Michelle Obama Should Have Read the Founder of Tuskegee University Before She Spoke There
First lady Michelle Obama may know the names of the world’s most famous clothes designers, and she may even know how to dance the Uptown Funk, but judging from her commencement speech to the graduates of a historically black university in Alabama, America’s race-baiting FLOTUS knows nothing about great American civil rights leader, accomplished scholar, and founder of Tuskegee University, the late Booker T. Washington.
Michelle Obama’s remarks at the commencement sounded more like she was paying homage to W.E.B. DuBois, who believed in civil rights via agitation and political activism, than DuBois’ adversary, ex-slave Booker Taliaferro Washington, who wrote in 1911:
There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.
In a message that smacked of thin-skinned ungratefulness and hostility, Obama complained about the emotional toll she’s endured as America’s first black first lady. If Mrs. Obama had taken the time to read Booker T.’s autobiography, Up from Slavery, she would have known that stirring up racial animosity is an approach the author shunned.
It was Booker T. who once pointed out that “great men cultivate love, and…only little men cherish a spirit of hatred.” Yet the FLOTUS clearly thought that a Tuskegee commencement was as good a place as any to bring up the “on-stage celebratory fist bump between [her] and [her] husband … that was referred to as a ‘terrorist fist jab.’”
Instead of encouraging the graduates with talk of the great strides America has made in the area of race, Michelle used the Tuskegee podium as a soapbox to grumble and complain. At a graduation ceremony where the keynote speech is supposed to inspire students, Princeton graduate and Harvard Law School alumni Michelle Obama took a cue from her narcissistic husband and made it all about Michelle:
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.’
The first lady’s choice of subject matter proved Booker T. Washington’s sentiment that “people who call themselves ‘The Intellectuals’ understand theories, but they do not understand things.”
Booker T. understood that people with highfalutin’ degrees can sometimes lack insight. Washington wrote of this type of intelligentsia:
If these men could have gone into the South and taken up and become interested in some practical work, which would have brought them in touch with people and things, the whole world would have looked very different to them. Bad as conditions might have seemed at first, when they saw that actual progress was being made, they would have taken a more hopeful view of the situation.
Not so with Michelle!
Instead, this is a woman who, despite being married to a bi-racial man elected president twice by a country inhabited by a white majority, chooses to believe that skin color has made her the “Focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others.”
Michelle is clearly unaware that in 1901 inviting a black man to dine at the White House was socially scandalous. Yet on behalf of his whole race Booker T. Washington accepted the invitation, which resulted in an assassin being hired to go to the very school where Michelle complained about her life in the White House to kill Booker T. for eating where she is now catered to like a queen.
How does one whine about being racially mistreated to the graduating class of an institution established by a man who never complained when, after dining with President Theodore Roosevelt, he was met with Democrat Mississippi senator James K. Vardaman saying that the White House was now “so saturated with the odor of nigger that the rats had taken refuge in the stable?” Or 24 days later, when a poem was published in the Missouri Sedalia Sentinel entitled “Niggers in the White House?”
In fairness, Mrs. Obama did encourage the graduates of Tuskegee to overcome adversity and discrimination by staying “true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves” which, unlike Michelle, is a credo that Booker T. Washington actually lived by.
Nevertheless, from there the FLOTUS projected onto America the allegation that people “will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world.” Meanwhile, based on her own limited notions, which are clearly skewed by the race-obsessed world she lives in, Michelle Obama is the one projecting her assumptions onto America.
In Up from Slavery Booker T. Washington wrote:
The wisest among my race understand that agitations of social equality is the extremist folly, and that progress in the enjoyment of all privileges that will come to us must be the result of severe and constant struggle rather than of artificial forcing.
One hundred fourteen years later, referring again to whites making color-based assumptions, Mrs. Obama told the graduates, “My husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives. … And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry.”
Because after all, everyone knows that closets full of haute couture (like the $12,000 Carolina Herrera gown), numerous multimillion dollar vacations, fawning celebrity friends, international fame and fortune, and political power are all examples of the "sting of daily slights" that are very "heavy burden[s] to carry."
“But,” the FLOTUS said, “those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up.” Oh, no, “They are not an excuse to lose hope. To succumb to feelings of despair and anger only means that in the end, we lose.”
With that said, when matched against the stature of a man like Booker T. Washington, the real loss was the first African-American first lady’s decision to taint the Tuskegee commencement with an acrimonious attitude of despair and anger that Booker T. would never have endorsed.
Jeannie hosts a blog at www.jeannie-ology.com