Michelle Obama’s Rules Of Assimilation (nytimes Opinion Piece) Do You Agree?

Discussion in 'News - Breaking News & Political Forum' started by ZedianChic, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. ZedianChic

    ZedianChic Well-Known Member

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    Michelle Obama’s Rules of Assimilation

    Why do black people still feel we have to retain white empathy at the expense of being truly empathetic to ourselves?

    [​IMG]
    By Erin Aubry Kaplan

    Contributing Opinion Writer

    I happened to be finishing Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” during her recent surprise appearance at the Grammys. She gave a short speech about music bringing people together — “whether we like country, or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves,” she said. The timing felt appropriate — it’s Black History Month, and although the Obamas are now ensconced in that history, we are only beginning to truly examine their legacy.

    Let me stress that I like Mrs. Obama. I very much identify with her. I, too, was born in the ’60s and grew up working class in a black family that saw higher education as the way forward. What’s always interested me about Mrs. Obama is how she created a modern narrative of black womanhood just by being herself. The most notable accomplishment of her memoir is that she shows how being consciously black and being an individual are not incompatible, but an ordinary state of being.

    She is a soldier in the racial struggles that engage all black folks, but at the same time she is human — vulnerable, uncertain, thrilled to be in love, anxious to be liked. She is, for a time, comfortably middle class, too, which may be the most radical part of this narrative, because black folks who acquire money and prestige are assumed not to have any problems worth serious consideration (they are not, in other words, authentically black). Not so.

    And yet reading “Becoming” made me realize, with a sinking heart, how much further we have to go before we routinely hear the whole story about black people’s experience.






    The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. speaking to his congregation at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in 2006.CreditJason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press
    [​IMG]

    The Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. speaking to his congregation at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in 2006.
    Credit Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press
    More important, these are critiques I’ve heard in many forms from ordinary black people. I can’t imagine Mrs. Obama hasn’t heard them, too, and doesn’t understand exactly where they come from.

    The point is not that she has to completely agree with Mr. Wright. But in her disavowals, she’s making a political choice — not surprising, given the book and other projects that hinge on her popularity and “relatability.” That’s what’s so dismaying. As the highest-profile black American woman in the world for eight years, as a towering first, she has a rare chance — an obligation, in my mind — to broaden the national narrative of exclusion from a story of black striving and overcoming to a story of black discontent. That would be much more meaningful than any feel-good awards-show speech about the “unifying power of music.She could at least give our discontent the same consideration she gives to Iowa voters and military families and other groups whom she describes as having opened her eyes to the deepest meanings of being American. But we don’t get that here. Once again we are denied our fullness because of a (justified) fear it will be interpreted as anti-American. Mrs. Obama still follows the rule of assimilation: It’s more important to retain white empathy than to be truly empathetic to ourselves.

    Mrs. Obama writes at one point that as a black first lady, her “grace would need to be earned.” She’s talking again about those rules of assimilation, of that familiar burden of having to be three times as good to even be given a chance. (This, of course, is a truth built into the whole phenomena of Black History Month.) Too bad she doesn’t add that, in their incredible forbearance, black Americans earned their grace long ago, as well as their residual resentments and frustrations built up over 400 years, which are dismissed by the mainstream as anger or crankiness.

    Mrs. Obama does get it right in the title: More of the story of black Americans is being told than ever before, but there is still so much left out, often deliberately. It — and we — are still becoming.
     
  2. VeryBecoming

    VeryBecoming Devil's Avocado

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    It's hard to criticize Michelle Obama, especially given the current White House standards, but I agree. I saw her live last week and left thinking "well, that was for white people." I understand that she is under scrutiny like few other people in this country but I wish she, and a lot of other black people with platforms, didn't have to walk this white empathy tightrope.
     
  3. RoundEyedGirl504

    RoundEyedGirl504 Well-Known Member

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    I read this piece yesterday - this isn't the whole write up here right? I agreed with a lot of the writer's opinions, having read Becoming I had a lot of those same thoughts. Same old, same old. Black folks have to go out of their way to say not ALL white people and play up the narrative of hard work, education.,etc. If anyone expected some sort of radical social justice narrative coming from the Obamas they haven't been paying attention.
     
  4. naijamerican

    naijamerican Well-Known Member

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    The author raises good points and I also really appreciate what you ladies have said. I just don't know, though...I guess I don't agree with her central argument ("Mrs. Obama still follows the rule of assimilation: It’s more important to retain white empathy than to be truly empathetic to ourselves.").

    My perspective on this has shifted over time, in part because I've worked with Black people who are the "first" in their fields and the toll it takes is not something I would want in my own life. It is not just the 50 shades of BS racism they have to face; it's also the criticisms (not all of which are unfair) they face from other Blacks who feel that they should be doing more. Michelle Obama is sharing from her personal experience and I don't feel that I have the right to judge what she says. What I can judge is the extent to which she leverages her platform to create spaces for the next generation of Black thinkers, creators, and writers to articulate our experiences in such a way as to add texture and context to what it means to navigate this life as Black people in the United States of America. I judge Michelle, and other "firsts," by what they've done to open doors that have been closed off to us so that other manifestations of Blackness have the wherewithal to provide nuanced perspectives about their lives, which will undercut the "white empathy" angle that the author rightly highlights.

