May I rant about how fucking racist Barack and Michelle Obama’s commencement speeches were?

Barack Obama

UPDATE: Comments for this post have been closed.

Over the past several days President Barack and Michelle Obama delivered commencement speeches at two historically black universities.  At both they gave the same condescending lecture to Black students about dismissing racism and embracing personal responsibility.  For instance, here’s what President Obama’s had to say to Morehouse’s class of 2013:

“Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing…Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.”

And Michelle Obama’s speech at Bowie State wasn’t any better.  She told her audience that the problem with Black youth is that they are “sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV….fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.”

This is far from the first time Obama’s came down on a Black audience.  Rather, this is virtually his  only message to predominantly Black audiences.

During his re-election campaign, for instance, the solution he offered to Chicago’s recent spike in murders was for Black people to  “provide stronger role models than the gang-banger on the corner.”  Nevermind keeping Black kids schools open or providing young Black people with jobs.  Those are just the things their teachers recommended. And what the fuck do they know?

One would be hard pressed to imagine President Obama ever taking such a tone with predatory lenders or police officers who systematically discriminate against and terrorize Black people.

But, as Leola Johnson, a professor at Macalester College, pointed out in the Washington Post, the these speeches aren’t meant for the Black audience in the first place.  They’re meant for white people, especially liberals. “It’s the legacy of Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” she said, “and that whole group of white liberals who want to say it’s not just about structural problems that black people aren’t doing well, it’s about their own values.”

Indeed, consistent with Johnson’s argument, NPR was gleeful with Obama’s paternalistic finger-wagging. The tone of condescension and self-satisfaction is enough to make you cringe.  “President Obama…delivered a rare, very personal commencement address,” they wrote.  “It was a short speech, but Obama did not shy away from the subjects of race and responsibility…here are two excerpts you should read.”

Time and again Obama and other politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, treat Black audiences like punching bags.  How often do we hear politicians or talking heads chastising Black viewers over not taking enough “personal responsibility.”  Whenever politicians have anything to say about race it’s usually an endless litany of stereotypes characterizing Black people as irresponsible or criminal.  The message is clear.  Racism, at least structural racism, is extinct.  If Black people in America face any crisis at all it’s their own fault.

Never do you hear any reference to the systemic crises facing Black people in America.  For everything you hear about Black youth, never do you hear the names of Alan Bluford, Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray, Aiyana Jones, or any of the other countless Black teens shot dead by the police.  They never say anything about the range of inequality experienced by Black people in America.  By almost every standard of measurement imaginable, Black people are held at the bottom of American society.  In homelessness, unemployment, poverty, access to education, access to food, access to healthcare, and on.

To refer to this reality is not making “excuses” for Black people, as Barack Obama would have it.  And to suggest so is nothing less than outright racism.  By deflecting responsibility for racial inequality from the state and this society on to individuals, it is Obama who is making excuses for the racist system of oppression he oversees.

By employing such rhetorical tactics, Obama is paving the path for the further racial discrimination.  The criminalization of Black people, for instance, or the dismantling of public assistance programs relied upon by many poor Black people, is repeatedly justified by the kind of racial stereotypes referenced by Barack and Michelle Obama in their speeches.  Consider the NYPD’s outrageous stop-and-frisk program which has subjected 685,724 people in 2011 to random frisking, almost all of them Black or Latino.  The program is continuously defended by Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelley by deploying these kind of stereotypes.

The myth of the “welfare queen” was used to clear the way for virtually every form of social assistance, and really, for the stripping down of any kind of public program.  By emphasizing personal, rather than social responsibility, the state itself became less of an administrative body, and more of a collective disciplinarian.  Rather than electing politicians who decided how and when to use public resources, people began electing nagging parental units to tell us how awful we’ve gotten.

Indeed, Obama’s re-election campaign used these same arguments when he attacked Mitt Romney for supposedly creating programs that helped poor people get cars during his time as governor of Massachusetts.  As one author for Jacobin commented, it was as if Obama was channeling Reagan’s ghost.

It is for this reason precisely that so many of us on the Left argued against the pervasive “lesser evilism” of the election season.  Obama’s racist commentary offer a perfect example of how the “lesser evil” often serves as the “more effective evil.”  Coming from a liberal Black president, he’s less likely to be criticized when he does or says racist things–even though the outcome is the same, and the politics continues to shift toward the right. By harping on racist stereotypes, the President is providing a justification for even more economic, political, and social discrimination.

