Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael on Collective White Guilt
Jodi Kantor launched a pre-election, pre-emptive biography about the first couple last week. The New York Times reporter has been covering the human interest side of the Obama family since 2007. Kantor's earlier articles focused on the president's love of basketball, Michelle's family tree, and Barack's "search for faith." Now she's written The Obamas, a sleight-of-hand book that has Michelle getting all of the attention while her husband makes unconstitutional recess appointments. In response to Kantor's come-on, the first lady did her part, hitting the airwaves to counteract a few behind-the-scene tidbits.
Michelle told CBS' Gayle King that there will always be people who don't like her and that ever since her husband announced his candidacy in 2007, some see her as an "angry black woman." Cue the mainstream media. The lapdog press couldn't get the "angry black woman" story out to the masses fast enough. Once again, the race card proved an effective distraction from the latest surveillance techniques coming out of Big Sis's Department of Homeland Security.
But luckily for anybody still interested, Michelle's "righteous indignation" created an opening to ask if Juan Williams was right back in 2009. The Fox contributor caught flak for saying that "Michelle Obama has this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer dress thing going on." Whether true or not, the symbolism of a woman at war with herself and society was dead-on.
Last week, when Sean Hannity asked Cornel West if the first lady's protestation against Kantor's depiction of her was justified, West stated that some have "wrongly perceived" Mrs. Obama's "brilliance, courage and charisma" in a stereotypical way. "Black folks' passion for the truth" often gets misinterpreted, said West. If Michelle speaks her mind, well, "she's just an honest sister."
West is onto something. Michelle Robinson Obama has been nothing if not honest when it comes to her feelings and philosophy. Playing to the crowds on the campaign trail, Mrs. Obama simulated a stereotype of the cantankerous black woman by publicly outing her husband's nasty personal habits. Next, the public soon discovered she thought that America was a "downright mean country" and that for the first time in her adult life, she was "proud" of the United States.
Based on her own words and actions over the last 30 years, right up until last week, it's a safe bet "the past isn't dead, it's not even past" for the first lady. When Mrs. Obama pointedly uses divisive stereotypes on network television in an election year, she's doing more than running interference. She's never, never letting us forget history. Mrs. Obama didn't make it all the way to the White House for nothing.
The First Lady's 1985 thesis on being black at Princeton gave the tormented, race-obsessed young woman the chance to articulate long-repressed feelings of abjection, separateness, and anger. When she purposely chose the Black Supremacist, radical, separationist, and anti-Semitic ideas of Stokely Carmichael to shore up a study of "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community," the writing was on the wall. From there, she would go on to Harvard Law school and eventually end up at Reverend Jeremiah Wright's Afrocentric Trinity United Church of Christ with her husband and children.
Coincidently, Wright also happened to be a fan of the rabidly anti-white Carmichael (who changed his name to Kwame Ture, after 2 African dictators). In 1969, while at Howard University, Wright heard Carmichael lecture on black power. The pastor would go on to spread Carmichael's views from the pulpit of his Chicago church. Wright cross-bred Carmichael's Black Power movement with the founder of Black Liberation Theology, James Cone (whom he met in college)'s black rage and "whiteless" Scriptures tenets.
Unlike Oprah Winfrey, who lasted only five years listening to Obama's "close confidante" rail against white people, America, capitalism, and the middle class, Michelle allowed Wright to marry her and Barack, baptize their children, dedicate their home, and serve as spiritual guide through the years.
The First Lady may have put her militant bluster on hold after she settled in the White House in 2009, willing to play second fiddle and take one for the team, but chances are that she is still a gung-ho Reverend Wright/Stokely Carmichael believer. She has never denounced either man's hateful agenda, and, along with her husband, she has no problem using the race card in a post-racial America.
With another election less than a year away, and with three years of "fundamental transformation" under our belt, the first lady's past warrants yet another look.
Barack Obama, in the 2008 "A More Perfect Union" race speech designed to distance himself from "Uncle Jeremiah," described his wife as a "black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave owners." Soon after he won the election, media outlets published articles with titles like "Michelle Obama's Family: From Slavery to the White House." Ms. Kantor herself co-authored a New York Times article in October 2009 entitled "In Michelle Obama's Family, A Complex Path From Slavery."
Despite the first lady's alleged comment to Carla Bruni that living in the White House was sometimes "hell," she must have been in heaven seeing headlines about her family's roots. The young black Princeton student who felt as if she didn't belong in a predominantly "White university" which "caters to the needs of the White students" and who "felt pressured ... to come together with other Blacks on campus ... in Solidarity to combat a White oppressor" had finally arrived. With a sycophantic media at her command, America's sins could be laid bare.