    This is just my perspective. Hopefully it makes sense.
     
  5. RoundEyedGirl504

    RoundEyedGirl504 Well-Known Member

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    To be fair, I think Michelle is also getting some blowback, rightfully or not, from the Barack's interactions at the My Brother's Keeper event here in Oakland last week and in general.
     
  6. Evolving78

    Evolving78 Well-Known Member

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    Can you expand on this? I watched some clips from the event.
     
  7. Evolving78

    Evolving78 Well-Known Member

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    As far as the author of the article, what is she doing to move black folks foward, besides writing articles on what other black people should be doing?
     
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  8. RoundEyedGirl504

    RoundEyedGirl504 Well-Known Member

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    I have seen people criticizing him because he said things like you don't need a big chain and women twerking on you to be confident and successful. Basically the criticism that he has always gotten when speaking to black audiences, they both tow the line with whites and don't want to actively call out white people for their stuff, but when it comes to black folks they have a condescending approach that focuses on stereotypes of black folks. Is it familiarity or lack of familiarity in his case? I don't know. But that has been the criticism, similar to when he spoke at Morehouse.
     
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  9. Evolving78

    Evolving78 Well-Known Member

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    Oh ok thank you!

    Rant
    Well the black community will just continue to stay stuck, so I’m not surprised at the backlash. “Other Folks” don’t care what was done in the past and what is being done to us now, and they never will. Do black folks get that? We need to assimilate, get on one accord, and move forward. Work the system, do all we can to gain from it, leave and create our own.
    Black men don’t even join PTOs, volunteer at schools, start more reading programs, create more mentoring groups, create clean up community committees, pull money together to take black kids to cultural events, etc.. it’s all about the individual, or just sitting up and blaming the white man who don’t give a rat’s behind about us and who don’t want to work and live with us.
     
  10. Southernbella.

    Southernbella. Well-Known Member

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    I'm not really a fan of the Obamas beyond their historical significance and I was honestly a bit disappointed with some of the excerpts I read of Becoming.

    I've been critical of Barack for years for his attitude toward AAs/folks who paved the way for him but I thought Michelle was different.
     
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  11. Southernbella.

    Southernbella. Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry you don't see this happening in your community but it happens in mine.
     
  12. Evolving78

    Evolving78 Well-Known Member

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    Who said I didn’t? Lol it’s not happening enough. And everything I mentioned, black men are currently running events and programs in mine. So until more black men stand up and take their communities back, things will still be at a standstill.
     
  13. Southernbella.

    Southernbella. Well-Known Member

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    You said it:

    It was a definitive statement which led me to believe you don't see it happening. Maybe I misunderstood.

    That said, of course it could be happening in more communities but where I get annoyed with folks like the Obamas is that you can't divorce any of this stuff from history or context. It's a classic bootstraps argument. I know they know this. You can't be as intelligent and educated as they are without having that knowledge. I truly don't understand it.
     
  14. thickness

    thickness Well-Known Member

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    I get what she is saying, but I'm just tired of us publicly admonishing/critiquing each other. It comes off as being disingenuous and self-serving. It also gives others too much information. If you have a problem with someone from our community, why not reach out to them privately? The critique would probably be received much better than just blasting them on social media.
     
  15. Southernbella.

    Southernbella. Well-Known Member

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    Also, in what world are AAs NOT assimilated? Most of us have european names, we speak standard American English, we spend 12+ years in schools where we receive eurocentric education, and we hold white folks up as our standard (even though we shouldn't).

    What an I missing?
     
  16. ScorpioBeauty09

    ScorpioBeauty09 Well-Known Member

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    I could've written this myself. :look: My family has always been critical of Obama precisely for this reason. Why Obama placates white people and publicly lectures black people is another discussion.

    I never expected much from Obama but some of that had to do with the nature of the presidency and American governance. But the further we get into the era of Orange Hitler, the clearer it is that Barack played his part just like other recent presidents, to set the stage for the economic/political mess we're in now. o_O

    As for Michelle, it's disappointing but as a Millennial it's what I'd expect from an AA Boomer. I don't mean that entirely as a criticism because this is the generation that lived through integration and did what they needed to do to get to where they wanted to go. Without derailing the thread, I'll just say that integration didn't do what we were taught to believe it did, and we're more cynical of trying to be 'accepted' by white people. A poster mentioned the toll it takes on a black person being the "first" in their field, I agree. :yep:
     
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  17. Evolving78

    Evolving78 Well-Known Member

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    I know I should have made myself clear.
    And I agree with you about the bootstrap argument. The Obamas have to give up a lot of things in order to be accepted and go where they have gone. You wanna be the free leader of white folks and others, you are gonna have to play by there rules.

    From what I gathered regarding Michele’s book, was a woman experiencing how to balance career and family, as well as making decisions that go against the norm, by doing what makes a person content.
     
