Michelle Obama Admits Her Role As The First Black FLOTUS Hasn't Been Easy
Being first lady isn’t easy. But for the current First Lady of the United States, the role holds an additional challenge. At a commencement address to Tuskegee University graduates on Saturday, Michelle Obama admitted it hasn't been easy being the country’s first black first lady. At the historically black university in Alabama, Obama opened up to the students about the pressure and scrutiny she felt and continues to feel from both the media and political pundits because of her race.
Obama recounted the numerous derogatory remarks she has encountered over the years. The celebratory fist bump between her and her husband after his primary win that was described as a “terrorist fist jab.” The constant questions on the 2008 campaign trail about what kind of first lady she would be that, according to Obama, none of the other potential first ladies really encountered.
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.’
For a while, Obama told the 500 mostly African-American graduates, she suffered sleepless nights worrying about her image and how people perceived her. She didn’t want to hurt her husband’s chance at election, and she didn’t want her daughters to be exposed to the negativity. But eventually, she realized that that’s exactly what all of those comments were: negativity that was really just “noise.” This realization was the piece of advice that Obama wanted to impress upon the Tuskegee graduates. She told the graduates to put the negativity aside and not to allow it to interfere with their achievement of their dreams.
Referencing the turmoil in both Baltimore and Ferguson, Obama acknowledged the unfortunate reality that the country was still struggling with “age-old problems” of discrimination and racism. But following that acknowledgement and the description of the challenges she has faced as the first black first lady, Obama urged the graduates to do just what she has done: acknowledge that the country’s lingering problem with racism is frustrating, but avoid getting bogged down by feelings of anger and resentment.
[People] will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. 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.
But, graduates, today, I want to be very clear that those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up. ... They are not an excuse to lose hope. To succumb to feelings of despair and anger only means that in the end, we lose.
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