I agree that sometimes Michelle Obama can come across as angry — and anger is discomforting. We venerate that empty word, closure, wanting to seal off the pain of the past and refusing it admittance to the chirpy present. This of course is nonsense. In her case, Limbaugh and others need only have waited until the end of the week to understand her better. At Tuskegee University, she told the graduates of that historically black institution that she wasn’t always first lady. Once, she was just like them.
She knew that many people would not always look at the graduates as the product of hard work. “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 the 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.”
It’s worth noting that Obama was the second presidential wife to appear at Tuskegee. Eleanor Roosevelt was there in 1941, yet another first lady denounced as angry and presumptuous and, in her case, virtually a communist. But just as Eleanor Roosevelt articulated the experiences and plight of the poor as well as racial and ethnic minorities, so does Michelle Obama articulate the black experience. If that sometimes makes others uncomfortable, it damn well should.