  18. Evolving78

    Evolving78 Well-Known Member

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    Integration has not been very beneficial to us. I wish people would get that. My mother is a boomer and we debate about this a lot. I strategically live in an area that is not diverse, but still gives my family the ability to thrive without having to deal with outsiders making them feel less than.
     
  19. Nalin

    Nalin Well-Known Member

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    So on point.
     
  20. Nalin

    Nalin Well-Known Member

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    I was disappointed in her book, but not surprised. I was just hoping a little bitty part of that girl from the south-side of Chicago would come out. It didn't.

    I know it was unrealistic on my part.
     
  21. naijamerican

    naijamerican Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with you on this. I personally love the Obamas but again, that whole integration thing - including being among the generation to initiate it more broadly than previous ones - is nothing to play with. Most of the people who successfully integrated into predominantly White spaces did so at personal costs and frankly, I think the integrationists (so to speak) fall into two camps: the ones who perpetuate the Horatio Alger mythology of luck, pluck, and virtue being enough to catapult you out of your circumstances; and those who are cynical about these damn colonizers. The latter group is populated by those who are not afraid to look inward and ask themselves if it was worth it after all. And they share these lessons with those coming behind.

    Meanwhile, millennials (I’m in the upper edge of this group) have seen it for what it is and are more willing to call a spade a spade. But I have a soft spot of the integrationist generation. I don’t envy what they went through to get where they are and the continued impact it has on their lives.

    I also want to suggest that it is possible that Michelle is easing her way into these difficult conversations in her first book and that some of the criticisms levied against her may be explored in subsequent books. After all...how long did it take for Beyoncé to put out Lemonade? Remember the SNL skit that made fun of White people for forgetting that she’s a Black woman? :lachen:
     
  22. 1QTPie

    1QTPie Elder Sim

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    Girl... bye.
     
  23. naijamerican

    naijamerican Well-Known Member

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    :lachen::lachen::lachen::lachen::lachen:

    ETA: Wait a minute...where did you find this @1QTPie??
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2019
  24. FemmeCreole

    FemmeCreole Island Gyal

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    I think Michelle’s book speaks HER personal journey and what she has been through, what she’s had to do and still in a process of becoming.

    The book was not mean to be a blueprint for other black women.

    The Obamas did all they could, while being in a constant spotlight, under scrutiny of people just waiting for them to misstep.

    Being the “first” placed an even bigger burden because many black folks had unrealistic expectations that Obama was coming to be President of black America and he would under almost 400 years of injustice in 8 years. When he became president, McConnell et al vowed to block everything he tried to pass. He still managed to get a lot done that would benefit black people (without outright stating so). He only had control for 2 out of the 8 years.

    Michelle couldn’t have been a better example of a First Lady, yet she was unmercifully criticized at every turn. The programs she implemented as First Lady positively affected black kids. Better food in public schools for one, was huge.

    They cracked the ceiling but it’s not broken. I think the writer’s article is unfair because (1) unrealistic expectations and (2) wrong interpretation of the purpose of the book.

    The Obamas are 2 people out of 330+ million. They did what they could to further the conversation. More black people are getting involved in communities, schools, politics etc. It’s not enough but it’s promising. Barrack talking to black males about alternatives to the living and being successful, is not chastising or talking down. It’s just stating that that way hasn’t done too well for you, how about you do something different.
     
  25. Everything Zen

    Everything Zen Well-Known Member

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    Barack and Michelle would pretty much have to eat a black baby on national TV AND not wash their hands after the fact before I really get bent out of shape about anything they do. :scratchchin:
     
  26. RoundEyedGirl504

    RoundEyedGirl504 Well-Known Member

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    That's what puts such a bad taste in folks mouths. It's the class-ism that tends to be in play where the black folks who made it like to get on a podium to tell the other black people to pull their pants up and stop acting like hoodlums. We don't get the consideration of diversity of experience, that mess isn't uplifting nor encouraging. But I guess we are so used to being preached at that we don't see that for what it is.
     
  27. FemmeCreole

    FemmeCreole Island Gyal

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    I’m not about black folks assimilating to white folks. Black Americans have their own culture which frankly is American culture for the most part. That’s the culture that is most copied around the world.

    That being said, having proper decorum is certain spaces is not about assimilating IMO. Everything is not for everywhere. Some attitudes and behaviors are toxic and has done nothing to improve the lives of most of the folks who live that life. There is nothing wrong in trying to get people to do better. It’s not about being preached at and it’s not about doing it to appease white folks.

    I couldn’t care less about the “white man” but I do want my business to survive in the environment in which we operate. Look at it as moving strategically and claiming spaces as opposed to toeing some arbitrary line.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2019
  28. sgold04

    sgold04 Well-Known Member

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    I didn’t finish Becoming. As soon as she started going in on Rev. Jeremiah Wright I lost interest. I was hoping for a twinge of regret and realness in her tone, but nah.
     
  29. Kurlee

    Kurlee Well-Known Member

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    thx op!
     
  30. RocStar

    RocStar Well-Known Member

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    Girl, I thought maybe I didn't read something right.
     

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