Lindy West writes an excellent column in the Guardian about the absolutely ridiculous reaction from the right to Michelle Obama giving a commencement speech at a historically black college in which she talked about overcoming the legacy and reality of racism. The level of snark is perfect.
First lady Michelle Obama existed this week, so naturally the internet is very, very upset. Specifically, Obama had the gall to approach a microphone at Tuskegee University’s commencement ceremony and say, in the mildest possible terms, that racism is real, and that the eager, bright-eyed Tuskegee graduates should devote their lives to some combination of the following anti-American subterfuge techniques: voting, doing a dance, having self-esteem, becoming teachers, following their dreams, fighting the kind of structural inequalities that historically forced black luminaries to build science labs out of literal garbage, and intermittently hula hooping. Truly a vile brew of verbal witchcraft and reverse-racist skullduggery!…
Fortunately, the internet’s brightest (and whitest) are on the case to make sure that Obama doesn’t unravel the very fabric of America itself with her nefarious listing of easily verifiable historical facts, rigorously vetted academic studies, and relentlessly encouraging platitudes. Ride on, brave patriots! Thomas Jefferson is totally waiting to high-five you in heaven!
“Michelle Obama is a reverse racist,” one Twitter user helpfully explains. “She attacks white people & gets black people to think they’ll have a hard life no matter what. Ugh!!!” Yeah, ugh! When will black people learn to recognise REAL hardship, such as being a white woman under “attack” from incessant George Washington Carver anecdotes in a speech that she voluntarily sought out and hate-watched!?
“I can not believe the negative commencement speech that you gave at Tuskegee,” scolded another. “Not uplifting at all.” Yo, goateed white dude named Kevin or something, maybe the commencement speech about black people’s lived experiences delivered at the historically black college that you did not attend wasn’t intended to lift YOU up? Maybe not everything is for Kevin?
Certain white people, it seems, are so fragile when it comes to discussions of race, they’re not even capable of absorbing and accepting basic, observable truths. Forget nuance. Forget dialogue. The depth of white denial – of what’s happening right in front of us, and has been happening for centuries – is nauseating.
Bingo. For today’s right wing, the mere mention of racism is anathema. Racism no longer exists, they declare in one breath while, in the next, they claim that racism only still exists because those uppity black people keep talking about it, thus “dividing the country along racial lines.” If everyone would just stop talking about it, they maintain, it would magically disappear. But let us not mistake this for mere naivete. No, this is an active lie being told with a purpose.