All Articles Tagged "racism"
A family in suburban New York discovered a letter in their mailbox that, in no uncertain terms, told them to move out of the neighborhood because “it will be better for all of us.”
“Unbelievable but then it’s not,” Copes said on Facebook. The letter is now being investigated by Suffolk County Police as a possible hate crime.
Copes did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
County executive Steven Bellone said he hopes the person who wrote the letter is discovered and punished.
“To the coward who committed a hate crime against an innocent family in Lindenhurst — There is no place for intolerance in Suffolk County,” Bellone said in a statement obtained by PIX11. “I know the Suffolk County Police Department will do everything possible to solve this hate crime, out you and see you punished.”
Read more about this case and letter at BlackVoices.com
I don’t have to tell y’all racism is real. And when it was announced that Michael B Jordan would be playing the role of Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four film, all hell broke loose on social media. When asked about it during interviews, Jordan would brush it off, giving a comment or two here and there. But today, Entertainment Weekly, published a full essay from the actor addressing not only the racists out there but the die-hard comic fans who only want to see that character portrayed a certain way.
See what he had to say below.
You’re not supposed to go on the Internet when you’re cast as a superhero. But after taking on Johnny Storm in “Fantastic Four”—a character originally written with blond hair and blue eyes—I wanted to check the pulse out there. I didn’t want to be ignorant about what people were saying. Turns out this is what they were saying: “A black guy? I don’t like it. They must be doing it because Obama’s president” and “It’s not true to the comic.” Or even, “They’ve destroyed it!”
It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I can see everybody’s perspective, and I know I can’t ask the audience to forget 50 years of comic books. But the world is a little more diverse in 2015 than when the Fantastic Four comic first came out in 1961. Plus, if Stan Lee writes an email to my director saying, “You’re good. I’m okay with this,” who am I to go against that?
Some people may look at my casting as political correctness or an attempt to meet a racial quota, or as part of the year of “Black Film.” Or they could look at it as a creative choice by the director, Josh Trank, who is in an interracial relationship himself—a reflection of what a modern family looks like today.
This is a family movie about four friends—two of whom are myself and Kate Mara as my adopted sister—who are brought together by a series of unfortunate events to create unity and a team. That’s the message of the movie, if people can just allow themselves to see it.
Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, “I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.” I put that responsibility on myself. People are always going to see each other in terms of race, but maybe in the future we won’t talk about it as much. Maybe, if I set an example, Hollywood will start considering more people of color in other prominent roles, and maybe we can reach the people who are stuck in the mindset that “it has to be true to the comic book.” Or maybe we have to reach past them.
To the trolls on the Internet, I want to say: Get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s okay to like it.
If you recall, Boston University sociology professor Saida Grundy came under fire, and later (kind of) apologized for comments she made on Twitter. She previously called White male masculinity on America’s college campuses what it is: a problem.
Naturally, some White male egos were bruised. And now it seems that those bruised egos, particularly the right-wing leaning ones, have responded with a bunch of lies, and for lack of a better word, bullsh*t.
As reported in an article with the unusually long title, “‘Go cry somewhere': Hateful words of black Boston University professor to a white rape survivor written on Facebook three months before she claimed white men are ‘THE problem for America’s colleges’, Daily Mail reporters Snejana Farberov and Kate Pickles write:
The same Boston University professor who recently has sparked outrage by labeling white male college students ‘a problem population,’ in February lashed out at a white rape victim during a heated Facebook exchange. Saida Grundy, incoming black sociology professor at BU, was forced to issue an apology last week for her racially charged tweets condemning Caucasian men, which University President Robert Brown called ‘hurtful’ in his open letter penned to the campus last Tuesday.Today it emerged that months before the controversy over Grundy’s negative tweets slamming ‘white masculinity,’ the veteran educator reportedly ridiculed Meghan Chamberlin, a Caucasian woman who has publicly identified herself as a survivor of sexual assault.
