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Michelle Obama And Race In America

FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama wave to guests after their dance at the Inaugural Ball at the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington. Michelle Obama has a new look, both in person and online, and with the president's re-election, she has four more years as first lady, too. The first lady is trying to figure out what comes next for this self-described "mom in chief" who also is a champion of healthier eating, an advocate for military families, a fitness buff and the best-selling author of a book about her White House garden. For certain, she'll press ahead with her well-publicized efforts to reduce childhood obesity and rally the country around its service members. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama wave to guests after their dance at the Inaugural Ball at the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington in January. (Paul Sancya/AP)

A post-racial president? Not so fast, says Wellesly social scientist Michael Jeffries. We’ll talk about his new book on the state of race and class and gender in Obama’s America.


Michael Jeffries, Knafel Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and assistant professor of American studies, studies race, gender, politics, identity, and popular culture at Wellesley College. His new book is “Paint the White House Black: Barack Obama and the Meaning of Race in America.”


Michelle Obama has been the subject of numerous portrayals in the media that many consider racist. You can find some examples of controversial cartoons here, here, and here.

WBUR “Obama’s name appears in the titles of courses at colleges and universities across the country, and even those that don’t pitch themselves as classes about the president are full of Obama-related reading and discussion; “Obama Studies” is emerging.”

The Atlantic “One of the iconic moments of late Bush-era America came when Kanye West wandered off script at a Hurricane Katrina telethon and boldly proclaimed, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Despite some obvious political and personal differences between Bush and Barack Obama, the current president has also been criticized for taking black supporters for granted and failing to advance a policy agenda that effectively combats black suffering.”

Wellesley College “We need to move away from “great man” or “great woman” explanations for historical change. President Obama is a supremely talented politician, and an important thinker and speaker in many ways, but he operates within all sorts of constraints. Likewise, our impressions of the president are constrained by our cultural context—the language we use, the images we see, and the stories that are amplified by media outlets become the raw material for building our own personal models of Barack Obama.”


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  • Wahoo_wa

    What does a big butt have to do with racism?  That’s quite a HUGE leap! 

  • Wahoo_wa

    Stereotypes and racism are two different things.  You might want to look up the definition of racism.

  • Relli1215

    This is hilarious.  Michael Jeffries is furious that Michele Obama’s success actually points out the  diminishing importance of racialism in this country. He can’t stand it that he can’t complain about things.   He is a ridiculous caricature of the desperation of the political correctness industry in decline.  The only people who want to keep racism alive are these culturally bankrupt leftists.

    • Long-time-listener

      Relli1215 and others: your own political leanings are coloring your understanding of this afternoon’s discussion.  As someone who comments on a public news forum, you should appreciate the need to converse about what is going on in this country. Jeffries is advocating for honest conversation, because without it, we’re stuck. This isn’t about leftists keeping racism alive (which needs no help from the left–it’s alive and well, as displayed by many of these comments). Check yourself, please.

      • Wahoo_wa

        I believe racism is alive in the U.S. however I don’t think it’s as rampant as some may perceive.  The “issues” raised in this interview were clearly a stretch at best.  I also think it’s true that some fringe elements on the far left see racism were none is existent or implied…and that’s just sad.  I go further to say that drumming up charges of racism when none is evident is just as repugnant as racism itself.  At that point it’s not starting a conversation but it is quite the opposite.  NPR has been very good at race baiting for quite some time.  I think it’s in the comfort zone to drag up a demon that does not exist on the scale NPR has invented. I also think you illustrate my point quite clearly when you write “”it’s alive and well, as displayed by many of these comments.” There is not one single racist comment in the comments page here but you are convinced that you see racism. Perhaps you’re projecting or feeling a sense of personal guilt? It’s just so sad and pathetic!

  • Relli1215

    Now he’s claiming that the press making a lot of her influence in the White House is any different from how it hounded Nancy Reagan. This is NOT about racism, but he’s desperate to make it so.

  • Wahoo_wa

    This is the most bizarre, grasping-at-straws interview I have ever heard on Radio Boston.

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    What’s funny is that the same men who speak badly about Michelle’s body are the ones who would brag to their friends about having sex with a black woman.  PIGS!

  • Thank_you

    Thank you for your recent shows that have focused on race in our time. Please continue to cover race-related topics in more depth. These are conversations that we need to have more of in Boston.

  • captnboston

    Let’s think about this…
    Meghna brings up an unknown and un-credited on-line response to Michelle Obama and Big Bird “Let’s Move” appearance saying she had a fat ass. Racist? What if the person that posted was an African American?

    Michael Jeffries tells us racism is the reason that Michelle Malkin, (née Maglalang), a Phillipina, is racist because she criticized Michelle Obama about wealth in the US?

    The media questions the President and first lady’s relationship. Racist?

    Do we forget the Clinton’s? Was it racism when the EXACT things were stated about Hillary and Bill? Hillary’s hips and butt have been discussed for years!

    It is obvious too that Mrs. Obama has put on weight. Is she following her “Let’s Move” program? A perfectly acceptable and race neutral question.

    The reality is,  when people like Michael Jeffries and Meghna Chakrabarti use this type of failed logic, they do every human in the world a great disservice and they are personally responsible for helping to continue racism for the future.

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