As a youngster my father always told me to never make excuses. He stressed that habitual “excuse making” leads to defeatism. He spoke of defeatism so pejoratively that I began to think it was some sort of plague. When he even uttered the word excuse his face would contort in an ugly cringe as if he had just swallowed a lemon. Years later I found my father’s lessons to be very helpful when I was faced with adversity. The great thing about my father’s lesson was that he taught all of his children the same thing. My older sister and brother could not escape the long lectures and sermons my dad gave, because we all belonged to him. I wish Barack Obama would do the same.
Ever since the day Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the Presidency on the cold day in Springfield, Illinois he has paternalistically scolded the Black community for the pathologies that stigmatize it. Essentially, his rhetoric implies that problems dogging Blacks were more because of agency than because of structure. During his campaign for the Presidency, Barack Obama scolded Black parents in Texas in front a mostly black audience, by saying that they need to turn off the television and stop feeding their kids cold chicken for breakfast. While he did not explicitly say that this problem is exclusive to Black community, his statement in front of the predominately Black audience could be construed as a direct imploration to Black parents. Moreover, when he went to a predominately Black church on the Southside of Chicago on Father’s Day he said that Black men need to take responsibility for raising their children. While I agree that some Black men need to step up to plate, I believe that there are men of every race who are derelict in their duties as fathers. What has befuddled me is the paradoxes that have been swept underneath the rug throughout the campaign and throughout the days in his administration.
Obama ran on a platform that eschewed race. The only time Obama mentioned race was when he was forced to push back against the media because they made him too black ie Jeremiah Wright. In his speech on race in Philadelphia he said his grandmother was a typical White person. The media heralded it as one of the best speeches on race ever. Really? To me it seemed to be a timid response to a meaty issue. He continually stated that he was running for President of the United States not one segment of the population, but at times it seemed as if his way of currying favor with one segment was highlighting the flaws in another segment. Why was it necessary to scold Black men when you don’t want to be seen as a race candidate? Even if he didn’t deride Black folks explicitly he did it in a language that we could understand that would maybe not register with the mainstream. For example, “If Cousin Pookie would vote, if Uncle Jethro would get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls, we might have a different kind of politics.” For all we know Cousin Pookie could be White. But he was addressing a predominately Black audience at a Black church in Alabama. Thus far, the only time Barack has talked about Black folks straight forward, we’ve been characterized as shiftless, irresponsible, and ill dieted. What was he trying to gain from these statements?
What is even more egregious to me is that he has taken his “tough love” rhetoric to Africa. A few days ago in Ghana he said that Africans need to do more to depose of their tyrants and corruption. Never once did hear him say that Iranians need to do more to get rid of Ahmadinejad, nor did I hear him say that the Jews and Palestinians don’t need America. Of course, ultimately Africans will need to solve the problems that exist on their continent. But it seems a tad cold-hearted to suggest that civilians can take on the corrupt machines that exist in places like Zimbabwe. In talking about colonialism Obama said “ It is easy to point fingers and to pin the blame of these problems on others. Last time I checked Africans did not asked to be colonized. The last vestiges of the apartheid system were eradicated less than twenty years ago. You cannot mitigate the impact that an imposed system of inequity has had on Africans.
Although Obama’s remarks about Black people have irked me, I must give him credit for his great number of appointments of Blacks to high-ranking positions in his administration. But having a Black Attorney General, EPA Director, Ambassador to the United Nations, Deputy Chief of Staff, Social Secretary, Surgeon General, and other assorted staff don’t excuse the fact the he has had made disparaging remarks. In the end, I voted for Barack Obama to lead the country not to wave his finger at me. But if he feels the need to wave the finger that’s fine. Make sure it’s an equal opportunity wave.