According to the reporters, the alleged offense happened on Facebook under a link thread about an editorial on theGrio.com calling out Patricia Arquette’s haphazard Oscar speech. While accepting her award, Arquette made the proclamation that women deserve to get equal pay for equal work–and then went backstage and made this dumb a** statement: “And it’s time for all the women in America and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”
Chamberlin felt some kind of way about the theGrio.com article, which rightfully called out Arquette’s comments. And as the Daily Mail journalist reports, she wrote this on the public thread:
‘I LITERALLY cry and lose sleep over this,’ Ms Chamberlin wrote in reaction to the op-ed, revealing that she had been raped as a child. ‘What this article did was tell me that I’m not aloud [sic] to ask for help… Because I am a WHITE woman… So when I read this article… you do understand what that does to me, right? It kills me…’
In response, a commenter by the name of Sai Grundy, who used the same photo as the BU professor on her now-private Twitter account, poked fun at the married mother of two writing, ‘I literally cry… While we literally die.’ When Chamberlin replied that she ‘got’ Grundy’s message and assured her that she could now take her ‘claws’ out, the African-American studies professor unleashed a torrent of vitriol in the form of a foul-mouthed message partially written in caps.
The Daily Mail includes a scant screenshot of the “hurtful” exchange, where the alleged mockery of her sexual assault took place. Sounds awfully bad, doesn’t it?
The problem is that Grundy never made fun of Chamberlin’s sexual assault and nowhere in the screenshot does it show that she did. And, in fact, it appears that Grundy’s comments were totally taken out of context. Some mysterious person actually uploaded the entire Facebook post, including the exchange between Chamberlin and Grundy, on tripod called Maximwebsite, which you can read for yourself here.
I won’t, and can’t post the entire exchange because it is too long. However, there are a couple of things of note here: first, the exchange did not happen on Chamberlin’s page, but rather another person’s account, on which both Chamberlin and Grundy came to comment.
And second, I want to highlight the exchange, which led up to the portion that the Daily Mail decided to omit from its report:
Sai Grundy: It was just so white girl of her to use that moment to do some “you owe me” to people of color and queer folk…but say NOTHING TO WHITE MEN?? why couldn’t she just be on some “white men, I promise you won’t make less when we make equal” instead of going full basic white girl and insisting that “women” is a straight white category that white saviored all the other marginalized groups (hint: at zero historical moments has that actually happened)
To which Chamberlin responded:
Well shit. I’ve been put in my place then. As a “white girl”, i now know not to expect the same humanitarianism that I ggive and show for every other sex, color, race…I mean, it’s ONLY white men who oppress us women, OOOOPS. Redact that statement too. How DARE I say “women”…as if we’re in this together or anything. Damn, and I woke up on the right side of the bed for once.
And the conversation went downhill from there. However, not once did Grundy make fun of Chamberlin’s sexual assault. In fact, it is clear that Chamberlin was the one trying to deflect from Grundy’s accurate point about Arquette’s half-a**ed activism by making it personal to her, instead of sticking to the topic.
Again, and if you have time, you should read the entire exchange for yourself. It is pretty obvious that folks are out to get Professor Grundy for that bit of truth-telling she unleashed on Twitter. Meanwhile, you have other professors preaching the model minority myth as fact and claiming academic freedom. Go figure.
Six years in office and some Americans are still seriously troubled by the fact that our President is a Black man. It was recently discovered that if the search terms “n*gga house” or “n*gger house” are typed into Google Maps, Internet users will be directed to the White House.
It is not clear whether a hacker or an angry Google employee is responsible for the listing, but a spokesperson for the technology company says that they’re aware of the offensive listing.
“We apologize for any offense this may have caused. Our teams are working to fix this issue quickly,” a rep told TMZ yesterday.
As of this morning, the search term was still directing users to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This, of course, isn’t the only inappropriate search term that leads to the White House. As one social media user pointed out, searching “cracka house” will also lead you to the White House as well as the government office of Congressman Mike Coffman.
Bryan Seely, who has created fake Google Maps listings for the Secret Service and the FBI, explained to Search Engineland last month how hackers are able to execute these pranks.
“You create a business in Google Maps at an address where you can receive mail and with a phone number you can receive calls to,” Seely explained. “You get Google to send you a verification postcard to the address. Once the business is verified, you delete it from your account. Then you use another Google account to claim this now orphaned business. You gain control over it by doing verification via phone. Once that’s happened, you’re free to move the business to anywhere you want, change the name and alter other details.”
