Succeeding While Black

Michelle Obama’s new book reduces racial inequality to a matter of psychological impairment that can be overcome through grit and grin. This is a dangerous proposition.

By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

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Read the full article from Boston Review, here.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Assistant professor of African-American Studies at Princeton University

The point is not to impose onto or require a more radical viewpoint from Obama when she does not have one, but rather to expose her ultimately conservative message. Obama served as an inspiring role model—her personal story is extraordinary by any measure. But it is crucial for both her and us to acknowledge that it was made possible by the confluence of institutional changes and her own talents. For the children of Harper High and their parents who live with PTSD and other scars of urban and suburban life in the twenty-first century, we must reaffirm our commitment to the same kinds of institutional interventions—and beyond—that made her ascent possible.

Another world is possible, but it can only be built through a collective struggle that Obama no longer sees as necessary.