This is precisely why anti-racists and those on the Left cannot rely upon the lesser evil to defend against the (and there is no disputing this) far more bigoted, rabid, and vicious racists on the right.  The argument is not at all that both Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same on matters of race.  The argument by those who reject “lesser evilism” is that both feed into each other–one beats the path for the other, and emboldens the other to go even further.

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105 Responses to May I rant about how fucking racist Barack and Michelle Obama’s commencement speeches were?

  1. “This is precisely why anti-racists and those on the Left cannot rely upon the lesser evil to defend against the (and there is no disputing this) far more bigoted, rabid, and vicious racists on the right.”
    May I rant about how fucking bigoted this blog post is?

    • carjacker says:

      You may if you would care to clarify.

      The racist rhetoric used by Obama when he talks to Black audiences emboldens the racists to his right. How is that bigoted? In spite of all the racism of the right, Obama’s “personal responsibility” attacks on Black audiences encourages them–it doesn’t defend against them. That’s why anti-racists have to count on their own movement. How is that bigoted?

      • Upholtz is clearly living in the magical, nonexistent “post-racial” America in his mind. This article is dead-on.

      • StanTheMan says:

        @carjacker – “The racist rhetoric used by Obama when he talks to Black audiences emboldens the racists to his right.”

        A agree with your statement.  However, the flaw in your thinking (from my perspective) is the one-dimensional view of Obama’s speech.  The speech ALSO offered the President’s insights on behavioral changes that he believes would contribute most to the quality of lives of his audience — African American men — and to the quality of life for their families.

        It is not racist for the President to point to well-known deficits in social responsibility among black men unless the President also believes the social deficits have a genetic origin — something that black men are born with and can’t change, like their skin color.

        But the President obviously believes that history, laws and a variety of circumstances explain the high rate of single-family (mother-only) African American families.  Over the past 2-3 generations, changes in laws and policy have addressed many of those issues.  Today, the government is ‘out of money’ for new policy initiatives. And Obama’s election itself is fairly persuasive evidence that policies have been effective in creating opportunities for black men born into poor families — which means that black America should not expect a lot of new race-based initiatives even if the economy (and budget) improves.

        So Obama’s message seems to be that AT THIS JUNCTURE, further progress for African Americans will depend upon their personal initiative.  Pointing out this reality is a service to his listeners, many of whom have not had the benefit a strong male figure in their lives.  Among those for whom President Obama is a heroic figure, those words mattered.  They mattered a lot. 

        For those keeping score — black vs. white — Obama’s words may have been recorded as a loss.  But those who keep score are focused on the past.

        • Grant says:

          I think we run the risk of wondering in circles through the dessert here. Given where we started in the Americas to where we are today in the United States, I certainly think that President Obama represents a significant step forward. Are we not choosing to scapegoat the very couple who are doing more to elevate the perception of the black professional in the United States than could have ever been thought possible until 2008?

          These recent speeches do in fact seem a bit overly didactic and almost out of date. There is a certain 1990’s “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” innocence happening here. Had it not been for the responsibility taken by many unknown and highly acclaimed black Americans before the Obamas, their ascent would not have been possible (But something tells me that both the president and the first lady are well aware of this). What seems to be manifesting itself through the tone of these speeches is a certain class bias. However, this is where my criticism ends. I have a hard time accepting that the Obamas are participating in some sort of racial oppression of black America.

          The truth is that mainstream society really does not care to hear anything more about issues such as systemic oppression or racism (We have already won the means and legal recourse to address these issues on a case by case basis). Employers do not have a long view of history as it were. You simply cannot get your foot in the door of any company without a sense of personal responsibility. In many ways this challenges the notion of “change” that we heard so much about four years ago, but I’m certain that the change, in this regard, will come about with a more covert strategy. This strategy of “responsibility” involves doing the “work”.

          Since these speeches were intended for soon to be graduates, I suspect that the motivation was to help these young men and women transition into an increasingly competitive global economy.

  2. This was an incredible breakdown of the topic. The best one of all I’ve read, and there were as I’m sure you saw, many good ones. Blistering and completely covers it all. Thank you.

  3. theyflyliketime says:

    Are you criticizing the notion of personal responsibility or the rhetoric of personal responsibility?