After all of that, I have to ask who really has the time to go through all of that just to create a fake listing.
I can’t be the only person who cannot stop thinking about that Georgia administrator who showed her true colors at a high school graduation last weekend. Nancy Gordeuk, principal and founder of TNT Academy, and her calling out of “all the Black people,” with that deep southern accent, is tragically hilarious.
Gordeuk gained national attention and even issued an apology–or blamed the devil– for her racially-charged words. But it wasn’t enough.
According to Atlanta, Georgia’s NBC affiliate, 11 Alive News, Gordeuk has been fired.
Dr. Heidi Anderson, the chair of the board of directors at TNT Academy, wrote a letter to the Gwinnett County chapter of the NAACP saying that the board voted to dismiss Gordeuk.
In light of recent events, the board of directors of TNT Academy has moved to dismiss Nancy Gordeuk as principal. During the coming transition, we will continue to prioritize support for our most recent graduates. Moreover, we will continue our commitment to providing students with the best educational classes, transcription services, and academic credit recovery possible.
The Georgia NAACP President Francys Johnson sent an e-mail to 11 Alive News, supporting the board in their decision.
“Beyond the inappropriate remarks, the former principal attempted to legitimize the bizarre episode by claiming ‘the devil made her do it.” This is not just about Mrs. Gordeuk’s comments. The NAACP would defend Mrs. Gordeuk’s right as a private citizen to free speech. However, those entrusted with responsibility for our children must set a high standard marked by civility. That is obviously a test the former principal failed.”
Thankfully, this punishment came down quick, before Gordeuk was able to interact with another group of students.
Yesterday, we told you about Saida Grundy and her offensive tweets, directed at White, college males. You may recall that she said they are not a problem, they are THE problem.
And naturally, people, Black and White, took issue with her words.
Well, Grundy has come forward with an apology.
She said the events of the past year have made “the inconvenient matter of race” an unavoidable topic, but in a statement to Inside Higher Ed, she expressed remorse over her delivery.
“In the past year alone, the inconvenient matter of race has made itself an unavoidable topic of discussion in our country. These issues are uncomfortable for all of us, and yet, the events we now witness with regularity in our nation tell us that we can no longer circumvent the problems of difference with strategies of silence. I regret that my personal passion about issues surrounding these events led me to speak about them indelicately. I deprived them of the nuance and complexity that such subjects always deserve.
As an experienced educator, I take seriously my responsibility to create an inclusive learning environment for all of my students. Both professionally and ethically, I am unequivocally committed to ensuring that my classroom is a space where all students are welcomed. I know firsthand that students learn best by discussing these issues openly and honestly without risk of censure or penalty. I look forward to more dialogues about race, diversity and inclusion in my career at Boston University, and to having the honor of knowing and teaching some of the finest minds in the world.”
Boston University President, Robert Brown, told the publication that while he doesn’t normally speak on the personal views of his faculty members, he did share some thoughts about Grundy’s words.
“We are disappointed and concerned by statements that reduce individuals to stereotypes on the basis of a broad category such as sex, race or ethnicity. I believe Dr. Grundy’s remarks fit this characterization. I understand there is a broader context to Dr. Grundy’s tweets and that, as a scholar, she has the right to pursue her research, formulate her views and challenge the rest of us to think differently about race relations. But we also must recognize that words have power and the words in her Twitter feed were powerful in the way they stereotyped and condemned other people. As a university president, I am accustomed to living in a world where faculty do — and should — have great latitude to express their opinions and provoke discussion. But I also have an obligation to speak up when words become hurtful to one group or another in the way they typecast and label its members. That is why I weigh in on this issue today.”
Grundy is set to begin work at the University on July 1.
