Michelle Obama Breaks the Rules

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tags: Michelle Obama



Garry Wills holds the Alonzo L. McDonald Family Chair on the Life and Teachings of Jesus and Their Impact on Culture at Emory. He is the author of "The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis."

In her May 9 commencement address at Tuskegee University, the historically black institution, Michelle Obama actually said (what I bet the students already suspected) that she is black:

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 — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the “help”—and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country. 

How dare she? The right wing does not allow such a reference. “We” let “you people” win the White House, which meant that racism is over with and gone. Difference was abolished. Any mention of it now is “playing the race card”—and was denounced as such by all the many mouths of the Right—by Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh shuddered melodramatically at a speech that could “lead to racial strife unlike any that we who are alive today remember.” How could an inspiring speech to students lead to such a doomsday? In her own quiet way Ms. Obama was breaking all of the four rules of racial discourse the right wing now wants to enforce.

RULE ONE: Thou shalt not doubt that racism is gone. “You people never had it so good.” This reflects the Chief Justice Roberts school of social history, declaring provisions of the Voting Rights Act obsolete. Ms. Obama violated this rule when she told the Tuskegee graduates that they may suffer “small indignities” because they are black. They would never have thought of this if she had not mentioned it. Mr. Limbaugh is right to anticipate the Apocalypse after such an incendiary comment. ...




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