    • Booker Law says:

      You read my mind. I’ve been sitting here thinking, “Who is this blogger who has decided that the President and First Lady are in error in addressing a problem from all sides, particularly one that at least some culpability can clearly be established in? Can we just not hold our people (I’m Black and grew up poor in a poor neighborhood) accountable for any of what they contribute to the problem?” This poster is probably a wolf in sheep’s clothes who would just as likely see the real enslavement of our people perpetuated- the enslavement of our minds to barriers that really have mostly to do with our mostly free choices. Who does the poster expect would be enraged by his core argument? We cannot forget the fact that our collective dependency is profitable for some.

      • DeeAnn says:

        Come on. Every speech that Obama gives to black audiences is the same: he criticizes African-Americans for their failings. All the while, Obama’s surrogates use the very real fact that he has faced racist attacks from the start of his administration.

  4. Derrick says:

    Haha this is the kind of stuff that just makes me laugh. Your example wasn’t the least bit racist. You’re either overly-sensitive to the subject or you just picked a bad examples from his speech.

    • Have you not been paying attention? This time, like all the other times Pres Obama bothers to bring up Black people, which he has done even less than other presidents, has contained the standard criticism of Black people through use of racist stereotypes that sidestep the real causes of racial inequality. Republicans have their version, and Democrats have theirs, with some overlap.

      Democrats, especially a Black one who is president, have to make it clear to their funders that, despite their (quickly disappearing) reputation as being the party that looks out for Black and other working class people, that they’re not really going to do anything to help Black people/fight systemic racism, or help poor people, so they have to at least subtly diss Black people so that the elite knows that the Democrat has their backs, no one else’s. The examples in this post and ones like it (he specifically criticized Black fathers on father’s day) spoken by Obama are common, not cherry-picked at all.

      • Eddie says:

        Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, aren’t they? I live in the ghetto in my city. I can count on one hand how many white gang bangers I see on the corners. Well, I don’t even need that one hand, because the answer is ZERO. Why in my city where the population split is nearly 50/50 do I only see other blacks on the corners?

        There’s nothing racist about the truth. Let me guess though, you also think Bill Cosby is an Uncle Tom right?

        • carjacker says:

          Did you stop to think that might have something to do with a thing called segregation? Cities are often heavily racially segregated. That concentrates poverty, and unemployment and singles out Black neighborhoods for the worst of it. This encourages finding work in the underground economy and contributes to the criminalization of Black people who often face the worst consequences of the war on drugs, meaning mass incarceration and police brutality–which feeds back into locking Black neighborhoods into high unemployment and poverty, since, once you have a criminal record, it’s harder to find work, or get access to things like student loans. Meaning, again, there are *structural roots* to the things you’re seeing in your neighborhood.

        • Eddie says:

          They’re all cop outs man. I came from a single mom household, not because of the abandonment which is rampant in our community, but cancer. I tell you though, there was no way in hell my mom was going to let me fail in school. She was on my butt every night to make sure my school work was done. After graduation, I took a job, and started community college. Then I got into the partying lifestyle and dropped out. That was on me though, my fault, nobody elses. I didn’t turn to the street life though, I turned to the military. It was there I learned that we’re all equal, and everything that happens in our own lives is our own responsibility.

          Do kids in our community have it harder than others? Yes, but it’s because of the breakdown of the family system, and nothing else. Nobody is being forced into out of wedlock children. It’s just a poor choice made by two people that ends up punishing the resulting child. Is having a single parent a recipe for failure? It doesn’t have to be, but we as outsiders need to help guide these kids (younger teens in particular) before it’s too late and they end up stuck in the same cycle of “I can’t do better”.

        • Eddie says:

          There is one thing I’ll agree with you on though Carjacker. That speech is kind of unneeded to a graduating COLLEGE class! If they’re graduating college, it’s pretty clear they are doing something with their lives already.

  5. Julie Guthrie says:

    How could Obama forget so quickly that young girl killed in rampant street violence in Chicago, who played for his inauguration days before?

  6. Ruthie says:

    The editorial would be far more effective and credible without the ignorant low-class language. It puts you in a classic 30 something class who has experienced little of life, and tries to impress and throw around ideas which are becoming quite trite and repetitive. Young people need to be challenged no matter what the race. In my world of a business owner, I hear repeatedly from other business owners that young people today often use excuses for lack of performance and ability. I am definitely not an Obama fan, but his message to the youth is correct. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t pick it up and wear it. But, please try to be more selective in your descriptive language. Maybe a thesauras would help, if you know what one is!

    • carjacker says:

      Oh, snap, dogg? Ever think that “the youth” don’t meet your performance expectations because the job sucks? Get a grip.

