Monday, June 18, 2012

Keep Your Book Off My Ancestors, Lady

This is bizarre to me:  What do you think about the fact that somebody wrote a book about Michelle Obama's ancestry?  Here's a quote from the lady who wrote it (the article is mostly about how one of Obama's ancestors owned the woman whose child he fathered):
"I hope that the book will encourage people to talk more openly about slavery and how that wrenching period of American history still reverberates in this country, shaping countless contemporary family lines, whether black, white or in-between," she writes on her website. "What I loved most about Mrs. Obama's ancestors is that they were ordinary people who loved, struggled, strived and found their way forward under enormously difficult circumstances. Many of us share those kinds of stories. We only have to start digging to find them." 
So Ms. Obama has to have her ancestry mined to heal our country?  That's just strange to me, and unfair.  It feels seriously exploitative - she didn't do this with Michelle's consent.


  1. "People are divided as to the nature of Charles' and Melvinia's relationship. While some of Shields' descendants told Swarns that they hoped it was a happy one -- "To me, it's an obvious love story that was hard for the South to accept back then," Aliene Shields, who is white, said -- others have pointed out that a slave wouldn't have the option of turning down unwanted advances from her master's son."

    How nice that they aren't actively wishing their ancestor was a rapist. Lol. I think Americans are very uncomfortable thinking about slavery, because Americans tend to want a clean narrative, with heroes and villains. What to do about great people who have done horrible things? Or bad people who did good things? We like to boast of the good things our ancestors have done, while sweeping all the bad things under the rug.

    I daresay most African-Americans are singularly unsurprised to find white ancestry in their background. We don't look like our west African counterparts, and the reason is pretty obvious. So I doubt the relevations are particularly shocking to Michelle Obama.

  2. I don't think it's shocking, just exploitative. I mean, why is it any of our business who Michelle Obama's ancestors are? We all know this stuff happened, and not just in the distant past, look at Strom Thurmond. I think I'm reacting this way because I don't think falls into the realm of the things that first couples generally agree to give up as public. And I think it would be different somehow if she covered several famous black people's ancestors and some white ones, maybe. But this singling out just feels strange to me. Forced.