The former, and forever, First Lady Michelle Obama released a candid book which tracks her trajectory from many sides as she rises.
To read her book is to look up and see her life through a focused telescope — as the one who knows it best narrates the parts in the lens.
The Obamas’ ascent to the White House — that defiantly stood by its first name for over 200 years — was a first-time moon landing against the gravitational forces of racism.
But since the Obamas have landed again, it’s time to debrief their mission.
Like everyone, the Obamas can do wrong — and they did.
In her book, Becoming, the former first lady doesn’t cite the wrongs of drones or deportation.
Besides Donald Trump, she condemns Reverend Jeremiah Wright‘s message — again.
In 2007 and 2008, the media released a stream of sermons by the Obamas’ pastor Reverend Wright.
In the clips, Reverend Wright shouts from his pulpit “God damn America” and the “chickens are coming home to roost.”
In her book, former First Lady Michelle Obama describes his sermons as “angry, inflammatory, extreme,” and a “vitriol.”
It’s concerning that she uses the word “angry” when she knows exactly how that word feels.
Then she writes that she and Barack were unanimously “appalled” by Reverend Wright’s comments.
To be clear, those comments by the minister shouldn’t be condemned, but he has made condemnable comments he has regretted.
Thus, I have no issue with the Obamas abandoning the messenger, but:
I take issue with passing on every part of the message.
On America’s racism, Michelle Obama knows the deal and the deeds. She got “the talk” from her parents too, and America gave her the lived experience.
She is a Black woman in her 50s, who’s proudly from the South Side of Chicago; she counts Jesse Jackson’s daughter as her childhood friend, and she has sturdy roots in the soil of South Carolina.
At Princeton, she majored in sociology and minored in African-American studies; she has endured the uncomfortable and elite white spaces.
With a Harvard law degree, she can see the upsides of any aggressive argument.
With that said, the Obamas’ unqualified condemnation of Reverend Wright without caveats about the true parts of his message is strange and problematic.
I can’t explain it, but I can name it.
In her book, Michelle Obama is apologetic.
She recalls people saying she was unpatriotic when she said for the first time in her adult life, she was really proud of her country.
Instead of saying, “Hey, America has disappointed Black people, ” she doubles down and writes that she was proud of the hopeful civic engagement.
Of her thesis at Princeton, she says that was a long time ago, and she was just trying to get an A.
There’s more of this in her book — she says her fist bumps didn’t mean anything.
Then she says — there never was a tape of her saying, “whitey.”
Basically, she wants white people to know she has never had a Black power agenda.
Okay, but in 2007 and 2008, America hadn’t even halfway apologized for slavery and segregation.
With Reverend Wright, he has used and spewed the wrong words, but the state of America justifies his right words.
His right words on the military mirror the chastisement Dr. King gives in his searing speech “Beyond Vietnam.”
His right words on white supremacy were in sync with the sentences uttered and inked by Malcolm X and James Baldwin.
His right words were in lockstep with the marching and fist-raising leaders the Obamas know past and present.
Why didn’t the Obamas ever take up the right words?
In contrast, white supremacy has no issue publicly divorcing its most offensive messengers while repackaging itself for the mainstream.
So, I chastise the Obamas because they don’t condemn what’s true.
White supremacy resists any truth serum. It jams sedatives down the raw throats of truth-tellers.
With those unbecoming tactics, white supremacy wrongly chastises protesting Black people as ungrateful and unpatriotic.
America’s first Black family in the White House also never chastised white America’s racism.
Not only is it true that “silence gives consent,” but it’s also true that — “a time comes when silence is betrayal.”
Apart from a few comments, the Obamas minimized racism from a magnified position.
If our race is a construct, at best, the Obamas stayed put in their construct and barely let anyone inside America’s real experience.
The Obamas, and in particular Barack, intentionally stood on one side of Dr. King’s shoulders — the side white America readily accepts. That overused side of Dr. King makes both of them ineffective and lopsided.
Even after winning a second term, Obama never made a presidential pivot to condemn racism, and the former first lady seems to say the feeling was mutual.
Now, outside the White House, the Obamas still hold their peace with white supremacy.
There’s no denying, even as the first family — who didn’t rock the boat racially — just their steering the boat made sick people sicker.
But at least, in their second term, the Obamas could’ve thrown parts of white supremacy overboard.
Well, I guess in a big way they did, unintentionally, of no fault of their own.
But can anyone say a full-throated and extended condemnation of white supremacy by the Obamas would’ve made today worse?
Some may say, that would’ve been unbecoming too, but it’s also fair to say America has it coming.
With that point, while many around the world may miss the Obamas, the Obamas missed again.