"My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you."
May 19, 2015 9:53 AM Subscribe
Michelle Obama's painful discussion of America's racial inequality and deep misogyny exists, for many, on the same spectrum as [Saida] Grundy's blunt remarks about race, power and privilege. Where the first lady used her commencement speech at one of the nation's premier HBCUs to deliver a seminar on institutional racism and our nation's anti-black culture, Grundy's social media commentary dispensed with complexity to deliver screams, sometimes angry, other times humorous, that reflect equally important truths about contemporary race relations, black women's activism and the limits of freedom of expression in the 21st century.Peniel E. Joseph for The Root: What Happens to Black Women Who Boldly Speak Truth About Racial Inequality
Michelle Obama's Full Speech at Tuskegee University [transcript]
Back when my husband first started campaigning for President, folks had all sorts of questions of me: What kind of First Lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on? Would I be more like Laura Bush, or Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Reagan? And the truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate's spouse. That's just the way the process works. But, as potentially the first African American First Lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others. Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? (Applause.) Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?• Lindy West for The Guardian: If even Michelle Obama can't speak about race without being told to 'quit whining' then who can?
Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover -- it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and machine gun. Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I'm really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me?
Or you might remember the on-stage celebratory fist bump between me and my husband after a primary win that was referred to as a "terrorist fist jab." And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me. One said I exhibited "a little bit of uppity-ism." Another noted that I was one of my husband's "cronies of color." Cable news once charmingly referred to me as "Obama's Baby Mama."
• Clarence Page for The Chicago Tribune: As the visible woman, Michelle Obama makes critics squirm
Although Grundy has since issued an apology for her remarks, many have spoken out in support of the incoming professor, including Boston University's People of Color Coalition:
While it is reassuring that the university has defended Professor Grundy's right to free speech, we believe it is clear that the statements issued from President Brown and the Boston University administration only underscore the aforementioned need for greater representation of racial minority viewpoints, as their statements fall startlingly short of engaging a sincere and nuanced conversation about racism and oppression.• Ian MacAllen for The Rumpus: Saida Grundy: A Rumpus Roundup
To claim that Professor Grundy's statements were bigoted or racist not only ignores power structures that uphold white supremacy, but also creates an unsettling reversal of the true meanings of "racism" and "bigotry" defined by these structures. President Brown's statement perpetuates false notions regarding the power dynamics of oppression: namely, that it is possible for oppressed groups to oppress those who are at the top.
• Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman for Conditionally Accepted: Academic Freedom Won't Protect Us
FPP title courtesy of the last link, quoting Audre Lorde in her essay "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." Originally published in 1978, the essay is now available as a chapter in Sister Outsider as well as The Cancer Journals.
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