Friday, May 31, 2013

"Let them Eat Platitudes": The Appalling Persistence of Condescending Attitudes toward African Americans by President Obama and the Urgent Need To Challenge Them


It seems that far too many people--both in and outside of the national black community today--can't or won't say what really needs to be said about these kind of intellectually dishonest, utterly shallow, heavily condescending and absurdly patronizing speeches that the President is always addressing to African American audiences--so I will.  Please read the following excellent critical and insightful commentary by a variety of individuals across the country and pass the word...and stay tuned because this very important and  necessary battle ain't hardly over yet by a long shot...


by Darrell Dawsey
May 21, 2013
Deadline Detroit

With all the criticism he's endured lately over the IRS, Benghazi, leak investigations and drones, you'd figure President Obama would be on safer ground at a place like Morehouse College, the historically black all-men's university where he gave the commencement address last weekend.

You'd be wrong.

Sharp criticism comes from pundits who contend that Obama, yet again, spent excessive time lecturing the grads about personal responsibility and not making "excuses" for their troubles.

The argument, which has been leveled at Obama on previous occasions when he's spoken to largely black male audiences, is that the President tends to want to wag his finger at and scold black men -- that he "talks down" to blacks, as Jesse Jackson once said -- rather than greeting them with the same sort of themes with which he addresses white folks.

Consider, for instance, this jab from my friend Trevor Coleman, a noted Detroit journalist and author, in the Washington Post yesterday:

Coleman, a former speechwriter for former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, said that although parts of the talk were strong and lofty, including passages honoring Morehouse graduate Martin Luther King Jr., he was disappointed that Obama almost always defaults to the clean-up-your-act message when talking to predominantly black audiences. First lady Michelle Obama issued a similar tongue-lashing last week at Bowie State University’s commencement ceremony. She told graduates at the historically black Maryland school that too many young people are “fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”

“The first couple of times, it was okay, but I and a lot of other people are beginning to grow weary of it,” said Coleman, adding that the message was particularly galling at Sunday’s event at the historically black Georgia school. “What made it so gratuitous was this was Morehouse College! In the African American community, the very definition of a Morehouse man is someone who is a leader, who is taught to go out and make a difference in his community.”

Coleman isn't alone in his criticisms. Noted scholar after the speech, contending the Obama lacks "the moral authority" to give such a "lopsided" address to the Morehouse audience.

Double Standard

Watkins also argued that some black voters too often enable the President's hectoring.

So, when Obama comes to Morehouse and says, “Stop using racism as an excuse and start taking more responsibility,” we LOVE it. We also nod our heads in agreement because for the educated elite, Obama isn’t talking about us. He’s talking about “them.”

You know, those n*ggaz who keep getting sent to prison, who can’t get jobs, and who are killing each other in the street. They deserve their plight because they don’t work as hard as the rest of us, at least that’s the logic. It’s easy to grab onto the simple answers: Black men love their kids less than white men do, black women are only capable of raising incompetent children who eat Popeye’s chicken for breakfast, and black people are slightly less human than whites, thus prone to more criminal activity.

But here’s the issue. Telling black Americans to stop using racism as an excuse allows President Obama to create a set of excuses for his own significant, even embarrassing, lack of action to help alleviate the clearly documented, undeniable, legislatively enforced poison of racial inequality that continues to impact our society.

As he tells the Morehouse men to take more responsibility for their own lives, the mirror of personal responsibility should also be turned on the most powerful black man in the history of the world to use his massive platform to help confront systematic racism that affects us all. I also wonder if the president is going to follow this speech with one telling gay men that they can’t use homophobia as an excuse to complain, or that women shouldn’t be speaking out about s****l assault. The double standard is actually borderline frightening: The president’s skin color creates a human shield protecting the White House from being attacked for saying things that would lead to riots were Obama 100% white instead of just 50%.

