- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2015

Speaking at the historically black Tuskegee University in Alabama, Michelle Obama recounted her own struggles against racism as the country’s first black first lady.

Mrs. Obama told graduates that she was subjected to a different set of expectations on the 2008 campaign trail than other candidates’ wives, The Hill reported.

“Back in those days, I had a lot of sleepless nights worrying about what people thought of me,” the first lady said. “‘What kind of first lady would I be? What kinds of issues would I take on?’ … The truth is, those same questions would have been posed to any candidate’s spouse.”

“But, as potentially the first African-American first lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations; conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others,” she continued. “Was I too loud, or too angry, or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mom, not enough of a career woman?”

Mrs. Obama recounted how in 2008, she was parodied as a radical and a terrorist on the cover of The New Yorker.

“It was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge Afro and a machine gun,” she recalled, Agence France-Presse reported. “Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder just how are people seeing me.

“And over the years, folks have used plenty of interesting words to describe me,” Mrs. Obama continued. “One said I exhibited ‘a little bit of uppity-ism.’ Another noted that I was one of my husband’s ‘cronies of color.’ Cable news once charmingly referred to me as ‘Obama’s Baby Mama.’”

In her nearly half-hour address, the first lady told the graduates to overcome discrimination by staying “true to the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves,” The Hill reported.

People “will make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world,” Mrs. Obama said. “My husband and I know how frustrating that experience can be. We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives. … And all of that is going to be a heavy burden to carry.”

Frustration “can feel isolating,” the first lady said.

“It can make you feel like your life somehow doesn’t matter. And as we’ve seen over the past few years, those feelings are real,” she added. “They’re rooted in decades of structural challenges that have made too many folks feel frustrated and invisible, and those feelings are playing out in communities like Baltimore and Ferguson and so many others across this country.”

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