She can dress this up as an act of nobility all she likes, but it reeks of opportunism.
When Chrisette Michele was asked to perform for the new president, she had a choice: to stand with the marginalized or to align herself with their orange-tinged oppressor. In an interview with The Breakfast Club, she revealed that the question was an easy and immediate yes.
With that, her fate was sealed, though she’s certainly been trying to clarify an unconscionable decision in the wake of the immense backlash she welcomed. First, she released an open letter; the cyan font made it barely readable, but honestly, no matter the font or the color, none of it made much sense. Towards the end, she declared, “I am here, representing you, because this is what matters.”
Michele repeated that sentiment on The Breakfast Club. “I needed them to see us,” Michele argued. “I needed them to see what we have to say, what we look like, how we talk. With the entire campaign experience, I think that many of us were wondering, who is he talking to?”
The President is 70 years old and in his lifetime, he has engaged in housing discrimination against Black people, has called on the death of innocent Black men, has used racially inflammatory language over decades, and through his favorite job, reality TV host, has worked with Black people. The President has always seen Black people just as he has seen Latinos, immigrants, Muslims, and women; the problem is, he sees all of those sections of society as less than. As for who he was talking to, anyone that’s bothered to take a gander at any of his hate rallies during the campaign knew the answer: like-minded racist White people.
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Given that line of thinking, the singer’s political naiveté made the interview nothing more than a 40-minute PSA on the virtue of not speaking on things you know nothing about. The fact that she continuously repeats the adage “I’m no political genius” doesn’t make her a sympathetic figure. No, it just painfully and frustratingly illustrates willful ignorance.
Let Michele tell it, it is imperative that we need to communicate. So, “I took a lot of heat, but I wanted to unite America.” The problem with this line of thinking is that it foolishly assumes that closer proximity to prejudice will help lessen it. However, in the first week of the new administration, needless walls will be built; cruel bans against refugees over their religion will be unleashed; the threat of martial law has been hung over major cities; Jim Crow is leering towards a massive return; stupidity is soaring.
In the end, Michele didn’t even get to engage the menace. “My family has disowned me,” she said, “If you decide to Google me, you’ll see that America is writing about me in their newspapers. I’m the Black poster child for discord right now, and he’s not going to shake my hand?’ So no, I didn’t get to meet him.”
And every Negro went “Duh.”
Michele then slipped and confirmed suspicion that this was more about herself than she lets on. When asked why she didn’t attend the Women’s March the next day, Michele answered, “They don’t invite D-list celebrities.” The self-deprecation displayed does not deny the hubris-laden subtext of her response.
It was especially grating to hear her note that President Obama attended the inauguration. He was president, beloved. You were just a prop.
Unsurprisingly, Michele hopes to create a show entitled "No Political Genius." Michele wants to “go to the White girl in Dakota with the same situation as the Black girl in far Rockaway, and then I bring congresspeople and mayors from their area to talk to those situations.” We’ve seen that show before and it ends in American Horror Story: The 45th President of The United States of America.
Michele wanted the attention that came with performing for an inaugural ball – even if it was for a bigoted authoritarian in the making. She can dress this up as an act of nobility all she likes, but it all reeks of opportunism. Even if one believes Michele had sincere intentions, if you are a novice to politics, seek out more information and make informed decisions.
In her choice, Michele crooned in celebration for a conman with an unwavering commitment to hatred. Perhaps she can sleep with that, but for those who look like her who will face harder days and nights under this administration, it was an act of betrayal.
Time may lead to forgiveness, but she’ll always be wrong.