Meanwhile, anti-racism lecturer Tim Wise calls Obama out for what he says is a racialized double standard for how he talks to blacks versus whites:

Needless to say, Barack Obama will never tell white people at a traditionally white college or university to stop blaming affirmative action for every job we didn’t get, or every law school we didn’t get into, though we’ve been known to use both of these excuses on more than a few occasions.

He won’t tell white graduates at a traditionally white college or university to stop blaming Latino/a immigrants, for “taking our jobs,” which excuse we’ve also been known to float from time to time.

He would never tell graduates at a mostly white college to stop blaming immigrants, or so-called welfare for our supposedly high tax burdens, even though these remain popular, albeit incorrect, scapegoats for whatever taxes we pay.

He won’t tell white grads at white colleges to reject the entreaties of their right-wing radio hosts and talking heads, who keep blaming the Community Reinvestment Act and other fair housing laws for the mortgage and larger economic meltdown, even though such things were not to blame.

In short, to Barack Obama, it is only black people who need lectures about personal responsibility.

For the record, you can add me to the list of those who are tired of Obama always picking black audiences, especially audiences with large numbers of black men, as the targets for his inner social conservative.

On Campaign Trail

He did it on the campaign trail, in part (I believe) to score political points, with his 2008 Father's Day speech. He did it to the Congressional Black Caucus. Even Africans accused him of doing it on his travels to the Motherland.

Mind you, it's not that I or any of his other critics believe that all black men are above the tut-tutting. Rather, it's that, when it comes to talking to black folks, far too much of Obama's time is squandered with these backhanded accusations that black people simply complain, make excuses, dodge personal responsibility and use racism as a cop-out.

Where's the talk about foreign policy? (Or, better yet, talk about an effective urban policy?) Where are the long-winded passages about economic recovery and sticking up for Main Street and workers' rights and tax reform? At what point will the President give a major address to blacks and spend the bulk of his time dealing with us as citizens in full rather than as some prop or punching bag?

Obama doesn't lecture whites like that. He tried once. Remember when he accused "small-town voters" (read: white people) of being "bitter" and said "they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them…?"

And do you remember how he backpedaled with the quickness? He has yet to pull that stunt again.

But here he is in his second term thanks largely to huge black voter turnout, his African-American support still astronomical. Still, it sometimes seems that all the man really wants to do when he steps in front of predominantly black audiences is discuss the ways in which he thinks we can't get right.

Thing is, the men who collected those sheepskin scrolls at Morehouse this past weekend are among the brightest examples of young brothers who've answered the call to personal responsibility and to achievement in spite of circumstances.

And while I'm sure the students were beyond honored to have the first black president speak at their graduation, Obama could've done a better job of honoring them by spending less time telling them what not to be and more on acknowledging who they really are.

 Ta-Nehisi Coates

How the Obama Administration Talks to Black America
"Convenient race-talk" from a president who ought to know better

MAY 20 2013
The Atlantic

The first lady went to Bowie State and addressed the graduating class. Her speech was a mix of black history and a salute to the graduates. There was also this:

"But today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of "separate but equal," when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can't be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they're sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they're fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper."
And then this:

"If the school in your neighborhood isn't any good, don't just accept it. Get in there, fix it. Talk to the parents. Talk to the teachers. Get business and community leaders involved as well, because we all have a stake in building schools worthy of our children's promise. ...

And as my husband has said often, please stand up and reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white. Reject that."

There's a lot wrong here.

At the most basic level, there's nothing any more wrong with aspiring to be a rapper than there is with aspiring to be a painter, or an actor, or a sculptor. Hip-hop has produced some of the most penetrating art of our time, and inspired much more. My path to this space began with me aspiring to be a rapper. Hip-hop taught me to love literature. I am not alone. Perhaps you should not aspire to be a rapper because it generally does not provide a stable income. By that standard you should not aspire to be a writer, either.

