Who Is Michelle Obama? Read Her Princeton Thesis and She'll Tell You
Michelle Obama raged against the risk of her "integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure" in her Princeton University thesis. I reviewed this document, remarkable for its rancor as well as for its orthographical dysfunction, during her husband's first presidential campaign ten years ago. Now that Mrs. Obama has emerged as a prospective candidate for the 2020 presidential election, her radical rant is worth another look.
Below is my 2008 Asia Times essay.
The wrath of swift-footed Achilles, of which Homer called his muse to sing, nearly lost the Trojan War for the Greeks. The wrath of swift-tongued Michelle Obama well might lose the White House for her husband. We had a peek into her diary last week when the Obama campaign finally made public her undergraduate thesis, titled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community." The contents of this remarkable document sharpen the profile of Obama's women that I offered last week ("Obama's women reveal his secret" Asia Times Online, February 26.)
Barack Obama, I argued, evinces a preternatural sangfroid, for he is in America but not of it, a Third World anthropologist profiling
Americans. But his wife's anger at America will out, for it is a profound rage amplified by guilt.
Mrs Obama averred that she could not recall the contents of the thesis she composed in 1985, but that cannot be quite true, for it is a poignant cry from the heart. It explains her controversial outburst during the campaign to the effect that she felt proud of her country for the first time in her adult life in 2008, after "feeling so alone" in her "frustration" and "disappointment" at America.
Princeton both humiliated her and corrupted her, Michelle Vaughn Robinson complains in an undergraduate prose that is all the more touching for its clumsiness. By condescending to the young black woman from a Chicago working-class family, the liberal university made Michelle feel like an outsider. Worse, by giving her a ticket to financial success, Princeton caused her to feel that she was selling out to the institutions she most despised.
Michelle's ambivalence towards Princeton, and by extension towards America, has the makings of a tragedy of the sort found in the novels of Theodore Dreiser or F Scott Fitzgerald, a fatal compromise in pursuit of status. Young Michelle felt she was betraying "lower class Blacks" by assimilating:
... the path I have chosen to follow by attending Princeton will likely lead to my further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society, never becoming a full participant. This realization has presently made my goals to actively utilize my resources to benefit the Black community more desirable.