      As far as my vocabulary is concerned–I did call it a “rant.”

      • Drew says:

        Careful–you don’t want to lose the support of the BUSINESS OWNERS!

      • Stephan Geras says:

        Yeah, put the blame on those who for 200 years just haven’t realized they need to take responsibility! Oh, wait, what was the civil rights movement about?? Oh, and look at all those irresponsible First Nation Indigenous people? When will they learn? They had to be imprisoned on the res right off the bat, just to teach them a lesson about responsibility to the white euro conquerors I guess!

        • Hill Guthrie says:

          The legacy of slavery is very different when viewed as a victim than as a survivor. Those who have to work harder and appreciate the struggles of those before them will succeed without apologists or fear of the “system” oppressing them. Never apologize for asking someone to believe they can be great or that they give back to others once they do.

    • lithesome toll says:

      criticise the substance not the style?

    • KennedyMP says:

      It is becoming trite and repetitive because you are becoming complacent in white heteropatriarchy. I do not like when folk make broad generalizations about youth or persons of color; assuming that if we all just worked a little harder, we would make something of ourselves. That argument has been trite and repetitive because research would show that youth and persons of color are working. They are trying to make a life better for themselves.

      Obama’s language, just like mainstream media, paints a picture that youth and persons of color are lazy and make excuses. But you, Obama and mainstream media are mistaken to believe that because of laziness and a lack of drive, they cannot move up the sociopolitical class and gain more representation. There must be something else at work here for millions of people to be impoverished, lacking educational and health resources, homeless, and hungry.

      You sound like an ageist asshole who is drunk off white supremacist ideology.

      And what the fuck, because you are a business owner that gives you some type of precedence and knowledge about how the youth of America experience racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and class-ism? Sit down.

    • I agree that young people need to be challenged despite race. However, business owners also need to be challenged. It is difficult for a young person to have a positive attitude and motivation to work when business owners, big and small, attempt to avoid the provision of benefits and fair wages. We need to remember that it is a two-way street in this country, to get one must give, and that we are all citizens of the same country and should spend less time pointing out each others faults and more time working together.

  7. This was a really interesting take on the topic – thanks for making us think! It makes it harder to challenge racist stereotypes if your president is reinforcing them himself.
    As for those who don’t think the examples were racist – well, I think they’re either in a different stage of understanding structural racism than the author, or in a privileged position of being content with it. I’m kind of disappointed hearing this coming out of their mouths, Obama was such a beacon of hope for many across the world.

  8. Cex says:

    They have the two movements to keep people like yourselves distracted from the systemic failures. Obama is a product of a white middle class family and an ivy league education. Groomed like every other racist motherfucker that occupied the whitehouse he is continuing the legacy of white supremacy. Mass incarceration and the school to prison pipeline is a real thing that he has done nothing but exacerbate. People that still support this guy really need to wake the fuck up.

  9. Andrew says:

    Do not use your past as an excuse for why you failed but rather as a motivation to succeed. Let not aggrandize the situation to more than what it is. All the Obama’s are saying is that we have the power to create our destiny to what we wants it to be and not what it’s should have been.We do not live in a perfect society. Yes no one can deny the fact that there has been and there will always be structural violence in this great nation of ours. As a young black man i sometimes feel like I’m defined by these words:
    They take my kindness for weakness
    They take my silence as speechless
    They dismiss my uniqueness as foreign
    They call my language slangs
    They see my mistakes as defeat
    The consider my success as accidental
    They trivialize my intellect as potential
    My questions means I am unaware
    My advancement their regression
    My success their invention
    To voice concern is discontentment
    If I stand up for myself, I’m defensive
    If I don’t’ trust them I am too apprehensive
    I am defiant if I separate
    I am fake if I Assimilate
    My character is constantly under attack.
    It an imperfect system but as Harvey would say if you have your back against the wall, your only other option is to bring the entire goddam wall down.

  10. I am a 60 year old black female and my take on both speeches is that it is time to make better choices in how we live our lives. Yes there are alot of killings among black society but if you keep it real..we are killing our own and yes there needs to be better role models. You have the OG’s teaching the young bucks to be gangsters as if that is something to be proud of. We have young mothers who are in the clubs more than they are at the PTA meetings. Fathers who have abandoned their sons and daughters..Remember when it used to take a village to raise a child? Not anymore cause if you say something to one of these smart mouth kids they liable to shoot you. IJS..They have not respect for their elders and the parents don’t raise them to be respectful. Now let me be clear..there are some that do so I don’t want you to think I am generalizing them but come on be honest with yourself..we got work to do with this younger generation..

