Saturday 16 December 2017

By perceiving victimhood, Michelle just encourages it

Obamas' speeches are in danger of feeding into racial paranoia

First lady Michelle Obama gives a thumbs up after walking out on stage just before delivering the commencement address at Tuskegee University, Saturday, May 9, in Tuskegee (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
First lady Michelle Obama gives a thumbs up after walking out on stage just before delivering the commencement address at Tuskegee University, Saturday, May 9, in Tuskegee (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Emer O'Kelly

The first time Michelle Obama was on the cover of a magazine, it was a New Yorker cartoon, which depicted her with a huge Afro and a machine gun. According to Mrs Obama, it "knocked [her] back a bit." It's understandable. It's always a shock to be faced with a public perception that may have damn all to do with reality. And there's the fact that it may not exactly coincide with your own perception of yourself.

Michelle Obama is very tall and has a magnificent figure. She's a known fitness fanatic, and has never been mealy-mouthed: she says what she thinks. All of those qualities can easily combine to create an impression of an Amazon: but a beautiful, BLACK Amazon?

Michelle Obama appears to think they were making a point of her skin colour. At Tuskegee University, Alabama, an institution where the student body, historically, has been black, she told a commencement ceremony how "perceptions of her racial identity" had played a part in the 2008 presidential campaign. She cited the New Yorker cover as part of that. So who was suggesting that a cartoon of Mrs Obama as a beautiful warrior who happened to have a black skin, implied that she was a terrorist?

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