President Obama once claimed that he wasn’t the “president of Black America;” he declared that he’s the president of “all America.” However, this all American president just might have a bias when it comes to Black folk because it seems it’s being reported that the President Obama speaks to Black America in a way that’s more chastising than he does to other communities. In fact, The Atlantic even goes on to call the president’s way of talking to the Black community, a “convenient race-talk.”
What this reminds me of is the classic story of a coach who is tougher on his players with the most potential. I believe President Obama feels an obligation to the Black community to offer them more hope by way of keeping it all the way real. Sometimes keeping it real is translated as being abrasive and I think it’s fine for Obama to give the Black community tough love. It’s called holding a community accountable for their actions. But is he just doing that in the Black community?
We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.”
We’ve got no time for excuses — not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and overcame.
Could President Obama go to a predominantly White school with the same message? Yes (with a few tweaks), but it would be perceived differently. We all change up a our speech depending on our environment. Last time I checked, it’s what makes us dynamic human beings. I pride myself on my ability to be a chameleon and cater my speech to my environment, and I think President Obama should be respected for his ability reach the Black community with his assertive words.
However, there’s a difference between inspiring the youth to stop making excuses about their circumstances/history and assuming that urban communities lack fathers, guidance and respect. President Obama did just that in his speech against gun violence in Chicago following Hadiya Pendleton’s death. There was a heavy focus on the “types” of communities we build for our kids in his Chicago speech, but when dealing with the same issue in Newtown, President Obama never got into the topic of the community’s lack of leadership or fatherhood.
For a lot of young boys and young men in particular, they don’t see an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up in respect. And so that means that this is not just a gun issue; it’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building. When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.
While I appreciate President Obama’s shifting speech towards his audience, I agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic when he says that Black people deserve more from President Obama than “targeted scorn.” Do you? Answer our poll below.
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