Malia Obama’s Harvard Announcement Sparks Onslaught Of Racism

On Sunday, the White House announced Malia Obama’s intention to attend Harvard University, and the announcement brought an onslaught of racial comments. In fact, the comments became so overwhelming — and so derogatory — that, according to a report about the comments published by AOL, Fox News was forced to disable comments on the story. Why did Malia Obama’s announcement hit such a nerve?

Only two reasons exist that can explain the outrage over Malia Obama’s college choice. The first reason is the misdirected contempt many right-wing Americans have for President Obama and everything in which he is involved, including his daughter Malia’s education. The second reason, which is much more disturbing, is the racial tension in the United States — a tension that grew throughout Obama’s presidency and that this campaign season has brought to a climax.

Before going any further, it is important to remind the American public that, in the United States, slavery ended more than 150 years ago. The end of Reconstruction in the South is nearly as far in the past, and 1870, when the 15th Amendment gave all male citizens the right to vote, regardless of race, color or previous servitude, was 146 years ago. More recently, but still more than 50 years ago, the Jim Crow era ended thanks to the Civil Rights Movement and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

So, why, today, in 2016, is there outrage over Malia Obama going to Harvard?

Unfortunately, the answer is that much of America is still divided along racial lines. From the inner-city blacks who, often rightfully, do not trust whites, especially those in positions of authority, to Southern whites who, disgustingly, still see themselves as superior to their black compatriots, racism is a plague on our nation. More disturbing is that we as a nation are letting racial tensions mar the excitement Malia Obama should be feeling as she prepares for a gap year and college. Shame on us.

In case anyone reading this needs to be reminded, Malia Obama, just like every other person in the United States, regardless of his or her color, has the right to attend whichever university he or she chooses as long as the university grants acceptance. Additionally, while I have not personally seen Malia Obama’s SAT scores and high school transcript, I believe it is safe to assume Malia Obama is academically gifted, considering her parents’ intellectual abilities.

It is also important to point out that both of Malia Obama’s parents earned their law degrees from Harvard Law. Additionally, President Obama earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, while Michelle Obama earned hers from Princeton University. Both were granted admission to these top-tier universities when they were not political royalty, meaning their admissions were based on merit.

Now is the time for all Americans to let go of race and national origin and start looking beyond the color of the skin of their fellow Americans, Malia Obama included, and into their hearts. It is time to stop using the terms African-American, Hispanic, Irish-American, Italian American, and so on from inclusion in statements about self. It is time for us all to be Americans in both name and spirit.

We should, as a nation, be proud to see Malia Obama, one of our first daughters, attending one of the top universities not only in our country but in the world. We should be proud of the fact that our country has moved so far past the shame of slavery and segregation that Malia Obama has this opportunity, that we elected Barack Obama as president, that Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice have served as Secretaries of State, and that Thurgood Marshall has served and Clarence Thomas continues to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ending racial tensions and attacks like the ones Malia Obama has had to endure is the job of all Americans — black, white, Hispanic, Asian and Native American. In the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that this job was one we all shared, but he has been gone for nearly 50 years, so now it up to us to remind each other of the principles upon which this country was founded — those that were written so clearly in our Declaration of Independence.

“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

All reasonable Americans must do their parts both by speaking out against racism and by working to stop its spread. We must teach our children that all people are equal, and that no one, regardless of color or social status, is better than anyone else. We must continue the work for which Dr. King and so many others gave their lives so that our children inherit a better, more equal country where they will not have to endure what Malia Obama has had to endure these past few days.

I, for one, send my congratulations to Malia Obama. I also congratulate her parents for raising such an intelligent young woman and Harvard for seeing her potential.

[Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP Images]