    • Josh says:

      But Barack Obama has the power and the influence to propose bold plans: reparations, debt forgiveness, guaranteed employment, livable wages, and so on. That’s the stuff that politicians and the president in particular are empowered to do. Instead, he preaches about personal responsibility. I think he ought to be preaching about what changes need to happen in government to help everyone.

  11. tonybaldwin says:

    Because jobs are everywhere, just falling off the job tree, and, everybody has equal opportunity here in the good, old Land of the Free, and nobody is every discriminated against ever…If you repeat the lie often enough…
    It’s embarrassing.
    But what do you expect? Both major parties are nothing but apologists and shills for the corporate fascists who fill their election coffers, and any justification to perpetuate the system that oppresses the masses and funnels power and resources to the few at the top, that’s their platform. Both of them give lip service to their pretended audiences to keep them all voting against their own interests. You want real change? Vote for another party, a third party. Vote Greens. Vote Socialist Party. Vote for Independents. Vote for any party that isn’t Wall St’s paid mistress. But stop voting for the two parties who have since forever built and perpetuated a system that keeps handing the keys to the kingdom over to their corporate masters, big oil, Monsanto, Walmart, the banks…Vote for a party that will protect the PEOPLE’S interests, protect the environment, protect labor, regulate business (which, btw, is NOT the libertarian party, who eschew regulation and will give the fascists further rein to brutally exploit both the people and environment, and, thus further the funneling of resources to the top while destroying our planet and allowing for brutal exploitation of labor and discrimination).
    The article IS right on! We’ve got to stop voting for “the lesser of two evils”, and start voting for parties and leaders who will actually institute real change.

    • BK Cool Breeze says:

      I will agree with one thing… a two party system is one step away from a dictatorship. It just makes us believe we have a choice!

  12. Shane says:

    Listen, Obama is correct. Take the analogy of sport, say for example Soccer. If two teams take the field at the beginning of the game, one wearing white, the other wearing black. Now the referee gives the first couple of decisions to the team wearing black, the white team becomes frustrated with this and immediately focuses their attention on the referee, his performance and his interpretation of the rules rather than the actual task in hand, to work as a team and compete. I firmly believe what Obama has said is true, and people regardless of race are not prepared to take responsibilities for there own failings or, get so focused on something going wrong (which was out of their control) that they become lose focus of their targets and goals in life. Yes, many people, cultures, etc have taken a knock (even we have, and I’m Irish. In fact we a suffering a serious depression now), but this nothing to what our people before have suffered, and yes they have showed a great deal of focus, inner strength, perseverance and persistence to get through these troubled times. But remember, we are human, we are organisms and although we are civilized there will also be discrimination and preferential treatment. We are standing on the shoulders giants and lets all tap into these great strengths we have rather than lamenting our past problems, or things that have went wrong.

    • Josh says:

      Your analogy fails because government isn’t just the referee. It’s also the owner, the rule-governing body, the person who builds and maintains the stadium and playing field, and the final arbiter of all things related to the sport. In the past, this group colluded to kidnap the white team and force them to play. Then it realized how fucked up that was and said, “I’m sorry”, but kept in place rules, organization, and even physical features of the stadium that put the white team at a disadvantage. And you think it’s appropriate to blame the white team? Fix the structural problems and then we’ll talk.

  13. Ltb says:

    I guess I understand your rant but I also understand their point of view. In my opinion it’s not what they’re saying, it’s how they’re saying but the facts are still there. The morals of the black race is decreasing and all they’re saying is TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. They are completely aware the system is set up for blacks to fail but what they’re conveying to you is not only do they know that but you can’t afford to slack and that you have to be the change you want to see. And you won’t find it in th video game or aspiring to be a rapper. In comparison to white people you can’t afford the same luxuries they indulge countless hours in. Why? Because the system is set up for you to fail not them! So don’t just rant because of what they said, they’re still being “politically correct” (when they say things like take responsibilty for your own failures) but use all that intellect and read in between the lines.

    Sidenote: people are usually offended when they are some truth to the statements and automatically become defensive. When they reach this point they don’t accurately evaluate anyway. So level your head.

