Friday, February 22, 2008

Michelle Obama's Thesis on the Racial Divide

Michelle Obama's senior thesis at Princeton University has been taken out of circulation by university librarians until November 5. The decision's not unusual during a presidential campaign, although speculation's mounted as to what potentially titilating extracts the manuscript might contain.

Well it turns out that
the Politico's obtained a copy, as Jeffrey Ressner explains (via Memeorandum):

Michelle Obama's senior year thesis at Princeton University, obtained from the campaign by Politico, shows a document written by a young woman grappling with a society in which a black Princeton alumnus might only be allowed to remain "on the periphery." Read the full thesis here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4."

My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'blackness' than ever before," the future Mrs. Obama wrote in her thesis introduction. "I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second."

The thesis, titled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community" and written under her maiden name, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, in 1985, has been the subject of much conjecture on the blogosphere and elsewhere in recent weeks, as it has been "temporarily withdrawn" from Princeton's library until after this year's presidential election in November. Some of the material has been written about previously, however, including a story last year in the Newark Star Ledger.
As you can see, the Politico's posted links to the online manuscript. I haven't read it, although I'm intrigued by Ressner's final two paragraphs in his story:

To research her thesis, the future Mrs. Obama sent an 18-question survey to a sampling of 400 black Princeton graduates, requesting the respondents define the amount of time and "comfort" level spent interacting with blacks and whites before they attended the school, as well as during and after their University years. Other questions dealt with their individual religious beliefs, living arrangements, careers, role models, economic status, and thoughts about lower class blacks. In addition, those surveyed were asked to choose whether they were more in line with a "separationist and/or pluralist" viewpoint or an "integrationist and/or assimilationist" ideology.

Just under 90 alums responded to the questionnaires (for a response rate of approximately 22 percent) and the conclusions were not what she expected. "I hoped that these findings would help me conclude that despite the high degree of identification with whites as a result of the educational and occupational path that black Princeton alumni follow, the alumni would still maintain a certain level of identification with the black community. However, these findings do not support this possibility."
In other words, the hypothesis of increased feelings of racial alienation as students moved through their college experience at Princeton - an institutional bastion of the white power structure - was not confirmed. One might expect that research showing an acceptable level of integration among college students at prestigious university might be cause for celebration, despite the limited sample and marginal generalizability.

Of course, Michelle Obama's a 44 year-old woman today, and one shouldn't make too much of the youthful racial/philosophical ideas of a 20-something college senior.

Still, it's an interesting question as to why a black student at one of the nation's premier universities - in a higher-educational system that by 1985 had begun to bend over backwards in expanding opportunities for previously disadvantaged groups - felt so compelled to confirm research suggesting increasing racial alienation.

But even more intriguing is that Michelle Obama's essentially rejected her own findings on acceptable levels of integration in adopting the left's stereotypical hardcore anti-American ideology. That is, Obama's moved more toward an oppositional ideological position as she's become even more successful in a system her own research showed to be reasonably tolerant.

As I've noted in a number of posts (see
here and here), the Obamas are among the nation's black elite. They've enjoyed the fruits of the American dream, only to turn around to denounce the very system that has placed them on the verge of ultimate political power.

Only in America!

See also, "
Looking for Substance in a Dangerous Left-Winger," on the myth of Barack's empty platform.