Once upon a time, race was top five in topics of discussion likely sparred about in living rooms or over after and dinner swigs of wine. It wasn’t aired out entirely in public on non-political forums. Nowadays, however, opinionated word vomit spews out and blends across social media platforms. This gives anyone with a cell and access to a computer the ability to choose a side when another police officer murders a black man or woman. Every so often I’ll join the Twitter picket line and offer up my position on whatever matter is currently hashtagged. But for the most part, I stick to debating the weight of race relations and race-related issues with my inner circle, which has, since the exponential increase of black people being killed by police, revealed a lot about who my friends and I really are in the grand scheme of society.
Tragic collisions between blue-collared authorities and the black community always hit home, but the #BaltimoreUprising—following the death of Freddie Gray—not only shook the last bit of patience I had with systemic racism, but also rattled me enough to sound off on social media with rage.
“Everyone’s reporting live from the safety of their homes,” I wrote. “E- screaming at each other for having opposing opinions about whether we should or should not use violence to get our point across. We all want the same thing, but how do we get there? When this media storm and social media activism rests, what’s next? How do we really get police to stop killing us? We’re all outraged. We all get it. But until we stop being so damn divided about how we reach our common goal, it’s the same story. AGAIN.”
It’s a sentiment not immediately understood in the midst of Internet white noise, especially not by friends who are used to me sliding into their inbox about racial matters before I would even think about causing an uproar. But those off-the-cuff thoughts were scrolled over and felt, allowing my non-black friends to respond either online or in my inbox. Responses fell on two sides. There were the white friends who either lacked understanding, exhibiting some faux #AllLivesMatter crap or those who quickly hit the unfollow button. And then there were my fellow black and brown brethren who felt, to some degree, for a city burning in the name of another American injustice. It wasn’t until I had a heart-to-heart with my Filipino friend, Adelle, and later, a conversation with my friend of Puerto Rican heritage (his blasé attitude about Baltimore folks being deemed “thugs” was truly the most eye-opening moment of our friendship), that I realized the key catalyst for how a conversation can go left or go right is understanding.
Now, to believe a friend who wasn’t born black could grasp the full magnitude of black Americans being hunted by those who’ve sworn to protect and serve is foolish, but it doesn’t take a poet laureate with a Ph.D. to enter into every dialogue with an open mind and open ears. After Mike Brown, I found the comfort in most of my non-black friends’ emotions to be calming. They felt the sadness, respected the shift in the racial climate and sought to understand why I believed burning down one’s own neighborhood wasn’t right but sometimes necessary.
Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter may have said it best:
“I’ve never been black, OK? So I don’t know. I can’t put myself there. I’ve never faced the challenges that they face, so I understand the emotion, but I can’t … It’s a pet peeve of mine when somebody says, ‘Well, I know what they’re feeling. Why don’t they do this? Why doesn’t somebody do that?’ You have never been black, OK? So just slow down a little bit.”
Clearly, he gets it.
I’m a firm believer that the seriousness of what’s happening in Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland and every other city that’s overrun with the blood of innocent black lives should be discussed at length–to the point of exhaustion really–in order for every culture to learn tolerance so that we can work together. To me, to blatantly default to blissful (and privileged) ignorance and have an unwillingness to show compassion for several hundred years worth of being preyed upon and mistreatment screams racism. To simply downplay these injustices to talk about “black-on-black crime” instead is a slap in the face. To act like you know what it’s like when you have no clue, is a joke. But with friends, I’ve learned to tread lightly; to nurture their perception of blacks with authenticity and love. Instead of flipping out on them, I have the chance to help open their minds. To have them look at these injustices in a new light. To bolster understanding. As a friend and someone who genuinely wants to see things change, that’s important to me.
Too Much Or Too Real? Incoming Black Professor Says White Males Are The Problem For America’s Colleges
Twitter will have you jeopardizing opportunities if you’re not careful with your words…or if you just don’t care who knows how you really feel.
According to theGrio, incoming Boston University professor Saida Grundy came under fire recently for a series of what some are calling racially intolerant tweets.
Grundy is set to begin teaching in July but some students are already questioning her ethics.
Here’s what she had to say:
why is white america so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?
white masculinity is THE problem for America’s colleges.
Deal with your white [expletive], white people. slavery is YALL thing.
Then she wrote:
every MLK week i commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. and every year i find it nearly impossible.
Her tweets were grabbed and shared on several websites and Fox News. Grundy made her account private shortly after that.
