From The VG Bookshelf: Becoming By Michelle Obama Part II
From The VG Bookshelf: Becoming By Michelle Obama Part II
Last week I reviewed Michelle Obama’s early years in Part I. As I noted, what many of those are ignoring is her tone in which she discusses her life experiences. In Part II, covering her marriage and time as First Lady, the negative tone doesn’t change, and in fact becomes more apparent.
We left off at the point where she graduated from Princeton and had moved to Chicago to take a job in a law firm because, as she implies, that is what all the whites do and it was expected of her. She leads off with a notation on page 94 that this guy named Barack Obama was late. On page 96, we encounter this:
— Obsidian Blue (@obsidian_blue) January 29, 2019
Well, her annoyance at him being late along with her skepticism didn’t last long. In fact, we find out on page 99 that one of the reasons they bonded was because ‘he was a brother, and in our office, which employed more than four hundred lawyers, only about five full-time attorneys were African American.’ Thus when partners made, in Michelle’s estimation, condescending remarks, she and Barry would give each other the side eye.
I’m sure the folks who were at Sidley & Austin during that time sure enjoyed finding out how Michelle REALLY felt about them.
Michelle pans his taste in clothes (which certainly didn’t improve when he was President – mom jeans anyone?) and declares that he was too cerebral for her normal crowd of happy hour buddies. Yet they started dating anyway, and kept the relationship going after his return to Harvard.
She writes in Chapter 10 of the loss of her father and how that was finally the impetus to have her leave law and find something else. Which led to her first meeting with Valerie Jarrett, a job in Mayor Daley’s office, and saying yes to Barack’s marriage proposal.
Several things to note during the time period from their honeymoon to Barack’s first run for President.
Her first foray into navigating D.C. as a spouse of a Senator was confusing and disquieting or something.
“The truth was that Washington confused me, with its decorous traditions and sober self-regard, it’s whiteness and maleness, it’s ladies having lunch off to one side.” (p. 219) She wasn’t thrilled about being “a missus defined by her mister.”
And then Barack ran for President. By this time, Michelle had made it abundantly clear that she didn’t like politics.
She made it very clear in her speeches and talks with folks in Iowa, (p. 236), even though the campaign didn’t tell her what her script was actually supposed to be. But you see, she persisted and went along with Barack because he was smart and she didn’t want to be selfish and small.
Which led to her explanation as to why the haters took one snippet of a speech “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.,” and blew it out of proportion. (p.260) Just as all the haters and bloggers were blowing out of proportion what Jeremiah Wright said during all his sermons, and that everyone is misunderstanding what her senior thesis was all about. She’s certainly no fan of the late Christopher Hitchens (p. 263).
Needless to say, after an intervention of sorts, she and the campaign team of Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod reinvented Michelle to make her softer and less severe. Plus give her talking points to explain away the pride comments.
And then Barack won. Immediately we have again, Michelle talking about being good enough and measuring herself against real or imaginary standards. How did she fix that? Numerous ways that included redecorating the White House to make sure it was less elitist and more open and planting a garden.
This is her observation at Obama’s first SOTU.
“The absence of diversity was glaring-honestly, it was embarrassing-for a modern, multicultural country. It was most dramatic among Republicans.” (p.312)
Yet when they were getting ready for the 2012 campaign, she points out that she identifies with people such as Rosa Parks instead of Eleanor Roosevelt, or Sojourner Truth over John Quincy Adams, but then makes an assumption that everyone was and will be judging her by the color of her skin. (p. 366)
The final four years of Obama’s presidency are, according to Michelle, governed by inaction from the Republican Party along with everyone’s refusal to pass more and more gun control laws in response to the violence in Chicago, Sandy Hook, and Charleston. She firmly believes that Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and others were innocent and targeted by police. (p.396).
She infers that the hatred this country is dealing with is due in large part because of the refusal of all Americans to just accept that Barack and her really did know what this country needed, but none of us wanted to listen.
Michelle Obama makes it very clear in the last two chapters of her book that she will never ever be a fan of Donald Trump and that Hillary got robbed and that diversity as she defines it has taken a major step backwards.
The white male uniformity she says she observed at the Trump inauguration led her to stop trying to smile though the day. She speaks out against biases and stereotypes at the end, yet throughout her entire book she continually points out that:
A. people always looked at her differently because of the color of her skin
B. There are too many whites in Congress
C. Police target blacks unfairly
D. The suburbs she experienced as a child were too white
E. She never thought about applying to University of Chicago because it was the elite white college
F. She is no fan of corporate America because it is so white, yet she benefitted monetarily to the tune of $400,000 annually by 2005 from the same
There is much more of that throughout the book. So while Michelle Obama talks about becoming someone to be admired, she still lectures us all about how so much of this country is wrong because it’s not diverse enough and it’s too white.
She tried to tell us that her senior thesis was just misunderstood and that black separatism isn’t what she’s advocating for. Given the tone of this book, I don’t think we nor Christopher Hitchens misunderstood it at all.
Feature Photo Credit: VG Darleen Click background artwork, Miller Mobley book jacket photo