black family, and then turned around and married a half-white man whom, she now proclaims in stump speeches, is fully capable of understanding that “plight.” It speaks volumes that when Michelle Obama refers to her husband’s base of support she does not mention voters, she does not mention Democrats; she mentions races: black, white, brown (whatever that is). It’s astonishing, when you think about it, that Michelle Obama is surprised that white people in Iowa would vote for her husband.
I’m not saying that Michelle Obama is a racist. No, indeed, I’m not. I’m saying that Michelle Obama thinks we’re all racists. According to Michelle Obama’s rhetoric, everyone who didn’t grow up in a lower-class black family (even though she didn’t), everyone who favors racial integration (which her husband claims to favor), and everyone who ponders whether yet another Ivy-league educated millionaire (as both she and her husband are) — who happens to be black — can understand what life is like living paycheck-to-paycheck are all racists.
If there’s “something big, something new” happening in America, it’s this: we are on the brink of an historic election in more ways than one. It’s not merely the first time we’ve had a black candidate with a strong chance of becoming president. It’s not that we might have the first-ever black First Lady.
It’s that we, as voters wholly aware of America’s past racial problems, are now being called to vote for Barack Obama because he is black in order to absolve ourselves. But Michelle Obama doesn’t want to be thought of as an “angry black woman” for such manipulations, and according to Barack his wife — whom he sends out on stump speeches to talk about how surprising it is that white people in Iowa would vote for him — isn’t fair game. Really?
Michelle Obama a racist? No, I wouldn’t call her that. I can think of far too many other appellations that would suit her just fine.