False Knock On Michelle Obama: Her Embrace of Change Does Not Equal A Lack Of Loyalty or Patriotism.
Earlier this year, Michelle Obama, Senator Barack Obama's wife, made the comment that "for the first time in my adult lifetime I am proud of my country, because it is ready to embrace change."
In front of a white Republican audience the day after those remarks, Senator John McCain and his wife Cindy weighed in on them. Cindy McCain said to the audience "I have always been proud of my country." Her husband said the same, with both receiving applause and cheers.
People in the McCain campaign, a number of strident talk show hosts, Republican politicians, journalists, political pundits, and media political analysts became a large chorus denouncing Michelle Obama for what its collective voice said was her lack of loyalty and patriotism to the United States.
This response was clearly predictable. It came overwhelmingly from White people, and reflected the understanding that so many Black people have, that too many white people still have great difficulty distinguishing between White hegemony and the United States, White domination of the American government and the American government itself, and White interpretation of American ideals and values, and the ideals and values themselves.
This difficulty stems from the longstanding and continuing practice of too many White people equating this country and this society with White people; that both belong to them and no one else, or to no one else like they both belong to them. This is clearly not Michelle Obama's view.
There used to be phrases in American history that reflected this kind of thinking that lasted up to about the 1960's and 1970's, such as a "White man's country," or "White society."
In one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, Abraham Lincoln described the Declaration of Independence as " the white man's charter of liberty." Stephen Douglas said in that same debate " this government of ours is founded on a white basis. It was made by the white man for the benefit of the white man."
Historically and generally, the White argument has been that the United States belonged to White people and was to benefit them, and that it did not belong to Black people, that they were not able to claim it as their own or benefit from it, and certainly not the way that Whites benefited.
Blacks were to be dominated, confined, and excluded in their own country. Whites endeavored to do this by enslaving Blacks, denying them human, political and civil rights, subjecting them to racist laws and racist segregation, by public denigration, by denying or diminishing their education, by denying them employment opportunities, access to health and medical care, forcing them to live in poor neighborhoods, and by subjecting them to various forms of violence.
Senator John McCain and his wife Cindy were adults when much of this gross mistreatment of Black people was occurring. They said that they had always been proud of their country, without any qualifying language. That means, then, on the basis of their own words, they were proud of this country when it was treating Black people the way it was doing.
But why would Black people be proud of it? Why would Black people be loyal to this? Patriotic about this? This would be tantamount to being imbecilic or masochistic.
The national/social context in which White and Black people lived in this country, from its founding up to about the 1960's and 1970's, with White people dominating, segregating and excluding Blacks, led to the two groups of people looking at many things in the country in very different ways, including the matter of loyalty and patriotism.
There is the old Machiavellian phrase "my country right or wrong." This is something that Black and White people would likely agree upon. But Black people would be a lot quicker than White people to say, that the country should be right, and not wrong, and that being proud of the country should be based on it being right and moral.
In the late 1960's, as will be remembered, Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed the Vietnam War, calling it an immoral war, and one that the country should not be fighting. He was roundly condemned by many White people, including many White liberals, with the stated or implied racist argument: that he should confine his political role to Black issues, and let White men deal with foreign affairs, and with matters of war.
But King was not deterred, because he contended, contrary to his White critics, that the Black struggle and the Vietnam War were linked together. King's view about the immoral character of the war, and the great mistake in engaging in it, eventually became the national sentiment.
Michelle Obama, who was born in 1962, emerged into adulthood in the early 1980's and full adulthood over the next twenty years. These were years that saw the effective ending of blatant White racism and when Blacks made significant political, economic, educational, and other gains, and when Michelle Obama herself achieved stunning personal and individual successes.
But the years between the 1980's and 2000 were also years when the White backlash that had begun in the late 1960's attained its full force in the country. It was brought to this level primarily by the Republican Party. Whites in that party sought to take back or diminish the gains that Blacks had made, showing that many Whites were strongly against changing the United States away from its racist past.
Michelle Obama knew, like a lot of Black people knew, and that a number of White people knew as well, that between the 1960's and 2000, the national/social context of the country had been significantly altered. It was being put in line more significantly with its ideals and morality, despite the backlash resistance to his new construction.
The America that was now being built, that was endeavoring to promote a racist free national/social context, and which was occurring during Michelle Obama's full adulthood, was the emerging America that she was very proud of, that she was very loyal to, and strongly patriotic about.
She was also proud of White people, and other people, who could embrace this change, and who were committing themselves to keeping it going, and joining with her husband to do so, which he wanted to help promote as President of the United States.
Those who cry that Michelle Obama is not loyal to or patriotic about the United States are showing that they do not have these feelings about the country she wants to see fully established.
The White Republicans who denounce her are showing their rejection of this America, and also their anger that she will not be loyal to and patriotic about their version of the country, where White people are dominant and in the ascendancy, and Blacks are subordinated, confined, and excluded as much as possible.
When one considers that the Republican Party is overwhelmingly White in composition, speaks for and represents this large White population in the country- which centers in White people in the South- it is not a mystery why members of it would label Michelle Obama disloyal and unpatriotic.
But she is not daunted, because she has too much intelligence, integrity, and common sense to be loyal to and patriotic about the kind of America that so many White Republicans want. - Dr. W D Wright