Some students are taking issue with the tweets. One junior political science major said, “If I’m hiring a professor, I want someone who can relate to all students, all groups of people from all walks of life. It just seems to me that she is just not able to do that.”
Another student Ukrainian sociology student said, “BU is one of the most diverse schools in the country, and it actually has a lot of people who come from different backgrounds, and her tweets would just be exclusionary to a lot of those people.”
Other students have defended her comments. A student group called the People of Color Coalition expressed their support. One member of the group, studying neuroscience and philosophy said the tweets weren’t racially charged.
“I don’t think reverse racism against white folks is a thing. You need to have institutional and systemic power in order to be racist. People of color like Professor Grundy don’t have that…I’m 100 percent supportive of her and excited for her to come to campus.”
Hell, I’d be excited for Professor Grundy to come through too. She’s about to shake some things up! But let’s talk about these tweets.
There is a lot of truth behind her words. White people need to deal with their stuff. Slavery, as this country knows it, has primarily been a White people thing. And White people, by in large, have yet to acknowledge, let alone mention the lingering aftermath of it. But I think her tweets become problematic when she starts generalizing and labeling a specific group of people. True, White people are the benefactors of slavery and perpetrators of racism; but still, it’s slavery and racism that are the real problems here. Not all White, college boys are a part of the “problem population” but racism is the force, the system that makes them most likely to belong to it.
White masculinity is not inherently problematic but racism and misogyny have made it so. Her tweets seem to be attacking the symptoms and not the disease. It would be the equivalent of a Fox News correspondent saying that Black and Brown people are THE problem in society because they make up 60 percent (in 2012) of the prison population. The statement fails to take into consideration the drug laws that disproportionately disadvantage Black and Brown people. It doesn’t consider poverty, the heavy and often unnecessary presence of police in Black and Brown neighborhoods and…#racism.
It’s all around us. So in that sense, I agree with Grundy. White people need to deal with their ish. And racism is a part of that. But in the meantime, I think we all need to be careful to invest our energy into attacking the system that bred these problematic White boys rather than the boys themselves.
Still, I don’t think her opinions disqualify her for the position. Unlike that particular student quoted above, I don’t believe all professors should be able to relate to all students. As Black women, there have been more professors who had absolutely no idea who we were or what we experience, than teachers, and later professors, who could actually relate. And while being able to relate would be a nice perk, it doesn’t mean that you can learn from that person. I’m sure the students at Boston University could learn plenty from Professor Grundy.
What do you think about Grundy’s tweets, were they out of line or did she speak the truth?
It is not easy being a Black person in contemporary America. Heck, why even kid ourselves. It has never been easy being a Black person during any time in American history.
Yet, the current narrative in society tells us that we are post-racial. Not only have Black folks integrated into all facets of life and culture, but America has done the brave thing by electing a bi-racial president – twice.
However, these symbols of our alleged progress have always been a misnomer. For one, there have always been Black folks doing things in society besides being slaves. In fact, as early as 1600, there were a lot of Black folks, or half-Black folks, in both the North and South, who worked, went to school, owned businesses, and in some instances, voted and had plantations of their own. However, even with all of these freedoms and privileges similar in kind to their White counterparts, Blacks who were not slaves, and often born free, were still regarded politically, socially and culturally as inferior beings.
As Henry Louis Gates once lectured in this essay entitled, “Free Blacks Lived In the North, Right?” for The Root
Laws, especially in the Upper South, reflected whites’ suspicion (very often hatred) of free blacks, and there were repeated attempts to deport them, to register them, to jail the indolent and tax and extort the wage-earner, to disenfranchise the free black caste altogether from voting or testifying in court against whites. To leave little doubt, as Berlin quotes the saying at the time, that “even the lowest whites [could] threaten free Negroes … with ‘a good nigger beating.'”
Therefore, this idea that we are past the point of race and racism being an issue all because Black people are freer to participate in American society, ignores the micro-aggression that many of us free Black men and women have dealt with and continue to deal with every single day of our lives.
