At a high school graduation in Kansas, First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged students to “police family and friends” because federal laws can only go so far in preventing racism.
Last Friday, Mrs. Obama told high schoolers “our laws may no longer separate us based on skin color, but nothing in the Constitution says we have to eat together in the lunchroom, or live together in the same neighborhoods. There’s no court case against believing in stereotypes or thinking that certain kinds of hateful jokes or comments are funny.”
She urged students to “drag my generation and your grandparents’ generation along with you.”
She continued, saying “maybe that starts simply in your family, when grandpa tells that off-color joke at Thanksgiving, or you’ve got an aunt that talks about ‘those people.’ Well, you can politely inform them that they’re talking about your friends.”
She added “or maybe it’s when you go off to college and you decide to join a sorority or fraternity, and you ask the question, how can we get more diversity in our next pledge class? Or maybe it’s years from now when you’re on the job and you’re the one who asks, do we really have all the voices and viewpoints we need at this table?”
Obama then said “but no matter what you do, the point is to never be afraid to talk about these issues, particularly the issue of race.”
Obama also praised the school for having a highly diverse student population, only to add that “by some measures, our schools are as segregated [today] as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech.”