By Janet Crain
Michelle Obama said; " I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America." Well, at least she is a descendant of slaves because Obama sure isn't the descendant of any African slaves held in America.
In truth we are all the descendants of slaves. I can assure you if you have any Native American blood you descend (if not directly then collaterally) from slaves. And they were held in legal bondage by European settlers. Additionally you have ancestors (if not directly then collaterally) who were indentured servants and they were held in legal bondage, some for life by persons with enough money to buy their indenture cheaply and work them to death in many cases.Many did not voluntarily enter into these contracts, but were kidnapped "kidnabbed" by thugs who sold them to ship captains, who resold them to the highest bidder in the Colonies.
Before that many were held in legal bondage as serfs in Europe and other countries. They were forbidden to leave the estate they were born on and eventually died on. They worked for a hovel to live in, rags to wear and swill to eat. No salary. The Vikings kidnapped slaves from Ireland and the coast of England for a very long time. The word slave comes from Slav, blond European people, often enslaved and sold to the Middle East.
So having ancestors as slaves is not unique, nor does it give you any special cred. It is sad and unfortunate your ancestor had to suffer but you didn't. So I am appalled that the First Lady is behaving in such a prejudiced manner in her invitations to the White House, as described in Newsweek's "Michelle Hits Her Stride".
References to the slavery of indentured servants and Native Americans.
The first lady's diverse approach to diversity.
There have been plenty of un-veiling ceremonies for new statues at the U.S. Capitol. But when Michelle Obama peeled the cover off the bronze bust of abolitionist Sojourner Truth last week, the moment was heavy with symbolism. Truth is the first African-American woman to be honored with a statue in the Capitol. In a way no first lady before her ever could have done, Obama connected the dots between herself and the black feminist pioneer. "Now many young boys and girls like my own daughters will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them," she told the gathering. "I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America."
It was just the kind of scene I'd been hoping for when Barack Obama won the presidency last fall. I knew that Michelle Obama was already changing the way we see ourselves as African-American women. But I also hoped she would begin to knock down ugly stereotypes and educate people about American black culture. What's remarkable now—just over that much-hyped 100-day mark—is how quickly and decisively Michelle has taken on the issues that matter most to us.
From the start, Michelle never shied away from being an African-American role model. "I think it's clear that Michelle Obama is very comfortable in her own skin,'' says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center of American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. "She's not sending a message that I'm the first lady who just happens to be African-American. She's saying I'm an African-American first lady. There is a difference, and she's not afraid to show that.''
© Janet Crain
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