September 13th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY / EDITORIAL: How America's choice will affect Australia

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Rudd's threat to close non-performing schools

FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Stronger rules needed on foreign investment

AGRICULTURE: High stakes in federal quarantine inquiry

EDUCATION: Reflections on home-schooling

UNITED NATIONS: Australia should not sign UN women's rights protocol

VICTORIA: Victoria battles over so-called 'right to kill'

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Bid to tax churches out of existence?

ADVERTISING: Protests force removal of offensive billboards

CHINA: How China topped the Olympic gold medal tally

UNITED STATES: Michelle Obama's separationist view of race

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Migration debate revisited / Migrating on the SS Urea (1970) / 2008 postscript

Mandated medical malpractice (letter)

BOOKS: ON BURCHETT, by Tibor Méray, Tibor Meray

BOOKS: THE ISRAEL LOBBY and US Foreign Policy, by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

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Michelle Obama's separationist view of race

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, September 13, 2008
US presidential candidate Barack Obama's wife, when she was at Princeton, viewed American society through a divisive race-based prism. Babette Francis reports.

Feminist Jill Singer has contrasted the two potential First Ladies of US politics, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, in a column "The First Ladies feisty or fragile" (Herald Sun, Melbourne, July 21). The contrast was of course unfavourable to Cindy - you can guess who is feisty and who is fragile.

Singer considers these women typical of wives of left and right-wing politicians. In the same category as Cindy, Singer classifies Laura Bush and Janette Howard, "sweetly soft and charming home-bodies ... a campaign manager's dream, women who do their husbands proud by standing well behind them". In contrast, left-wing leaders' wives are "feisty, smart and with a streak of independence, which can be a political liability".

Michelle Obama may be a liability, but not because she is feisty. Her statement when Barack Obama was winning the primaries, that for the first time in her life she felt proud of her country, aroused much antipathy.

It was unpatriotic from a woman who, on scholarships, graduated in sociology from Princeton and in law from Harvard, and is making a six-figure income. Didn't she feel at all proud of the opportunities the US gives to minorities from disadvantaged backgrounds?

But it is Michelle Obama's (née Michelle laVaughn Robinson) 1985 final-year thesis, "Princeton-educated blacks and the black community", which is more contentious than her lack of pride in her country.

Princeton University was requested to put a "restriction" on copies of this thesis until November 5, 2008, the day after the US elections; but when it appeared on a political website, Princeton lifted the restriction.

In her thesis, she stated that America was a nation founded on "crime and hatred" and that whites in America were "ineradicably racist". She also stated that "[to] whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, she will always be black first and a student second".

However, a black classmate commented: "If those 'whites at Princeton' really saw Michelle as one who always would 'be black first', it seems she gave them that impression."

More alarming is Michelle Obama's use of the terms "separationist" and "integrationist" describing the views of blacks. She identifies herself with a "separationist" view of race.

She says: "By actually working with the black lower-class or within their communities as a result of their ideologies, a separationist may better understand the desperation of their situation and feel more hopeless about a resolution as opposed to an integrationist who is ignorant of their plight."

Michelle Obama states that the path she chose by attending the Ivy League Princeton would likely lead to her "further integration and/or assimilation into a white cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society, never becoming a full participant".

A potential First Lady "on the periphery of society"? Michelle Obama has blinkers through which she sees separate black and white societies in America, and is determined to elevate black over white: "There was no doubt in my mind that, as a member of the black community, I am obligated to this community and will utilise all of my present and future resources to benefit the black community first and foremost."

What resources will Michelle use, if she's First Lady, to elevate black over white? Another passage confirms a demand for affirmative action policies that could be the hallmark of an Obama administration: "Predominately white universities like Princeton are socially and academically designed to cater to the needs of the white students comprising the bulk of their enrolments."

Her poll of black alumni concludes that other black students do not share her obsession with colour. But rather than celebrate, she mopes that black alumni identify with the common American culture more than they value the colour of their skin:

She says: "I hoped these findings would help me conclude, despite the high degree of identification with whites as a result of the educational and occupational path black Princeton alumni follow, that the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility."


It is not surprising most black alumni ignored her racist questionnaire. Only 89 students responded out of 400 asked for input.

Michelle Obama's divisive worldview through a race-based prism could damage race relations in the US. She does not look into a crowd of Obama supporters and see Americans - she sees black people and white people eternally in conflict with one another. Her intellectually refined racism gives cause for concern, but is overlooked by the US media.

"Colour-blind" Cindy and John McCain years ago adopted an Indian girl who had serious health problems. Michelle Obama's scholarship was paid for by US taxpayers.

- The author Babette Francis is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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