A Letter to Michelle Obama

Dear Michelle,

Just yesterday I was watching a tape of you explaining to white people, I presume, that the reason we white people moved out to the suburbs was to get away from black people.

I will paraphrase. Try to imagine me doing an impression of you. That should be hysterical enough in itself.

“Y’ all were all trying to get away from us. We were doing all the things that we were supposed to do, and y’ all were moving away from us.“

I’d like to respond.

The white flight you are talking about occurred after World War II. This was when many young GIs were returning home from the war. It was also the time that major developers like William Levitt were building massive developments out in the suburbs.

These developments fit in nicely with the vamping up of the intrastate and interstate highway system which made it possible for people to drive their cars 25 miles away from an urban center.

Now here’s the kicker: Since most of us baby boomers were born after the war, we didn’t make any decision on going anywhere.

Being born in 1954, I didn’t have any choice of where my parents lived.

Given the parenting skills that existed in post World War II America, had I said anything, I would’ve been told to shut up.

I might also have been given a spanking.

Back in the 1950s and 60s, before permissive liberals ruined America, children didn’t dress up in black pajamas and lead their parents around with a machine gun.

Now, of course, we live in an era in which parents are completely dominated by their children.

Back in the day, parents told children what to do, where to go. And if you didn’t like it, tough darts.

Okay then, since we’ve established that baby boomers had almost zero choice and zero contribution when it came to white flight, let’s go back a generation and ask why the greatest generation engaged in white flight.

Were they racist?

Were they afraid of getting beat up by black people?

I doubt it.

The black community had not been thoroughly devastated yet. It would take Democrats running their welfare plantations three or four decades to accomplish that.

No, I think the greatest generation were afraid of another guy. I think that guy is why they left the inner-city if they ever lived there in the first place.

My dad grew up in the periphery of the Philadelphia area. Because his father was working for the railroad, he moved around a bit. For a time he lived in Wyncote. I know that he graduated from Cheltenham high school.

My mother grew up in Smyrna, Delaware which is a small town south of Philadelphia. There was no inner city there.

When they were young and poor my parents did live in West Philadelphia – 4244 Chestnut Street.

Between 1946 and 48, they lived in a one room apartment without a refrigerator. There was a private bath down the hall.

I don’t think they were afraid of people. I think people were afraid of them.

Soon after, my dad took a job at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. That’s where I was born.

When I was four years old, hardly in a position to make decisions for my family, we moved to the suburbs in Philadelphia. I grew up in Warminster.

Why did my parents move there? Was it to get away from you, Michelle?

I don’t think so. If they were trying to get away from anyone, they were probably trying to get away from Jimmy Markum.

Have you seen the movie Mystic River?

It’s a wonderful movie, and all the actors are marvelous.

In the movie Sean Penn plays Jimmy Markum.

Jimmy Markum is a tough guy who will kill people when he needs to. He plays a scary guy who sports what appears to be a prison tattoo on his back.

Laura Linney plays his lowlife, white trash wife who will readily support the evil shit that Jimmy does.

Jimmy Markum is a bad guy.

That’s probably who my parents were moving away from. In those days white people didn’t have to worry about black folk. They had enough on their hands with other white people.

Now, where we moved, there were a few black families around. I don’t remember my parents ever making a disparaging remark about black people.

One of my friends in grade school was a black boy named Dave. I didn’t have anything against him. I wasn’t raised to hate black folk.

In spite of all that, racial epithets were used freely in that era. I wasn’t immune from using them. Like all regular people, I used them. I’m not like the phony broadcasters and politicians who you hang out with, Michelle, the fakes who claim that they never uttered a racial slur, never smoked a joint, and never told a lie.

One time when we boys were playing cards I slipped and used the word nigger. I was trying to choose who would deal, and I said out loud: “Eeny meeny miny moe, catch a nigger by the toe.” I forgot that Dave was standing next to me. After I said that I looked at him, and he gave me this evil grin. Then he chased me around the room.

We were only twelve or thirteen, so I’m pretty sure we made up after that. Kids aren’t fundamentally racist.

And, unlike you and your friends, especially after you get your brains reverse-engineered by Harvard University, kids instinctively know that there’s a difference between barring someone from participating in an activity and calling someone a name.

It’s true that there was one or two people in our neighborhood who were afraid of black folk. I remember my sister telling me that her friend’s father said that he was going to sell his house if a black family moved in.

So I agree that there was a lot of fear going on. I agree that there was a lot of discrimination going on – even from William Levitt who would not allow blacks to live in his developments.

A side story to William Levitt is that he wouldn’t let Jews live in his developments either, and William Levitt was Jewish.

What do you make of that?

I think the people of the greatest generation had been programmed to believe that it was better to keep ethnic, racial and religious groups separate. I think they felt that many problems could be prevented by separating different groups. They probably felt that different sub-cultures when mixed would create more conflict and violence.

I don’t think it was overt hatred that motivated them.

I also don’t think that racial hatred motivated white people to move to the suburbs.

I think it was a combination of new areas opening up, the emergence of the automobile as a force in America to give people mobility, the creation of suburbs by people like William Levitt (yes, there is a Levitown in the Philadelphia area), and of course Jimmy Markum.

Don’t underestimate the power of Jimmy Markum. People don’t want to live around people who behave badly.

I think it’s too easy to say that white people were moving away from black people.

By the way, Michelle, why aren’t you living with the black gente who your husband represented all those years?

Why did you and Barack move to a white area on Martha’s Vineyard?

Didn’t you engage in what you accuse us of doing?

Sure you did.

You wanted to move away from Jimmy Markum.


Archer Crosley

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