Kansas Student Tries to Block Michelle Obama Graduation Speech on Brown v. Board Anniversary

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Oliver Brown, et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, et al., better known as Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that ended segregation in public schools. To commemorate the occasion, the Topeka, Kansas Unified School District has invited First Lady Michelle Obama to speak at the district’s graduation, and some Topeka residents have decided to mark the occasion by trying to block her from doing so:

Topeka High senior Taylor Gifford said she was initially excited to hear of Obama’s visit.

“We were absolutely thrilled,” Gifford said. “I mean, it’s the first lady.”

But that feeling quickly gave way to disappointment when she heard the number of tickets that would be issued, which prompted her to launch a petition on Change.org asking the district to drop its plans for a single, combined graduation. The district shouldn’t put students in a position of choosing which of their family members can attend, she said.

You guys, it is duffinitely totes important to remember when the brown people versused the people who were bored of education, and having the First Lady speak would be an honor we would perish forever, but, like, fourtickets?!? Thanks, Obama!

The right-wing media, whose deranged hatred for Michelle Obama exceeds even that for her husband, has a full-on diamond-cutter over this news, because of course they do.

Gifford’s petition currently has over 2,000 signatures, and asks to have “Regular graduation and attendance back to normal,” but does allow for the possibility that “the speech to be given at all commencements, whether the First Lady is there in person or she has her speech recorded and replayed.”

That’s reasonable. Maybe Mrs. Obama could give separate but equal speeches to various segments of the graduating classes, maybe out back by the kitchen.

Responses to the petition have come from Topeka, as well as other parts of the country, and include the following reasons given by the petitioners:

  • Sally Milligan MADERA, CA “This is an inappropriate venue for Michelle to present the topic she is proposing. Segregation in schools ended in the 60’s, why is she talking about that in 2014? What purpose does this serve to a graduating class of high schoolers in this day and age?”

  • Ken LeRoy LAKE ELSINORE, CA “As one of the graduates Uncles who is traveling from out of state too see this ceromony, I think its morally right too keep tradition, especially since the issue has nothing too do with the ceromony.”

  • John Winner TIGARD, OR “The commencement ceremonies are for the students that earned the right to be there. Michele has not earned that right and would be trying to steal the spotlight from those that deserve it. Stay away Michelle.”

  • stanley lehigh SACO, ME “communism does not belong in our school and the messenger needs to be banned”

  • max tague PRINCETON, IA “any vote against this slut is ok by me”

  • adolf hitler MUNICH, NE “Sieg heil!”

Most of the responses have to do with the allotment of four tickets per family that was floated early on, but the district has announced that the allotment will be six. Things may be very different in Kansas, but six is the number of tickets my kids had for their graduations, and there could easily be a ticket exchange set up for people with extras to give to people who need them. Besides, I have always known the custom to be that you have close family sit through the ceremony, videotape it, never watch it again, then have a humongous party for friends and cousins.

But even conceding that limiting tickets is an inconvenience, and that the late announcement caused some problems, the lack of historical self-awareness here is stunning. The First Lady is set to commemorate the 60th anniversary of when the Supreme Court forced this specific school district to end segregation, and yet Aunt Bertha having to watch the graduation on a Trinitron is the real injustice. We Shall Overcome!

Unfortunately, this petition has amplified the voices of what might be a very small, very vocal minority, because those 2,000 signatures (many from out-of-state) represent just a small fraction of the approximately 100,000 people who live in the district, which is 77.2 percent white and 16.3 percent black. Thanks to Brown v. Board of Education, their kids can now go to school together, so even though they aren’t screeching and stomping their feet, it’s a good bet that many of them are thrilled to commemorate the occasion with Michelle Obama, a living, breathing symbol of its legacy.

(h/t TRS)