If you were watching the funeral for George H.W. Bush earlier this week, you might have noticed Barack and Michelle Obama being civil to Donald and Melania Trump. And that’s a huge problem, apparently. At least according to former ESPN host and current Atlantic staff writer Jemele Hill:
My latest for @TheAtlantic: The Obamas interaction with the Trumps at George H.W Bush’s funeral was emblematic of a larger problem — people of color being required to always take the high road https://t.co/PkFhqlW24J
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) December 7, 2018
The Obamas didn’t go low when they interacted with the Trumps, because that’s just not how they operate. And it’s not like I expected anything different at a state funeral. Former President Obama has always, always exhibited a maddening allegiance to institutional respect, even if it wasn’t returned. (All too often, it wasn’t.)
Still, it was infuriating to see the Obamas graciously engage with the man who spent years vociferously promoting the racist conspiracy theory that the former president is a Muslim who wasn’t born in the United States. Also recall that Donald Trump repeatedly challenged Obama to produce his college-admissions records—because it wasn’t enough for Trump to try to invalidate Obama’s presidency, he had to question Obama’s intellect.
That’s one of the many burdens of racism for people of color: It is ridiculously one-sided. Only one side is expected to show compassion. Only one side must practice restraint. Only one side is pressured into forgiveness. It’s bad enough having to stomach being wronged. It’s downright shameful being stuck with the responsibility of also making it right.
— Mickey White (@BiasedGirl) December 7, 2018
By all means let’s discourage civility.
— Paul (@PaulMarsh3000) December 7, 2018
Wait what? Why are you making this a thing? It isn’t a thing.
— Carolyn (@cmd6022) December 7, 2018
— Bee 🐝 (@infobee) December 7, 2018
What if — and we’re just putting this out there — civility has nothing to do with race?
I have a thought that I need to unpack about this piece. I kind of get it but I'm bothered by it because the implicit suggestion seems to be that the Obamas go high because they're people of color and not simply because they have the integrity and character to do so. https://t.co/rtZCTpiAFH
— Chloé S. Valdary 📚 (@cvaldary) December 7, 2018
What if people are capable of civil to one another because it’s just the right thing to do?
People…it was a funeral.
— Bob (@voncognac) December 7, 2018
Uh, it was a funeral.
— Joshua Wedel (@joshua_wedel) December 7, 2018
It's a funeral. Everyone should be taking the high road.
— Mark Bean (@MarkDBean) December 7, 2018
It was a funeral. Take the high road or don't show up.
— Lord Acton-A-Fool (@LordActonAFool) December 7, 2018
They were at a funeral. I think this is more emblematic of the totally sane belief that you shouldn't get in fights with people at funerals https://t.co/68BG2SGcmh
— Jimmy Carter Fan Club (@realwokieleaks) December 7, 2018
I know someone like you doesn't understand this, but there are people out there who take the high road even when they don't have to.
— yokotaster (@neontaster) December 7, 2018
And if anything, in light of all the birtherism garbage, the Obamas’ civility toward Donald Trump only makes them look better. Jemele needs to find something worth getting pissed off about. Because this ain’t it.
You live a bitter and cold life
— Tyler Griswold (@TylerAGriswold) December 7, 2018
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with an additional tweet.