• NYT Columnist Chides Michelle O: Stop Trying to Communicate with People Who Disagree with You

    Surge Summary: A popular New York Times’ writer takes to task former First Lady Michelle Obama for her bothering to reach out to white Americans who are succumbing to “white flight”. It’s a strange reaction from someone whose job is allegedly to persuade others about the correctness of his ideas.

    Speaking at Chicago’s Obama Foundation Summit last week, former First Lady Michelle Obama lamented that “white flight” (Caucasian households relocating out of areas heavily populated by racial minorities) – a phenomenon she observed as a young person — still exists today.

    She said she “can’t make people not afraid of black people,” report Newser’s editors, adding:

    “I can’t explain what’s happening in your head, but maybe if I show up every day as a human, a good human … maybe, just maybe, that work will pick away at the scabs of your discrimination.”

    The, perhaps unforeseen, response of at least one prominent columnist? Well,  New York Times, black opinionator Charles Blow writes he is “saddened” that Ms. Obama, whom he greatly admires, is entertaining such sentiments.

    “Why should this brilliant black woman spend even a second of her time considering the mind-set of a racist?” he asks. “She shouldn’t. No black person should. No person who suffers the sting of racism should.” Obama has degrees from Princeton and Harvard, has lived an exemplary life, and is the most admired woman in the world in polls, writes Blow. “My wish for Michelle Obama is simple: that she never again allow herself to entertain the thought of how she is being perceived by racists and whether or not that is changing any of their minds.” Or as he puts it in his concluding line, “Why should cave men be allowed to occupy space in the mind of a super woman?” 

    It’s a genuinely peculiar rejoinder from someone whose bread-and-butter for the past eleven years has been written polemics in a major newspaper. Blow’s livelihood depends on promulgating his views on things. It’s safe to say that involves reaching out to people who often don’t agree with him. Is he repudiating that entire enterprise?

    Persuading others, changing the minds of those who differ with us, is supposed to be something thoughtful people are all about. Giving up on a subset of human beings – in this case, those whom Blow comprehensively flags as “racists” – because they might be acting out of ignorance or misunderstandings? Really? Why, then, is Mr. Blow bothering with his weekly column in one of the most prominent publications on the planet? Is it actually only so he can earn a paycheck?

    If white families continue to needlessly move out of African-American majority neighborhoods, merely because they are uncomfortable around people with dark skin, is it possible Michelle Obama is reaching out to them in precisely the way that might cause them to reconsider? Reasoning with them, demonstrating to them there might be another option? That they need not fear her simply because of her skin tone?

    Dismissing them, insulting them, appears to be Charles Blow’s tack. Maybe I’m missing something, but I suspect that isn’t going to win over any of them.

    H/T: Newser

    Image: Adapted from: Gage Skidmore <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/
    22007612@N05/15592489991″>Michelle Obama</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>
    photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

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