Saturday, April 5, 2008

Michelle Robinson Obama's Thesis

Recently a friend asked if it was possible to find info on Michelle Obama's thesis while at Princeton and if that info might indicate a history of prejudice. Since then several others have hinted about the racial undertones of the content.

Written in 1985, the 66 page document was written using her maiden name Michelle Robinson while in her senior year at Princeton. From the introduction her research question is a personal one, based on experience and inquisitiveness as a young black woman in a predominately white Ivy League university.

The introduction reads, "The purpose of this study is to examine various attitudes of Black Princeton alumni in their present state and as they are perceived by the alumni to have changed over time."

She underscores the study's importance as more blacks attend white universities "it would be helpful to know how their experiences in these universities affect their future attitudes . . . Will they become more or less motivated to benefit the Black community?"

This is clearly written during a time when black attendance at Ivy league schools was not as prominent as it is today. She appears to be a woman in search of information as she enters a new phase of her life as an alumnus holding a Sociology sheepskin in hand.

"Regardless of the circumstances under which I interact with Whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second."

Do her words hint racism? Yes, to the degree of personal campus experience. Mrs. Obama believed her graduation was about to deliver her "into a White culture and social structure that will allow me to remain on the periphery of society."

As a woman, I can relate. At the onset of writing for publications, my byline was (as often as newspapers would allow) "c. howle." My primary concern was that my work stand on its own, not as writing from a female birth mother, but as credible, substantial work from any gender.

With Obama racial rumors flying full breeze, they are forcing many of us into uncomfortable very public conversations, an examination of our own bias, whether black or white. Not since the M.L.K. era have so many racial pimples come to head. As stark as the racial controversial statements are, history says controversy is the major catalyst for substantial change.

What did we expect as a byproduct of process with a man of mixed race running for the leader of the free world ? It's detox time. It's a good thing.


PG said...

I still do not know how I feel about Michelle O'Bama. Will she be a representative for all people? I guess only time will answer that question.

chowle said...

And it looks like time may be their friend.