It’s 2015 and the American right and left-wing press are still arguing over whether black women face discrimination. One specific black woman, actually – Michelle Obama, US First Lady, whose speech at a university commencement last week attracted an unexpected amount of ire from radio show hosts, journalists and the Twitterverse.
So why all the fuss? Well, if you’re Rich Lowry, writing in the Politico, you found a passage in which Obama described her own struggles as a black woman “off key and characteristically self-pitying”.
Lowry wrote that what Obama described as discrimination was merely “a series of inconsequential gibes or perceived insults” that he believes Obama exaggerated “because identity politics needs the oxygen of perpetual offense”.
The Daily Beast’s Ron Christie criticised Obama for “[painting] a negative and racist impression of the America she has been fortunate to live in and raise her family.”
And Michelle Malkin, writing in the National Review, called Obama an “Aspen ski-vacationing, haute-couture-wearing, Hollywood-elite-chumming first lady” whose “delusional discrimination fables are fuel on a raging fire her husband has failed to alleviate”.
On the other side of the divide, Lindy West, writing in the Guardian, accused Obama’s critics of burying their heads in the sand. “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….The depth of white denial… is nauseating.”
And the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen echoed similar sentiments. “I agree that sometimes Michelle Obama can come across as angry — and anger is discomforting,” he says. “But…if that sometimes makes others uncomfortable, it damn well should.”