At a higher level, there is the time-honored pattern of looking at the rather normal behaviors of black children and pathologizing them. My son wants to play for Bayern Munich.  Failing that, he has assured me he will be Kendrick Lamar. When I was kid I wanted to be Tony Dorsett -- or Rakim, whichever came first. Perhaps there is some corner of the world where white kids desire to be Timothy Geithner instead of Tom Brady. But I doubt it. What is specific to black kids is that their dreams often don't extend past entertainment and athletics That is a direct result of the kind of limited cultural exposure you find in impoverished, segregated neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are the direst result of American policy.

Enacting and enforcing policy is the job of the Obama White House. When asked about policy for African Americans, the president has said, "I'm not the president of black America. I'm the president of all America." An examination of the Obama administration's policy record toward black people clearly bears this out. An examination of the Obama administration's rhetoric, as directed at black people, tells us something different.

Yesterday, the president addressed Morehouse College's graduating class, and said this:

"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."

This clearly is a message that only a particular president can offer. Perhaps not the "president of black America," but certainly a president who sees holding African Americans to a standard of individual responsibility as part of his job. This is not a role Barack Obama undertakes with other communities.

Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people -- and particularly black youth -- and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that "there's no longer room for any excuses" -- as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of "all America," but he also is singularly the scold of "black America."

It's worth revisiting the president's comments over the past year in reference to gun violence. Visting his grieving adopted hometown of Chicago, in the wake of the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, the president said this:

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.

Two months earlier Obama visited Newtown. The killer, Adam Lanza, was estranged from his father and reportedly devastated by his parents divorce. But Obama did not speak to Newtown about the kind of community they were building, or speculate on the hole in Adam Lanza's heart.

When Barack Obama says that he is "the president of all America," he is exactly right. When he visits black communities, he visits as the American president, bearing with him all our history, all our good works, and all our sins. Among recent sins, the creation of the ghettos of Chicago -- accomplished by 20th-century American social policy -- rank relatively high. Leaving aside the vague connection between fatherhood and the murder of Hadiya Pendleton. Certainly the South Side could use more responsible fathers. Why aren't there more? Do those communities simply lack men of ambition or will? Are the men there genetically inferior?

No president has ever been better read on the intersection of racism and American history than our current one. I strongly suspect that he would point to policy. As the president of "all America," Barack Obama inherited that policy. I would not suggest that it is in his power to singlehandedly repair history. But I would say that, in his role as American president, it is wrong for him to handwave at history, to speak as though the government he represents is somehow only partly to blame. Moreover, I would say that to tout your ties to your community when it is convenient, and downplay them when it isn't, runs counter to any notion of individual responsibility.

I think the stature of the Obama family -- the most visible black family in American history -- is a great blow in the war against racism. I am filled with pride whenever I see them: there is simply no other way to say that. I think Barack Obama, specifically, is a remarkable human being -- wise, self-aware, genuinely curious and patient. It takes a man of particular vision to know, as Obama did, that the country really was ready to send an African American to the White House.

But I also think that some day historians will pore over his many speeches to black audiences. They will see a president who sought to hold black people accountable for their communities, but was disdainful of those who looked at him and sought the same. They will match his rhetoric of individual responsibility, with the aggression the administration showed to bail out the banks, and the timidity they showed in addressing a foreclosure crisis which devastated black America (again.)They wil weigh the rhetoric against an administration whose efforts against housing segregation have been run of the mill. And they will match the talk of the importance of black fathers with the paradox of a president who smoked marijuana in his youth but continued a drug-war which daily wrecks the lives of black men and their families. In all of this, those historians will see a discomfiting pattern of convenient race-talk.

I think the president owes black people more than this. In the 2012 election, the black community voted at a higher rate than any other ethnic community in the country. Their vote went almost entirely to Barack Obama. They did this despite a concerted effort to keep them from voting, and they deserve more than a sermon. Perhaps they cannot practically receive targeted policy. But surely they have earned something more than targeted scorn.

TA-NEHISI COATES is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

President Obama speaking at Morehouse College on May 19, 2013

Atlantic Daily World

(NNPA) – The condescending, lecturer-in-chief rhetoric that President Obama reserves for Black audiences is beginning to irritate an increasing number of African-Americans, his most loyal voting bloc.

