Like the old legal privileges, tax immunities, and public honors accorded to aristocrats, from an early age, black Americans of any ability are taught in today’s America that they are special, immune from public criticism, and entitled to accomplish less at work and in school to succeed. We’re told publicly (and quite unbelievably) “they need to work ‘twice as hard,’” but this is clearly false, as evidenced not least by the lower test scores and lower grades needed for blacks to get into elite institutions, and later in life by the intense mentoring, lower expectations, and tolerance for bad behavior in the work place.
Michelle Obama is a product of this system, getting into Princeton and Harvard Law School throug a combination of her successful brother’s athletic prowess and her race. But she was no longer the class success (salutitorian) as she was at her much less challenging South Side high school; she was uncomfortable at Princeton, studied a “gut” major (sociology), and almost certainly could not pass the bar exam the first time around (as evidenced by her late admission to the Illinois Bar a year after graduating). She later left “Big Law” after refusing assignments she thought she was too good for. She ultimately got a cushy job (six figures) matchmaking “community activists” with the University of Chicago Hospitals, making more than $300K annually when her husband was elected Senator. She’s still very ungrateful.
University of Chicago has always been a brainy place, where students actually care about learning, are intellectually curious, and do not suffer fools. There’s nothing in her personality or life or words or anything else about her to suggest she’d have done well there. During my time there, there were always a good number of “high average” local students–black and white–who did not really fit in and either dropped out or muddled through, not quite sure why so many of their peers were at the library at 11 pm on a Friday. The school has also has been in many ways a compassionate place, where every year hundreds of students volunteer in soup kitchens, tutoring local students, and generally reach out to the largely impoverished and black local community. But the school did not send an invitation to Michelle wrapped with a pink bow, so she’s pissed off to this day. At a commencement speech delivered this week at UC Merced, she remarked:
The context: Many of the UC Merced graduates were the first in their families to earn college degrees, and Mrs. Obama said, “By using what you have learned here, you can shorten the path perhaps for kids who may not see a path at all.
“I was once one of those kids. Most of you were once one of those kids,” and then told the students how she grew up just a few miles from the University of Chicago.
“Yet that university never played a meaningful role in my academic development. The institution made no effort to reach out to me — a bright and promising student in their midst — and I had no reason to believe there was a place for me there.
“Therefore, when it came time for me to apply to college, I never … considered the university in my own backyard as a viable option.”
She really knows how to hold a grudge! It’s sad that her “inspirational” vignettes always come down to “don’t let the man hold you down.” The minor indignities of life always appear in her speeches: her weak test scores, her feelings of alienation at Princeton, and now her beef with her very generous employer of many years. This is, nonetheless, understandable. She has an inflated and demanding sense of entitlement, coupled with the vague sense of inferiority–these, the contradictory traits that always accompany unearned privileges. Why else the $400 sneakers and heavy debt load in the 90s and now the somewhat hard-to-accept makover of herself as the First Mom? She’s a combination of the Real Housewives of NY and Omarosa, a pretty disagreeable (but all too familiar) character that would be causing her husband a lot more problems but for a very compliant and well trained media.
One of the Obamas’ achilles heels might be the habits formed from years of navigating the relatively calm water of liberal, guilt-ridden whites in academic settings. The Obamas are used to being accomodated and coddled, but as soon as they are challenged the barely suppressed anger comes out, particularly in the case of the more choleric and resentment-driven Michelle.