From The VG Bookshelf: Becoming By Michelle Obama Part I
From The VG Bookshelf: Becoming By Michelle Obama Part I
The only people who don’t know that Michelle Obama wrote a book are those who have been living off-the-grid. In the interest of countermanding the months-long fawning love fest, I read her book. TWICE. Yes, I actually read ‘Becoming’ twice in order to make sure that my premise was correct. Those in the media who reviewed her book didn’t actually READ it. Otherwise they would’ve discovered that Michelle is an incredibly unhappy condescendingly arrogant person.
In Chapter One she discovered that playing the piano for a recital at about five years old didn’t go well because the recital piano was flawless and the one she had to practice on was…NOT. Did she think to ascribe her reaction to stage fright? Evidently not.
In Chapter Two we find out several things. When she started school, Michelle ran into a problem. From page 18 we find out that rattling off all the names of colors in order to keep up with everyone else worked GREAT! Until she had to recite colors.
But it wasn’t until the letters W-H-I-T-E came up that I froze altogether, my throat instantly dry, my mouth awkward and unable to shape the sound as my brain glitched madly, trying to dig up a color the resembled “huh-haaa.” It was a straight-up choke. I felt a weird airiness in my knees, as if they might buckle. But before they did, Mrs. Burroughs instructed me to sit back down. And that’s exactly when the word hit me in its full and easy perfection. White. Whiiiiite. The word was “white.”
Oh. Well. Alrighty then. But Michelle didn’t stop there. She made a pest of herself the next day demanding a do-over in class. Michelle imagines that Mrs. Burroughs and her classmates were super duper impressed with the little black girl who stood up and advocated for herself.
Yes folks, that’s on page 18. We have a long way to go. Her mother had to push her out the door at ten to make friends in a neighborhood that was already becoming less racially mixed and more black. Michelle’s solution to a girl who didn’t like her? Beat her up.
Then one day, they went out on a family trip from the South Side of Chicago to visit some neighbors who had moved to the Park Forest suburbs. Her father didn’t ever want to buy a house because that would leave them house poor with no savings. I can’t understand that logic, but Michelle bought it hook line and sinker. Meanwhile, their visit to the friends who had moved?
First of all, none of the Robinson family could understand why someone would choose to live in the suburbs. Secondly, there were an awful lot of white people there! And then there was this observation at the end of the day from Michelle’s mother on page 29.
“I wonder,” she said, “if nobody knew they were a black family until we came to visit.”
That’s quite an astonishing statement isn’t it? Folks, we are barely past Chapter 3 and you can guess how the rest of the book’s tone will read.
Because relatives had to make differing life choices, yes some due to unacceptable racial discrimination, Michelle’s grandfather wallowed in bitterness until the day he died. He couldn’t even be happy that his children succeeded IN SPITE of racism. Michelle describes that bitterness as if it is something that is ok for a person to carry through their lives. Speaking in proper English instead of a mix of southern idioms meant that Michelle was uppity. According to her, that also meant that we white folks didn’t trust her because of her use of proper English. *massive eye roll here
Fast forward to her high school years. Her parents saved so she could go to Whitney Young. There, compared to her previous schooling, it was ok for her to be smart. Gosh, how condescending of her. She essentially slams all the students and staff at Bryn Mawr as if it was their fault that she was made to feel less than. As if it was their fault that they held her back. You see, at Whitney Young, Michelle opines that the school, which was predominately black, opened her eyes to the apparatus of privilege and connection.
And then there was her friendship with Santita Jackson. If that last name is familiar, it should be. Her father is none other than Jesse Jackson. Michelle sure did like hanging around the family, and she really liked the people she got to meet. But she makes it clear that while those connections were important then (and evidently somewhat important now), she didn’t like getting caught up in rallies and such. They are messy is the implication.
And then Michelle goes to Princeton. But before that, she had a college counselor who was mean! According to Michelle, it didn’t matter that she was on the Honor Roll or was the class treasurer.
“I’m not sure,” she said, giving me a perfunctory, patronizing smile, “that you’re Princeton material.”
You know, the counselor, given Michelle’s attitude, was probably right. It wasn’t about being doubted, it was about being ready and able to handle college, navigate it well, and not be a triggered snowflake. Yet that is how Michelle was from the first day she set foot on the Princeton campus.
You know what is interesting? Michelle talks quite a bit about her time on campus and how she felt like a poppy seed in a bowl of rice. She talks about how, instead of researching, no one stepped up to explain what extra-long bedsheets were. She talks about how all the colored students stuck together and how she was supremely disinterested in striking up friendships with the white girls in her dorm.
One thing that she glosses over in regards to her senior year is her Senior Thesis. It gets a 2-word mention on page 91. That’s it. Why is that? Oh, I dunno, maybe because it was not only a train wreck of a paper, but it exposed her anger and guilt.
According to Michelle, assimilation is key:
… the path I have chosen to follow by attending Princeton will likely lead to my further integration and/or assimilation into a White cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society, never becoming a full participant. This realization has presently made my goals to actively utilize my resources to benefit the Black community more desirable.
At the same time, however, it is conceivable that my four years of exposure to a predominantly White, Ivy League University has instilled within me certain conservative values. For example, as I enter my final year at Princeton, I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates – acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful corporation. Thus, my goals after Princeton are not as clear as before.
How DARE Princeton or anyone on campus who is NOT black be an assistance in widening her world view!
Here’s her thesis in a nutshell.
[The data] demontate [sic] a strong relationship for [sic] the change in ideologies during the Pre-to-Prin period and the feeling that the situation of the Black lower class is hopeless, such that the more responds became sep[aratist]/plur[alist], the more respondents; and the more respondents became int[egrated]/assim[imilated], the less hopeless they felt.
My speculation for this finding is based on the possibility that a separationist is more likely to have a realistic impression of the plight of the Black lower class because of the likelihood that a separationist is more closely associated with the Black lower class than are integrationist [sic]. By actually working with the Black lower class or within their communities as a result of their ideologies, a separationist [sic] may better understand the desparation [sic] of their [sic] situation and feel more hopeless about a resolution as opposed to an integrationist who is ignorant to [sic] their plight.
Yes, that’s a quote direct from her Senior Thesis. Essentially Michelle is pointing to America and saying, it’s YOUR FAULT! You made me become part of the whole when all I really wanted to do is stay separate and enjoy my own community; whites and those in the pesky suburbs need not apply. No wonder she has said little to nothing about her thesis all these years. It’s a bunch of condescending arrogant dreck.
That folks, brings us to the next step in her life. One in which, while she’s working at a law firm, she encounters a guy named Barack Obama.
Part II next week.
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Feature Photo Credit: VG Darleen Click background artwork, Miller Mobley book jacket photo