It’s so rough to be Michelle Obama.
“I wake up in a house that was built by slaves,” she told graduates of City College of New York.
Near the end of a commencement speech that was intended to be uplifting and inspiring, it was a curious phrase, to say the least.
I understand the point she was trying to make with the speech, that it’s a good thing when people from many different backgrounds can come together, yada yada. Although she used the irritating buzzword “diversity” probably a couple dozen times, she actually mentioned the concept of the American melting pot, so bravo her — all in all, it wasn’t a bad speech.
It’s just that one phrase that bothers, especially after she spent several minutes trashing Donald Trump.
Or I should say the Fomorian version of Trump, the xenophobic monster, the bogeyman that illegal immigrants and other Liberals warn their anchor babies about when they misbehave. She didn’t actually mention his name, but it was pretty obvious who she was complaining about.
“Some folks,” according to the first lady, apparently are threatened by “our diversity.” Let’s be honest; “some folks” is code for white conservatives.
She then riffed into a line about those folks’ “anger and intolerance,” which is a little ironic considering what a phenomenal bigot her husband has turned out to be in practice, an attitude that has marked much of his Administration.
“Here in America, we don’t give in to our fears,” she said, after having just taken a Freudian tour of Liberals’ neuroses surrounding Trump. “We don’t build up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere but sought out this country and made it their home.”
Actually, our greatness has always depended on people who were already here having jobs, and those who were born elsewhere coming here legally and finding jobs, but why quibble?
Following a whole long spiel about students’ struggles to overcome life’s obstacles and graduate to tell “their story,” she said, “It’s a story that I witness every single day, when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters, two beautiful black young women, head off to school.”
Technically, she’s not incorrect. When the White House and the rest of D.C. was being constructed in 1792, on land ceded by two slave states, it was probably inevitable that slaves would be used to quarry the stone for the project. But slaves were far from the only workers involved. Initially, the plan had been to import workers from Europe, but that didn’t pan out, so the project’s directors contracted with some slave owners to provide needed muscle.
The slaves joined a labor force of free black men, Irish men, Scots, and white artisans and workers from Virginia and Maryland. Obama didn’t mention any of them, though. And I don’t believe it was just for the purpose of showing that blacks have “come a long way, baby.”
Although she painted herself and President Obama as coming from humble beginnings, they both come from middle-class privilege. Michelle had enough to go to summer camps and college on, and Barry only did drugs, he didn’t exactly have to sell them to pay the rent.
But she was burnishing her victim credits during that speech. In a list of students she described, there were a lot of mentions of immigrants from far-away countries, and she tried to connect herself to those immigrant students by talking about her ancestors who first came to this country “in chains,” and how her father had to take out loans to pay for her college. She didn’t talk about the slave-owning Irish ancestors on the other branch of the family, or about the president’s white family.
After nearly eight years of the Obamas, it’s not easy to forget the long list of public embarrassments the president and first lady have conjured up, and it’s difficult to stomach the “it’s so hard not to be white” overtone of Michelle’s graduation pep talk and not recall her infamous line, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country,” or to reflect on the racial division her husband has created in this country through his reactions to things like the Trayvon Martin case, the Ferguson riots and Black Lives Matter.
The White House is not a house that slaves built, it’s a house that we all built, if not physically then spiritually, psychologically. It’s ours, not “ours vs. their’s.” Yet once again, we have an Obama casually drawing racial lines.
Really, what else is there to say about the first couple? Throughout eight years, they have remained as tacky, tasteless and backhandedly racist as ever.
They can’t go away soon enough.