Through intermittent rain, President Obama implored Morehouse College graduates to commit to being fathers and stewards of the community.

“,,,If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that too few of our brothers have the opportunities that you’ve had here at Morehouse,” Obama said. “In troubled neighborhoods all across this country – many of them heavily African American – too few of our citizens have role models to guide them. Communities just a couple miles from my house in Chicago, communities just a couple miles from here — they’re places where jobs are still too scarce and wages are still too low; where schools are underfunded and violence is pervasive; where too many of our men spend their youth not behind a desk in a classroom, but hanging out on the streets or brooding behind a jail cell.”

Critics say that although his speeches are largely uplifting, the predictable sermonizing that the president falls back on often misses the mark.

“If it’s a speech around Father’s Day or graduation there’s typically a kind of lecturing going on that sort of suggests that Black people ought to be socially responsible, that we ought to change our behavior, as if the total onus for what’s going on in our community is on us,” said Ron Daniels, president of Institute of the Black World 21st Century, an organization dedicated the social, political and economic of the Black people around the world.

Trevor Coleman, a political speechwriter, said that the imagery was unnecessary.

“I think that to go into this whole Black social pathology bag, that riff was not appropriate for that particular audience,” said Coleman. “You don’t get into Morehouse if you’re some crackhead, you don’t get into Morehouse if you’re an underachiever. You don’t go through Morehouse without having a certain kind of character and leadership skills and you go come out of there with some kind of commitment.”

Obama was criticized in 2011 for the way he talked to another committed group – the Congressional Black Caucus.

Speaking at a CBC dinner, he said, “Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes,” he said, his voice rising. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do.”

Although many people remember that Jesse Jackson said in 2008 that he wanted to cut off certain private parts of Obama, what is often forgotten is that he began his comment by saying, “He’s [Obama] talking down to Black people.”

Daniels said that the Morehouse speech would have been better used to address the Black unemployment rate, especially among Black men, and discuss a targeted way to alleviate that disparity.

Since President Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, the unemployment rate has fallen for Whites and Latinos, but increased for Blacks. According to the latest jobs report released by the Labor Department, the 13.2 percent unemployment rate for Blacks is almost twice the 6.7 percent jobless rate of Whites.

President Obama’s critics don’t ignore his accomplishments: reducing the 100-1 disparity in drug sentencing, the Affordable Care Act and addressing gun violence. But when it comes to addressing unemployment in the Black community, the president is intentionally vague.

“If anyone else had an unemployment rate among their youth that was anywhere as high as 35 or 40 percent, there would be warfare in this country,” said Daniels. “People are tired of hearing these lectures on social responsibility without policies to address the myriad problems facing the Black community.”

Coleman said, “No one is expecting the president to go out and give a speech about how racist the Republicans are.”

The notion that President Obama’s Black critics want him to march into the White House with a Black agenda, is ridiculous, Daniels said. It’s really about how the president chooses to respond to communities in crisis.

“Whether we supported him or not, he has to respond to the crisis,” said Daniels. “He’s going to Oklahoma, a red state, he’s responding to that crisis. He’s going to Oklahoma, because the people are suffering there.”

Daniels said that the president needs to have a similar response to the Black people who are suffering high unemployment, violence, and mass incarceration.

“No matter who the president is, any group expects for him to respond to their needs whether or not you support that president or not,” said Daniels. “If you are the president for all the people, you assess what any one group needs and you respond to them, but we know in the real world that doesn’t happen because Republicans don’t cater to certain constituencies, and Democrats don’t either but in this particular instance, there should be a direct relationship between and the people that support you politically, that were your margin of victory in many states and your ability to respond to them.”

President Obama’s support in the Black community during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections was near universal and recent studies have shown that, for the first time in history, the Black voter turnout rate was higher than any other group. Daniels said that it’s time for a little payback.

