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Michelle Obama's slavery roots
What <em>The New York Times</em>' discovery about the first lady's family tree says about America
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aybe now more Americans can get over their hang-ups about racial purity, said TheRoot.com. The New York Times on Thursday published an article revealing that first lady Michelle Obama's great-great-great grandmother was a slave named Melvinia Shields, who was impregnated in her teens by an unknown white man a few years before the Civil War. "For those with any sense, the history and reality of intermingling bloodlines in the United States is nothing particularly new"—the question is why it has taken Americans so long to accept it.

Michelle Obama's family history is certainly not unique, said author Annette Gordon-Reed in The New York Times. Most black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved "have some degree of mixed ancestry." The reason our society has always looked at people as all white or all black was simply because everyone had to fit into "their racial 'place' to determine how they should be treated."

There's no denying that Michelle Obama's "ancestry is complicated, glorious, and quintessentially African-American," said Latoya Peterson in Jezebel. But it's a little "unsettling" that the Times would reveal something so intensely personal. Some will find the journey of Mrs. Obama's family from bondage to the White House uplifting—and it is—but judging by the dismissive comments about her "slave blood" made by the likes of Rush Limbaugh during the presidential campaign, some will see it quite differently.

It's not unreasonable to think that these revelations could "inflame all those anti-Obama racists roaming out there," said Andrew Belonsky in Gawker. "You know, because that slave blood's tainting the White House, or something." But the news that the first lady's great-great-great-grandmother was a slave raped by a white man is an important reminder "of this nation's ugly, noxious past."

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