In her senior thesis at Princeton, Michelle Obama wrote that her experiences at the Ivy League university made her “far more aware” of race and determined to work for the black community.
The 23-year-old school paper, posted on the Web site Politico.com, shows the young Michelle La Vaughn Robinson struggling to feel at home at the university.
Obama wrote that right-wing media used the thesis to paint a picture of her as a radical determined to "overthrow the white majority" and to further alienate her and her husband in the eyes of American electorate.
"For reasons I’ll never understand, the conservative media was treating my paper as if it were some secret black-power manifesto, a threat that had to be unburied.
“I imagine that the administrators at Princeton didn’t love the fact that students of color largely stuck together.
The hope was that all of us would mingle in heterogeneous harmony, deepening the quality of student life across the board. I understand that when it comes to campus diversity, the ideal would be to achieve something resembling what’s often shown on college brochures -- smiling students working and socializing in neat, ethnically blended groups," Obama wrote.“At Princeton, it seemed the only thing I needed to be vigilant about was my studies.Everything otherwise was designed to accommodate our well-being as students,” she wrote.Presto, Michelle has fulfilled the Affirmative Action requirements for Blacks getting a bachelor’s degree.You might be tempted to regard the conclusion as being irrelevant to the thesis it purports to arise from. It may be relevant in the sense that Michelle is trying to figure out how it is that educated Blacks often become Uncle Toms, “fogittin dey roots,” and how this might be prevented.Apparently, Michelle went to the school’s Alumni Records Office and asked someone named Pat Larue to help her in sending a questionnaire to these Black alumni. Some time went by, and a few of the prestigious Congoids mailed her their replies.The focus of the questions seem to be ascertaining the extent to which these earlier Black Princeton graduates still considered themselves tied to the Negro community in general, as measured by the degree to which they believed themselves to be morally obligated to engage in pro-Black social agitation, in the event they were not in positions of political power, and in blatant favoritism toward Blacks at the expense of Whites, in the event that they did hold positions of political power. Michelle promptly gave each of them the benefit of her expert scholarly analysis.Anytime I found my voice in class or nailed an exam, I quietly hoped it helped make a larger point,” she wrote.While she was a student, Princeton was "extremely white and very male." Because of this, Obama quickly made friends with other students of color and discovered that the harmonious diversity portrayed in college brochures didn't translate to her own college experience."It was impossible to be a black kid at a mostly white school and not feel the shadow of affirmative action. " During her freshman year, Obama lived in a triple in Pyne Hall with two white students, whom she remembered as nice for the most part, although she didn't spend much time hanging out in their room.You could almost read the scrutiny in the gaze of certain students and even some professors, as if they wanted to say, 'I know why you’re here.' These moments could be demoralizing, even if I’m sure I was just imagining some of it," she wrote. Midway through the year, one of her roommates, Cathy, moved into a single, and Obama discovered many years later that "her mother, a schoolteacher from New Orleans, had been so appalled that her daughter had been assigned a black roommate that she'd badgered the university to separate us." Other parts of her life at Princeton came out during the campaigns, including her senior thesis, a survey of African American alumni about their perceptions of race and identity after having attended Princeton.