If her life is sometimes unbearable, even with the lavish vacations, parties, and personal staff catering to her every need, the roots of Michelle's obvious discontent may be found in the psychic strain of reluctantly assimilating into the dreaded dominant culture. According to Kantor, in the early '90s, Mrs. Obama felt "distressed" by the multi-generational "white Irish Catholics" who "locked up power in Illinois." For Mrs. Obama, it must have been Princeton all over again. Her husband may have summed up the source of his wife's frustration in the 1995 book Dreams from My Father:
The minority assimilated into the dominant culture, not the other way around. Only white culture could be neutral and objective. Only white culture could be nonracial, willing to adopt the occasional exotic into its ranks. Only white culture had individuals. And we, the half-breeds and the college-degreed, take a survey of the situation and think to ourselves, Why should we get lumped in with the losers if we don't have to? [Dreams from My Father, pg. 75]
For Carmichael and Wright, Michelle's "guides," being "Middle Class" meant assimilation and integration into the "foreign culture" of the white majority. Michelle Lavaughn Robinson relied heavily on Stokely Carmichael's and Charles Hamilton's 1967 book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, in which the charismatic Carmichael curses middle-class "values" that have led to oppressive political and social structures. These structures rest within an "illegitimate system of government." A system built on "white folk's greed," as Wright stated later on.
If the United States Constitution is taking a beating under Obama, we need look no farther for one of the major reasons -- white males. There is no half-way in Carmichael's way of thinking. Any assimilation into a "racist" class is a one-way street.
From Black Power:
Thus we reject the goal of assimilation into middle-class America because the values of that class are in themselves anti-humanist and because that class as a social force perpetuates racism. We must face the fact that, in the past, what we have called the 'movement' has not really questioned the middle-class institutions in this country. If anything, it has accepted those values and institutions without fully realizing their racist nature. ... This class is the backbone of institutional racism in this country. [His italics, not mine.]
Michelle Obama derided the biased middle-class curriculum at Princeton which she states was geared toward white students. Everywhere she went, she felt "locked out"; the temptation for high-achieving blacks to sell out, integrate, and adopt the values of the ruling class was always just around the corner. Mrs. Obama's thesis reads like a classic coming-of-age story with its heroine lost in a hostile world -- at the mercy of the all-bad, all-white Princeton bigots. Trouble is thar she wrote it in 1985, way past the civil rights era.
But here, too, Carmichael throws any progress made by Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers out the window.
I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people. ... There has been only a civil rights movement, whose tone of voice was adapted to an audience of liberal whites.
After Carmichael left for Africa in a self-imposed exile, Wright picked up the slack here in America. The Trinity UCC congregation were among the first African-Americans to hear an amalgamated, theologically based rejection of the "White status quo." The Obamas author Jodi Kantor, writing for the New York Times in 2007, touched on Wright's hostility toward the middle class.
To the many members who, like the Obamas, are the first generation in their families to achieve financial success, the church warns against "middleclassness," its term for selfish individualism, and urges them to channel their gains back into the community.
There is little doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Obama took Wright's message of "selfish individualism" to heart. In 1995, while running for the State Senate, Barack railed against the right wing's appeal "to that old individualistic bootstrap myth: get a job, get rich, and get out. Instead of investing in our neighborhoods."
Time and again, Mrs. Obama, along with her husband, has called for "shared sacrifice" and asked young people to delay a corporate career in favor of community service. For the couple, a belief in the inalienable rights of the individual upon which the United States was founded is a "myth." Invoking an American icon in the same 1995 profile, Mr. Obama couldn't have articulated the first couple's worldview any more clearly.
In America we have this strong bias toward individual action. You know, we idolize the John Wayne hero who comes in to correct things with both guns blazing. But individual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.
Michelle's political and spiritual role models were steeped in separatism, anti-Semitism, black liberation theology, and collectivism. Her earliest influence, Kwame Ture, aka Stokely Carmichael, eventually became a committed Leninist-Marxist, founding the Africanist All African People's Revolutionary Party.
Jeremiah Wright, a Farrakhan- and Gaddafi-sympathizer, spouted anti-American, anti-Semitic poison from the pulpit while Michelle Obama listened for 20 years. Barack Obama, whom she married in 1992, had already been a member of UCC since 1988 when he heard "The Audacity of Hope" sermon. His collectivist agenda is now playing out all over America.
Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report.