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First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks Truth About Racism During Commencement

by Todd A. Smith

 

The Truth Hurts

 

One can gain a lot of wisdom from popular memes that circulate throughout the Internet.


A meme that resonated with me said something to the effect that the truth sounds like hatred to those that hate the truth.


First Lady Michelle Obama’s truthful and unapologetic speech on the uphill battles faced by African-Americans because of racism is the second most truthful words I have ever heard outside of the Holy Bible.


And just like those who hate the truth in the Bible, those who hate the truth about how bad racism is in America, like conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others are upset with Obama’s words because the truth hurts more than the sharpest sword.


In her commencement address to the graduates at Tuskegee University, First Lady Michelle Obama said: “The world won’t always see you in those caps and gowns.  They won’t know how hard you worked and how much you sacrificed to make it to this day—the countless hours you spent studying to get this diploma, the multiple jobs you worked to pay for school, the times you had to drive home and take care of your grandma, the evenings you gave up to volunteer at a food bank or organize a campus fundraiser.  They don’t know that part of you.


“Instead they will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world.  And my husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be.  We’ve both felt that 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.”


Some conservative critics have labeled First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech as inappropriate for a college graduation, but in all honesty her speech was the most appropriate and spot-on speech that I have heard in quite some time.


In a time in which every week Americans seem to be bombarded with another story of an unarmed African-American being gunned down by a police officer, in what other venue could First Lady Michelle Obama speak about the truth of racism than to the future leaders of the African-American community at a historically Black college like Tuskegee?


Conservative commentators who have criticized her are the ones that are inappropriate and tone deaf.


As a man, I would never tell a woman what it feels like to give birth because I will never be in her shoes.  I will never know, thankfully, how painful childbirth is.  All I can do as a man is empathize with her and be there for her in any way I can.


Likewise, a non-Black person can never tell an African-American what the sting of racism feels like because they have never walked in our shoes.


All they should do is be quiet, listen and learn.


Their condescending comments are beyond inappropriate.


Laura Ingraham called the speech “a litany of victimization.”


Rush Limbaugh said the commencement address was First Lady Michelle Obama “playing the race card.”


And Sean Hannity said she showed “bitterness” and a “lack of appreciation for the opportunities” she has received.


No disrespect to Hannity and the others, but when something is overly bitter one does something to make it sweeter.  Hopefully, speaking out openly about racism will teach people to be more tolerant.


Furthermore, First Lady Michelle Obama should not show an appreciation for her opportunities because the opportunities she has been given are from God not America or its people.


Every person, regardless of race or gender, should expect equal opportunities in this thing called life and he should not expect anyone to show him or other conservatives any appreciation for something that should be automatic.


In addition, those who say that speaking about racism is inappropriate for First Lady Michelle Obama must also believe that it is inappropriate for a First Lady to speak about other issues of the day.


First Ladies have always played the role of social activist and many picked issues that were near and dear to their heart and that affected their demographic.


According to GeorgeWBushLibrary.SMU.com, “Due to their position and proximity, proponents of causes would implore First Ladies for their aid and assistance, and sometimes were successful at finding a champion.  Harriet Lane took an interest in the needs of Native Americans.  Mary Todd Lincoln advocated education, employment, and housing opportunities for freed slaves.  Helen Taft inspected unsafe working conditions and used her influence to get health and safety laws passed….Laura Bush worked to further libraries, education, and the National Parks…”


And in addition to combatting childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama is now trying to mend the racial divide and end racial discrimination.


Her critics obviously are uninformed about the history and role that First Ladies have played in this nation’s growth.


Or maybe they do know the role of the First Lady and it is hurting them that the changes that First Lady Michelle Obama seeks will end their good ole boy network of conducting business and politics.


That reality probably is extremely painful but extremely necessary to bring our country together.


This article was published on Friday 15 May, 2015.
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