“What stings for a lot of African Americans is we see him willing to go to the mat specifically for issues that directly affect gays issues with marriage equality and he stuck his neck out for them on that issue,” said Coleman. “We see him go to the mat specifically for issues that affect Latinos the immigration issue he stuck his neck out there on that issue, risking political capital. We see him going to the mat specifically for issues that affect White women with the [Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act].”

Coleman said that even though the African American unemployment is unacceptably high, President Obama can’t even say that a specific program to deal with Black unemployment is necessary, without swift political backlash.

“He can’t say that, he won’t do that and that’s what really bothers many African Americans,” said Coleman.

Some argue that, at this point in his presidency, he doesn’t have to.

“It’s an understanding at this point no matter what is said and done, whether he chooses to give [Blacks] preferential treatment or not, and he’s not going to do that, because he know that he’s got that vote and they’re not going to turn against them,” said Herbert Boyd, awarding winning author and journalist. “The president has their vote and they’re not going to turn against him.”

Boyd continued: “There’s nothing that he can do to disrupt that relationship and I think in a realpolitik kind of way he understands that. There’s a good segment of in the African-American community that says, ‘We need to be reminded of our accountability and responsibility.’”

Still, Boyd remains optimistic that President Obama, without the specter of another campaign looming, will begin to directly target, issues affecting the Black community.

“He doesn’t have to worry about re-election he may begin to take more chances, said Boyd. “In the end, I’m betting that he’s going to do something so absolutely, stunningly remarkable that he will be forgiven for everything else.”

His critics are waiting for that moment.

President Obama receives an honorary degree at Morehouse University. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Obama, Blacks and Personal Responsibility
by Richard Prince
May 22, 2013

His Morehouse gradation speech reignited the debate over his posture toward blacks.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama addressed freshly minted African American graduates over the weekend, reopening a debate that has dogged him since he was a candidate. On such occasions, how much emphasis should he give to addressing the "personal responsibility" of African Americans? How much should he focus instead on the responsibility of the government he leads to address African Americans' plight?

Underlying the question is the obvious fact that Obama is the nation's first black president and African Americans are his most loyal voting bloc. What is Obama's own responsibility?

By all accounts, the president was a hit Sunday at Morehouse College in Atlanta, as the first lady was the previous day at Bowie State University in Maryland, another historically black institution.

The first couple separately implored graduates to set examples for those whose achievements they have already surpassed. "Your generation is uniquely poised for success unlike any generation of African Americans that came before it," Obama told the Morehouse crowd.

"But that doesn't mean we don't have work -- because if we're honest with ourselves, we know that too few of our brothers have the opportunities that you've had here at Morehouse. In troubled neighborhoods all across this country -- many of them heavily African American -- too few of our citizens have role models to guide them. Communities just a couple miles from my house in Chicago, communities just a couple miles from here -- they're places where jobs are still too scarce and wages are still too low; where schools are underfunded and violence is pervasive; where too many of our men spend their youth not behind a desk in a classroom, but hanging out on the streets or brooding behind a jail cell. . . ."

Many in the media immediately jumped on the "personal responsibility" angle. "Two Excerpts You Should Read From Obama's Morehouse Speech," read a headline over a piece by Eyder Peralta of NPR, pointing to sections on "personal responsibility" and "family." The conservative Washington Times ran this headline: "Obama at Morehouse: Black men cannot use racism as a crutch."

That was just the kind of emphasis that irked Ta-Nehisi Coates, recent winner of a National Magazine Award for a piece about race and the Obama presidency. He wrote in the Atlantic:

"This clearly is a message that only a particular president can offer. Perhaps not the 'president of black America,' but certainly a president who sees holding African Americans to a standard of individual responsibility as part of his job. This is not a role Barack Obama undertakes with other communities.

"Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people -- and particularly black youth -- and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that 'there's no longer room for any excuses' -- as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of 'all America,' but he also is singularly the scold of 'black America.' "

Trevor W. Coleman, a former Detroit Free Press editorial writer and gubernatorial speech writer, sided more with Coates. Coleman wrote on Facebook, "those kids are Morehouse graduates and if they weren't aware of the internal challenges facing Black men when they started there, they most certainly are now. Does he always have to play in to that slanderous narrative that we as Black men suffer from some sort of moral deficit and are incapable of being nurturing parents lest we are shamed in to it?

"His commencement address would have been more helpful if he affirmed those young leaders and then challenged them to use their skills to become vigorous and relentless fighters against racism, classism, sexism, economic and political exploitation. The dirty little 'secret' of his very own presidency is that he is the ultimate example of how constrained Black achievement really can be, if it is not accompanied by a vigorous fight against structural and institutional racism. . . ."

Salim Muwakkil, longtime writer for the Chicago-based In These Times, argued on Facebook that the narrative that Obama chose was the only one the media would accept: "The patriarch-in-chief once again patronized his black audience. But condescension is the only public attitude Obama is allowed to express when making explicit racial connections. Were he, by chance, to speak of shared racial grievances with his black male audience or of the structural impediments he faces in a racist Congress, his presidential image would take a severe media battering. This media take-down would feed the (well-nourished conservative) narrative that the first black president is a feckless complainer who plays the race card to excuse his failures."

Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African & African American Studies at Duke University, wrote that he saw "a lot of digital space being spent on issues that really don't get us anywhere in terms of policy issues." After all, hadn't Obama already made these points in his Father's Day speech of 2008, back when he was a first-time presidential candidate?

Obama Leaves the Black Community Behind
By Kevin Alexander Gray
May 2, 2013
The Progressive

One has to believe in something or someone in order to betray that idea or person.

From the start President Barack Obama has shown little interest or loyalty in the issues that affect the poor, working class, and people of color in the United States. For almost his entire first term he didn't utter the words poor or poverty. Early on he reminded African Americans: “I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America…”

So it's not so surprising that Obama hasn’t done much of substance or impact to ease, let alone end, the depression in the black community. He’s been on the side of the banks and Wall Street since co-signing George Bush’s and Hank Paulsen’s TARP "too big to fail" bank bailout at the expense of underwater homeowners and middle-class taxpayers.

That’s because he believes more in bogus Wall Street privatization efforts that slide money to fats cats trading on charter schools and insurance companies poised to reap the benefits of Obamacare and Social Security privatization.

It's the belief in the “trickle-down” economic myth of Reaganism and the Wall Street 1percent rather than the many people who are now close to living in the streets because they lost their homes to foreclosures and other wealth-draining schemes.

As his economic race legacy unfolds, Obama’s recovery is worse than the George W. Bush recession for blacks. Overall median household income has fallen over $4,000 since he took office but black Americans have had a decrease in real income of over 11 percent. Unemployment is officially at 14-plus percent for blacks, nearly double that of the overall economy. When Obama entered the White House in January 2009, black unemployment was 12.7 percent. The highest black unemployment rate during Obama’s time in office was 16.7 percent in August 2011. During the eight years of Bush black unemployment didn’t rise above 13 percent. The rate reached its highest point of the Bush presidency, 12.1 percent, in December 2008.

Black youth unemployment is more than likely above 50 percent with entry-level drugs sales as their seemingly only viable employment option.

Yet now a lame duck Obama can’t get anything through Congress to ease the stress with either black adults or youth. He’s even leading the charge against those working and paying into a retirement fund thinking they’d have a little security in their old age.

From the very start, under the banner of his Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission, he’s been on a course to betray Social Security and the foundation of the New Deal safety net. Witness the administration's willingness to limit cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, which will surely have a far greater negative impact on black and Latino senior citizens and boost poverty among them. The Economic Policy Institute found that “after a lifetime of what are often lower wages, higher-cost borrowing and a limited ability to save, 26 percent of black seniors and 25 percent of Latino seniors depend on Social Security for 100 percent of their income, compared to about 14 percent of white retirees.”

