First Lady Michelle Obama urged students at Tuskegee University, a historically black university in Alabama, to remain involved in civic life during a time of tension regarding race relations across the country.
At the school’s commencement address, the First Lady listed scenarios in which African-Americans feel they encounter systemic discrimination, such as “nagging worries that you’re going to get stopped or pulled over for absolutely no reason.” She said those feelings are “real,” but disengaging is not an option.
“I want to be very clear that those feelings are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up. Not an excuse. They are not an excuse to lose hope. To succumb to feelings of despair and anger only means that in the end, we lose,” Obama said.
The comments come a week after violent riots brought Baltimore to a halt following the arrest and death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a black man who died as a result of injuries sustained during his apprehension. Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has charged all six Baltimore Police Department officers involved in Gray’s arrest for offenses including second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.