Becoming
Michelle Obama

by

Jack Shields

Themes
Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
Racial Discrimination and Racism

The theme of racial segregation is evident in the book. Pettigrew and Maryleestate that racial discrimination is a web of institutional arrangements, which produces group inequalities such as economic resources and political power (2). Obama states that the ‘Great Migration’ had caused white families to leave the south side of Chicago to settle in the suburbs. The author states that at one time while visiting her mother’s friend Velma Steward at Park Forest, a white neighborhood, someone intentionally scratched her dad’s beloved Buick marking a “thin ugly gulch that ran across the door and toward the tail of the car” (Obama 36). The theme of racial segregation is also evident simply in the disparities between the South Side and the suburbs of Chicago. The author purports that in the South Side; second graders were not only attending school in a basement but also had an incompetent teacher that disliked them. Michelle also indicates that before moving to the suburbs, the neighborhood comprised of about 96% white families, however, with the increasing rate of poverty and violence, the neighborhood quickly changed to be comprised of 96% black families (Obama 31).

The theme of racism is also evident in this book. According to Clair and Jeffrey, racism refers to racial domination where a presumed cultural dominance of a particular racial group is utilized to justify the social position or the inferiority treatment of other racial groups (857). The author states that while growing up, they spoke more about inequality and race. Michelle’s parents often told her that the color of their skin made them vulnerable. The author reveals that despite her father’s skills and experience, his skin inhibited him from being promoted. The author reveals that racial discrimination was so evident that big factories regularly employed European immigrants instead of African American workers (Obama 42). Racism was also apparent even when Barack won the presidential election. The author states that from “where I sat, I could see … an ocean of whiteness and maleness… the absence of diversity was glaring (Obama 265). Michelle purports that the slant commentaries, such as “Don’t let the black folks take over” during the presidential campaigns were based on race (Obama 234). Subsequently, Michelle also states that it was apparent that racism caused the Republicans to block every bill proposed by Barack, regardless of whether it was good for the nation or not. The author also reveals she was often referred as an ‘angry black women’ and, thus, she knew she had to prove herself more, compared to former First Ladies simply because she was an African American First Lady.

Importance of Family Unity

The theme of family is widely discussed in this book. The author states that regardless of the chaos going on in the south side of Chicago, Michelle was always protected under the umbrella of her family. The author describes the value of family in times of need. For instance, she states that when her grandfather Southside separated from her grandmother, his daughter Carolyn took him in. Subsequently, Michelle’s mother acceptance to stay at the White House as well as helping Michelle to accompany both Malia and Sasha to school is a clear indication of the significant value of family.

Work and Parenting

The theme of work and parenting is widely addressed in the book. Michelle was both a working professional and a mother to Malia and Sasha. She also states that her friends Susan Sher and Valeria Jarrett were working mothers that prioritized their children above work. The author states that while assuming the role of the First lady, she ensured that she set aside some time to spend time with her daughters. The book strives to show that a woman can learn to balance the demands of their work and motherhood.

The Nasty Side of Politics

The theme of the nasty side of politics is evident in the second and third parts of this book. The author states that Barack’s political endeavors subjected the family to media criticism and scrutiny. For example, when Barack failed to attend a crime-bill vote due to Malia’s sudden fever, Barack’s opponents painted him as having poor individual character for using his child as an excuse to miss the voting session (Obama 144). Subsequently, Michelle asserts that her political role as the first Lady made people interpret her every move from the way she dressed to well as her public messages. At times, she could be referred to as an angry black woman who had to prove her worth as a First Lady. The theme of the nasty side of politics continues when Donald Trump levelled political and personal accusations at Barack. She recalls that a few days later a stranger “started firing a semiautomatic rifle outside the window, aimed at the top floors of the White House” (Obama 29). The author puts emphasis on this theme by stating that her experience of politics was “the ugly red-versus-blue dynamic” (Obama 264) whose ‘nastiness’ had affected her personally.

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