Obama could have helped when he was first elected and his party controlled both houses of Congress. After the 2010 midterm election it was the hostile (Republican) Congress defense as to why he couldn't do anything. That was followed by the Romney boogieman excuse and defense.

He can limit the hurt—if he wants to so. Yet my fear, if the attack on Social Security is any indication, is that he will readily aid in the continuing economic destabilization of the community that voted for him in record numbers and has remained loyal and uncritical despite his political and economic ambivalence towards them.

At this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, comedian Conan O’Brien joked: “Mr. President, your hair is so white, it could be a member of your cabinet.”

Black exclusion and disparities under Obama now reduced to a joke. And Obama walks to the podium to rap music and makes Jay-Z jokes. And those in the bubble at the top laugh. As Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report wrote: “When Barack Obama leaves the White House in January 2017, what will black America, his earliest and most consistent supporters, have to show for making his political career possible. We’ll have the T-shirts and buttons and posters, the souvenirs. That will be the good news. The bad news is what else we'll have.... and not. “

At the very least, African Americans should mobilize to head off the erosion of their wealth invested in Social Security. They should demand that those who they send to the House and Senate protect their interest even in the face of a president all to willing to sell them out.

Obama may be limited to two terms. They are not.

Kevin Alexander Gray is a writer and activist living in South Carolina. He can be reached at"#

When Black Kids Want to Learn and the World Tells Them 'No'
by Mychal Denzel Smith
May 28, 2013
The Nation

First lady Michelle Obama speaks at the commencement ceremony for Bowie State University at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, Friday, May 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

In light of the recent news out of Chicago, I think we should take another look at first lady Michelle Obama’s remarks from her commencement address at Bowie State University. Particularly this part:

But today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of “separate but equal,” when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.

I hope the first lady has seen this video of 9-year-old Asean Johnson, on the eve of Chicago’s Board of Education vote to close fifty schools, telling a crowd of protesters, “You should be investing in these schools, not closing them. You should be supporting these schools, not closing them.” He wasn’t alone and this wasn’t the first demonstration. Young black people were out in the streets fighting for their right to an education and they were ignored.

The situation is similar in Philadelphia. Twenty-three schools in that city are slated to close, and on the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the one that was supposed to end “separate but equal,” students organized a walkout to protest budget cuts that would further decimate their schools, eliminating libraries, extracurricular activities and, yes, sports. I hope the first lady has read the statement issued by these students where they said: “We are willing to break the stereotypes and expectations of urban youth, and are taking this opportunity to tell the world that urban school districts deserve funding, and it is your responsibility under the Commonwealth Charter to provide us with more than a ‘bare bones education.” They want more. They want the resources for an education that will become the foundation of their future. Their government is building prisons instead.

What was so frustrating about hearing the first lady regurgitate these well-worn stereotypes about black children being more interested in video games than getting an education, aside from pathologizing in black kids rather normal childhood activities, is that it ignored what black children have in store when they do show up to school. If black kids are more disinterested, it would serve us well to ask why. It’s hard to find value in a place where you don’t feel welcome.

Let’s not pretend the school-to-prison pipeline isn’t real. Black children’s very existence has been criminalized inside the same institutions responsible for educating them. They find their hallways policed, their behavior over-disciplined; they are over-suspended, and eventually shipped off to juvenile detention facilities at alarming rates. They are chastised by community and thought leaders for not wanting an education, but when they show up for one they’re met with all the hostility and contempt one reserves for their greatest enemies.

There are black children who don’t value education. Not because they are black, but because they are children and that’s what children do. The more tragic and infuriating thing is that they grow up in a society that doesn’t value educating black children and is hellbent on doing everything it can to stop them from learning.

Read more on the StudentNation blog on how students across the country are protesting school closures and racial profiling.



(Originally posted on August 9, 2009):

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Severe Limits of 'Tough Love' Rhetoric: President Obama Speaks At NAACP Centennial Celebration But Forgets the Larger Context


(Originally posted on September 28, 2011):

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

President Obama Condescends to African Americans in Congressional Black Caucus Dinner Speech