Microaggression, like the kind that follows us around in stores, just because we are Black. Microaggression, like the kind that calls the police on us and reports us as suspicious, simply for being a Black face in predominantly White spaces. Microaggression, like the kind that accepts our resumes and lets us apply for jobs with our Euro-centric names, but won’t hire us when they discover that we are Black in person. Microaggression, like the kind that assigns rarity and uniqueness to us, just because we are Black and can speak, read and write the Queen’s tongue in full, complete sentences. Microaggression, like the kind that assumes cultural norms, speech and values created outside of the Euro-centric dominated culture, particularly the kind created by Black people, are automatically wrong or abnormal. Microaggression, like the kind that assumes you are a service, domestic or retail worker because you are Black and happen to be shopping in an upscale retail or grocery store. Microaggression, like the kind that doesn’t want you in their films and television shows, even when the film and television shows are about ethnic people and assumes that Black people can’t be representational of all people, just as our White counterparts often are. Microaggression, like the kind that will elect a Black man president, but refuse to respect his authority and never fully consider him an American citizen, just because he is Black – or even half-Black.
That’s right. Just like our ancestors born free, free Black folks of today are still catching heck. And while we have moved past the point where we are regarded openly as N-words and are made to sit in the back of the bus, that does not mean that in certain hearts and minds, ignorant people have stopped looking at Rosa Parks as nothing more than an uppity troublemaking lazy ni**er.
Moreover, nothing illustrates how truly unfree we are in this alleged post-racial America more than what happened to the graduating students, and their families, at TNT Academy in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
According to WSBTV Channel 2, Nancy Gordeuk, principal and founder of the private, nontraditional learning center, decided that it was a good idea to make racial remarks during the school’s graduation ceremony. A 30-second video of the more shocking part of the incident has been making the rounds on various social media websites, which you can watch here. However, as WSBTV reports on the back story, Gordeuk made the racial comments after she had accidentally closed the ceremony before the class valedictorian, a White guy, could give his speech. Apparently she forgot to include him in the program.
The mistake was hers. But instead of taking the blame for the ensuing confusion, as the news station reports, Gordeuk started blaming the Black people in the mixed race audience for “being rude” and then went on to single out a Black audience member who was taking pictures of the ceremony, calling him a “goober” and a “coward.”
Understandably, many in attendance, including some of the graduating seniors, began to walk out. Some who walked out were White people. But apparently it was the Black people not knowing their rightful place in the White man’s world that upset Gordeuk the most. She then remarked, “Look who’s leaving, all the black people…”
Two reporters from Channel 2 decided to track down Gordeuk in her home to see if she was the least bit remorseful for her microaggression. However, you can’t shame the shameless and as she nonchalantly told the reporters about why she made the remarks, “Who I saw leaving were black people, so that’s where the statement came from, ‘look who’s leaving, all the black people.'”
No wonder heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for African Americans in this country. And no wonder homicide of one other is the sixth leading cause of death for African Americans in this country. Look at the crap we have to put up with. Look at the crap we have to put up with while still having to remain calm and dignified so that we do not end up burning this country down to ashes. As more and more research has surfaced, microaggression often results in us silently killing ourselves, as well as misplacing aggression onto each other, instead of giving the much-needed ass kicking to those who are truly deserving of our aggression. And Lord knows that Gordeuk lady really needs a big, stiff Black foot right up the behind…
The funny part here is that Gordeuk, as well as many of her ilk, probably thinks herself a good decent White woman. She probably goes around town, telling everyone how she sees no color and regularly pats herself on the back because she let a few of us lowly Black folks attend her exclusive, nontraditional school. In the minds of folks like Gordeuk, being post-racial means being able to be in the same room with us without trying to find ways to kill or enslave us.
To the contrary, what will ultimately make our society post-racial, is when White people, in particular, can no longer think, behave or make statements like the ones Gordeuk made without impunity. What will ultimately showcase our post-racialness is when White people in particular begin to treat everyone, regardless of skin color, gender and sexual orientation, with the respect and dignity that is entitled to us all – not just as American citizens, but as human beings.
But that will never happen because America has no intention of being post-racial. If it did, the entire empire, which was built and continues to operate off of the oppression of Black bodies, would collapse. As such, Gordeuk will likely make some tired, half-ass apology, she will get to keep her position, everyone will move on, and Black folks will continue suffering under the weight of microaggression.
