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The Real Problems with the Tuskegee Speech

First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a now infamous commencement address at Tuskegee University a couple of weeks ago. I read the speech transcript and for the most part it was boiler plate graduation speech. It was when Michelle decided to empathize with the audience that things went off the rails. It was a mistake but not for the reasons primarily cited by Fox and its conservative friends. 

The two gripes I heard were that Michelle recited a litany of black victimization and that she exaggerated. I heard stuff like “puhleeze, Obama went to prep school. Nobody was dissing Obama on racial grounds.” There were also accusations of not being “grateful” for the assumed affirmative action that Michelle was no doubt the beneficiary of. 

This all misses the point. The otherwise ordinary speech became a travesty for two reasons. First, Michelle chose a joyous event to tell these students essentially “no matter what you do, to whitey you’ll always just be a n—–.” This is what the predominantly black class will need to overcome. Is that really what Martin Luther King Jr. died for? After all the struggle and suffering culminating in the election of the first black president, Michelle’s message was that they should ignore  all the whites who voted for her husband and assume whites will give them the shaft. How inspirational!

The second problem is the “they” in Michelle’s attempt at empathy. “They” who cross the street when “they” see you coming. “They” who follow you around the store assuming you’re a thief. The “they” of course is white people. This reminds me of Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser talking about “clinging to guns and religion” or Romney and his 47% comment. Did it not occur to Michelle that her not-secretly-recorded speech would be seen by lots and lots of WHITE PEOPLE? Did she think she was having a private rap session? Does she not understand she is the First Lady of these white folks? Do they not have feelings? Do they deserve gratuitous offense from the best known woman in the country?

Six years ago I was seething with anger about the way some white folks were treating Barack Obama. I wrote then,

Well guess what folks! He is our President! Barack Obama is our President. He is your President if you voted for him. He is your President if you did not. He is your President if you are black. He is your President if you are white. He is your President if you are progressive and dammit, he is your President if you are conservative. He is OUR President.

Now I find myself needing to remind our First Lady that blacks are your people and whites are YOUR PEOPLE. ALL AMERICANS ARE YOUR PEOPLE! 
A hat tip goes to one of my readers who pointed me to a video by the YouTube host of “ZoNation” who touches on a couple of these themes. 

Michelle Obama owes the deservedly proud graduates of Tuskegee an apology for putting their accomplishments against a backdrop of racial discord. She owes America an apology for highlighting what divides us. It was beneath the dignity of a First Lady of the UNITED States of America.  

What do you think? The bar is open. 

An aside: I DO believe the government should  heavily subsidize the education of everyone. I do NOT agree with some of the points made in the video by Alfonzo Rachel. But that’s for another post. 

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Murder by Drone and the Legacy of a Myth

Murder by Drone

As I watched Barack Obama “take responsibility” for the death of Warren Weinstein, I momentarily left my body and inhabited that of his widow. I thought, what does it mean that you’re taking responsibility? How can you possibly compensate me for my loss? Will you go to jail for my husbands murder? If not, who will?

Weinstein, a USAID worker died in what can only be honestly called a Keystone Kops operation. What’s more shocking is that it is Keystone Kops by design. This was not a botched attempt to rescue Weinstein. It was not even an attempt to take out specific Al Qaeda personnel. This was a “signature strike”. A signature strike, as I understand it, is a drone attack on a target that shows terrorist activity, comings and goings. However the folks who are coming and going are not identified. The target simply meets the signature of bad guy activity. They didn’t know Weinstein was there. Two terrorists killed in this attack were killed entirely by accident. Again, not knowing was a feature of the operation, not a bug.

There is already controversy about the collateral damage done by drone attacks against known human targets. To expand this carnage to operations where we don’t know who we are killing seems a step too far. How did we get here? It’s the impersonal nature of the technology. It’s high stakes video gaming.

At the White House Correspondents Dinner, Saturday night, Obama promised to bring jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian home from Iran. All I could think was, “if we don’t kill him first.”

The Legacy of a Myth

Michael Brown did not deserve to spark a movement. He was a juvenile delinquent destined to be a blight on society barring unlikely effective intervention. Yet the myth of Brown’s demise in Ferguson, Missouri (hands up, don’t shoot) has indeed been a game changer.

No matter how much the true facts of Ferguson were twisted, the Ferguson incident has laid down a new marker. There is a “mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore” mood on the streets of many urban neighborhoods right now. The war zone behavior of some police (justified or not) will no longer be tolerated.

Bottom line, “fair” or not, a white cop better have a good reason for killing a black suspect or there will be marches and in the cases of Ferguson and Baltimore, cities will burn. That is the new reality brought about by the undeserving standard-bearer, Michael Brown.

What do you think? The bar is open.

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“Mitt” the Movie and Obama the Juror

“Mitt” the Movie

At long last I watched the Netflix film “Mitt” a documentary about Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 runs for President.

If more folks had seen this side of Mitt, he might be President today. When the film ended even I felt bad for how severely I had judged him. Any suspicions that Romney is Fred MacMurray’s Steve Douglas from “My Three Sons” are confirmed in this documentary. Mitt is truly from a different age. He is wholesome to the core. Very devoted to family and to his religion.

In a telling moment Mitt complains about his lot as the “flipping Mormon”. He remarks that he can’t change the Mormon part and then quickly corrects himself that he WON’T change the Mormon part.

Other notable moments are his intense admiration for his father George Romney and his brutal honesty in the wake of his 2012 defeat where he refuses to say in his concession speech that all will go well with Obama. “I’m not going to be soothing” says Romney.

I have a problem with the way the film was edited. Seeing Romney go through the 2008 primary process humanizes him. We don’t get to see him go through the 2012 primary process and how hard he had to fight in an anyone-but-Romney lead up to his nomination. So the Mitt we see in 2012 is a hardened Mitt missing the softer edges that made him sympathetic in the film’s first half.

Still what stands out is Mitt obsessively picking trash off the floor when he’s nervous, his decent self deprecating humor, and the degree to which his family adores him – and how hurt they are by the process of running for POTUS. If nothing else, this film is a cautionary tale for the families of Presidential hopefuls.

Obama the Juror

It started on July 20, 2009 when Lynn Sweet asked Obama to weigh in on the arrest of Professor Skip Gates (a question she would never have asked a white president). Obama, self important bloviator that he is, fell right into her trap:

I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That’s just a fact.

While I felt at the time (and still do) that both Gates and the cop were stupid, Obama would have been wiser to say “no comment”. Or better, “Lynn would you be asking me this if I were white?”

Then on March 23, 2012, he did it again:

My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves.

This comment became more absurd the more we learned what a thug Trayvon was. Again, refusing to comment on an ongoing investigation would have been smarter.

But wait, there’s more. This past Friday Obama felt compelled to comment on the murder of three young North Carolina Muslims:

No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.

Only one problem. We do not know with certainty that the victims’ religion played a role in their deaths. Again, Obama plays juror and renders verdict before all the evidence is in.

Obama may feel some special pressure as the first black President but this series of public pronouncements just comes off unpresidential at best and negligent at worst. Sometimes the best thing to do Mr. President is just shut up.

Just shut up.

What do you think? The bar is open.