During a passionate address at historically black Tuskegee University today, Michelle Obama said she refused to let the “sting” of racial bias define her.
“Over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited a little bit of ‘uppityism,'” the first lade said.
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“Cable news charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s baby mamma.’
“All of the chatter, the name-calling, the doubting, all of it was just noise,” she said. “It did not define me, it didn’t change who I was, and most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back.”
The First Lady even used Ferguson and Baltimore as examples of racism.
(Officer Darren Wilson was found innocent of racial crimes and three of six officers arrested in Baltimore are black.)
CBS News reported:
The first lady, taking head on the issue of racial discrimination, mentioned the strife that has occurred in Baltimore and Ferguson – and the slights she and the president have endured – as she addressed the school’s 500 mostly African-American graduates.
“The road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me. Because while we’ve come so far, the truth is those age-old problems are stubborn, and they haven’t fully gone away,” Obama said.
The first lady said she and President Obama have dealt with the sting of daily slights through their entire lives. “The people at formal events who assumed you were the help and those that have questioned our intelligence, our honesty and even our love of this country.”
She said those little indignities are minimal compared to “nagging worries that you are going to get stopped or pulled over for absolutely no reason” or the “agony of sending your kids to schools that may no longer be separate, but are far from equal.”
Obama said the frustration is “rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible. 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, Obama said.
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The First Lady laid it on thick for the young graduates.
From The White House website:
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? (Applause.) 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.
Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a “terrorist fist jab.” And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited “a little bit of uppity-ism.“ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s “cronies of color.” Cable news once charmingly referred to me as “Obama’s Baby Mama.”
And of course, Barack has endured his fair share of insults and slights. Even today, there are still folks questioning his citizenship.
And all of this used to really get to me. Back in those days, I had a lot of sleepless nights, worrying about what people thought of me, wondering if I might be hurting my husband’s chances of winning his election, fearing how my girls would feel if they found out what some people were saying about their mom.