Surely, you’ve noticed that this Mother’s Day weekend, there were quite a few graduation ceremonies taking place across the country. Tuskegee University also had their commencement this weekend and First Lady, Michelle Obama was the speaker. She had some really poignant words to share with the graduates about her own successes and failures, and spoke very candidly about the challenges she faced being the first Black woman to hold the position of First Lady and how she overcame them.
She begins the speech talking about the illustrious history of the university and the graduates who made a difference in the world. She mentioned the Tuskegee airmen who took the bumps and bruises of racism to fly into the sky, free.
She said that the graduates today, looking back at that history, might be feeling some pressure to live up to that legacy. And she spoke about the ways in which she too had felt pressure as the First Lady of the United States.
And believe me, I understand that kind of pressure. (Applause.) I’ve experienced a little bit of it myself. You see, graduates, I didn’t start out as the fully-formed First Lady who stands before you today. No, no, I had my share of bumps along the way.
Back when my husband first started campaigning for President, folks had all sorts of questions of me: What kind of First Lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on? Would I be more like Laura Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Reagan? And the truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate’s spouse. That’s just the way the process works. But, as potentially the first African American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? (Applause.) Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?
Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover — it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and machine gun. Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me.
Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a “terrorist fist jab.” 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.”
And of course, Barack has endured his fair share of insults and slights. Even today, there are still folks questioning his citizenship.
And all of this used to really get to me. Back in those days, I had a lot of sleepless nights, worrying about what people thought of me, wondering if I might be hurting my husband’s chances of winning his election, fearing how my girls would feel if they found out what some people were saying about their mom.
But eventually, I realized that if I wanted to keep my sanity and not let others define me, there was only one thing I could do, and that was to have faith in God’s plan for me. (Applause.) I had to ignore all of the noise and be true to myself — and the rest would work itself out. (Applause.)
So throughout this journey, I have learned to block everything out and focus on my truth. I had to answer some basic questions for myself: Who am I? No, really, who am I? What do I care about?
And the answers to those questions have resulted in the woman who stands before you today. (Applause.) A woman who is, first and foremost, a mom. (Applause.) Look, I love our daughters more than anything in the world, more than life itself. And while that may not be the first thing that some folks want to hear from an Ivy-league educated lawyer, it is truly who I am. (Applause.) So for me, being Mom-in-Chief is, and always will be, job number one.
Next, I’ve always felt a deep sense of obligation to make the biggest impact possible with this incredible platform. So I took on issues that were personal to me — issues like helping families raise healthier kids, honoring the incredible military families I’d met on the campaign trail, inspiring our young people to value their education and finish college. (Applause.)
Now, some folks criticized my choices for not being bold enough. But these were my choices, my issues. And I decided to tackle them in the way that felt most authentic to me — in a way that was both substantive and strategic, but also fun and, hopefully, inspiring.
So I immersed myself in the policy details. I worked with Congress on legislation, gave speeches to CEOs, military generals and Hollywood executives. But I also worked to ensure that my efforts would resonate with kids and families — and that meant doing things in a creative and unconventional way. So, yeah, I planted a garden, and hula-hooped on the White House Lawn with kids. I did some Mom Dancing on TV. I celebrated military kids with Kermit the Frog. I asked folks across the country to wear their alma mater’s T-shirts for College Signing Day.
And at the end of the day, by staying true to the me I’ve always known, I found that this journey has been incredibly freeing. Because no matter what happened, I had the peace of mind of knowing that all of the chatter, the name calling, the doubting — all of it was just noise. (Applause.) It did not define me. It didn’t change who I was. And most importantly, it couldn’t hold me back. I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values — and follow my own moral compass — then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.
So, graduates, that’s what I want for all of you. I want you all to stay true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves. I want you to ask those basic questions: Who do you want to be? What inspires you? How do you want to give back? And then I want you to take a deep breath and trust yourselves to chart your own course and make your mark on the world.
You can read the full speech from Mrs. Obama, transcribed for the White House, on the next page.