First Lady Michelle Obama has encouraged students to monitor their family and friends for racial insensitivity. On Saturday, Obama addressed high school students during the Topeka School District Senior Recognition Day. As the event coincided with the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the First Lady’s address focused on racial equality.
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court determined that state laws, which segregated black and white students, were unconstitutional. In the ruling, the court cited the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. In the court’s opinion, public school segregation is a direct violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
During her address, Michelle Obama discussed the history of segregation and racial insensitivity:
“… black folks and white folks had separate restaurants, separate hotels, separate movie theaters, swimming pools, and, of course, the elementary schools were segregated, too. So even though many black children lived just blocks away from their white schools in their neighborhoods, they had to take long bus rides to all-black schools across town.”
The First Lady explained that Brown v. Board of Education was a turning point that facilitated freedom and equality for people of all races and backgrounds. Although the civil rights movement has made great strides, Michelle Obama encouraged the students to promote racial sensitivity amongst their friends and family.
As stated in the address, too many people “are still stopped on the street because of the color of their skin… made to feel unwelcome because of where they came from… or bullied because of who they love.”
In an effort to combat racial insensitivity, Michelle Obama challenged the students to identify and discourage racist behavior and comments among their family and friends:
“As you go forth, when you encounter folks who still hold the old prejudices… it’s up to you to help them see things differently… You all can make a difference every day in your own lives simply by teaching others the lessons you’ve learned… Maybe that starts simply in your own family, when grandpa tells that off-colored joke at Thanksgiving, or you’ve got an aunt talks about ‘those people.’ Well, you can politely inform them that they’re talking about your friends.”
The First Lady’s message is quite clear. Although the civil rights movement has made progress, there is plenty of room for improvement. In an effort to move forward, Michelle Obama has encouraged students to combat racial insensitivity at the source.
[Image via Parade]