  14. Pooja says:

    I really think this is equivalent to the right making mountains out of molehills whenever Obama does or says anything. I didn’t see anything wrong in the speech.. the fact of the matter is, many black young adults live in or come from poor areas where there is a lot of violence. Many are influenced by this and many do not go to college. That’s a statistical fact which has been proven across many studies. Obama was only addressing that demographic. If I may quote Andrew who commented above: “All the Obama’s are saying is that we have the power to create our destiny to what we want it to be and not what it should have been. We do not live in a perfect society.” That’s it. I don’t think there’s anything more to read here. I think it’s good that they make the point that just because people think one thing about you (stereotypically), that doesn’t mean you have to fulfill that stereotype. You can overcome hardship and move forward and make something of yourself instead of being held down by the stereotypes and discrimination of the past (and even present).

    • carjacker says:

      “the fact of the matter is, many black young adults live in or come from poor areas where there is a lot of violence. Many are influenced by this and many do not go to college. That’s a statistical fact which has been proven across many studies. Obama was only addressing that demographic.”

      Yes, absolutely, but the problem is that when he discusses these things he talks about them as if they’re a matter of *individual* circumstance and responsibility, not the result of deep, structural crises that *he’s* perpetuating.

      Obama is singling out Black people for the personal responsibility lecture. He’s saying that Black people are the *only* people who need to take personal responsibility–which is racist. He didn’t tell the banks to take “personal responsibility” when they tanked the economy. He didn’t tell BP to take personal responsibility when they destroyed the Gulf Coast.

      This is, like Leona Johnson said, in the spirit of white liberals like Patrick Moynihan, who argued that Black poverty, etc. wasn’t the result of systemic racism, but the result of a culture of poverty among Black people. This deflects from the deep structural roots of racism in American society. It ignores the ongoing legacy of Black oppression.

      The fact is that we don’t “create our own destiny.” We are social creatures, and we produce our existence collectively. Do you depend on bosses for a job? Do you depend on public infrastructure for water, electricity, transportation, garbage pick up, and communication? Do you depend on your government to prevent gasoline stations from exploding, or from heavy industry from putting nasty garbage in the air that gives your kids asthma? Do you grow your own food? Build your own housing, etc?

      No. You depend upon others to do these things. We organize ourselves as social creatures to meet these various needs in different ways. Our society is organized such that meeting these needs is dependent upon a small group of people making a profit–we don’t produce food to feed people, for instance. Food is a commodity which is produced to make a profit. As such, most people don’t have all their needs met–because more profit is made by not meeting people’s needs directly. This is why most people in our society take on debt, for instance, and why we experienced a massive financial crisis in 2007-08 that we’re still digging our way out of. And yet big financial institutions are earning record profits.

      Our society is also organized such that even though most people don’t have all their needs met, some people have their needs met even less than others, the relevant case here being Black people. As I said before, by almost every standard of measurement Black people are put at the bottom in terms of access to employment, access to healthcare, access to housing, access to education and so on.

      When a whole *section* of a population is faced with a crisis like Black people are in America, this is not a case of personal responsibility. That is a social responsibility. In a society as wealthy as the United States, it is a crime that so many people in our society–and Black people in particular–should be faced with such massive unemployment and poverty. It is a crime that so many Black students have to go to school in failing schools and crowded classrooms. It is a crime, for instance, that Rahm Emmanuel–Obama’s buddy–just over saw the closure of 49 public schools in Chicago due to a made up “crisis.”

      Given all of this, it is absolutely *criminal* that Obama’s *only* message to Black Americans is never about any of this. It’s always about “personal responsibility.”

      When he talks to white or at least not predominantly Black) audiences he has a whole bunch of stuff to say. When he went to speak at a technical college outside Austin, Texas, for instance, he talked about raising the minimum wage. What, Black workers (who make up the majority of the low-wage workforce in America) don’t want to hear about raising the minimum wage? There have been protests across the country led by predominantly Black low wage fast food, retail, and service workers. Surely Obama’s heard about them.

      And yet, when he talks to Black audiences, he talks about video games, rap music, and not eating fried chicken (and if you think I’m making up that racist ass fried chicken bit than check this out: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/02/sweet_column_yall_have_popeyes.html). Seriously. This is racist as hell. If a white, Republican went and talked to a Black audience and told them to not eat fried chicken, progressives in this country would be horrified and scandalized. The base of the Democratic Party would be going out of control. Racism is no less racist when it’s coming from a Black president than a white one.

    • Obama was NOT addressing that demographic. He was addressing those who DID go to college.

  15. If someone sets a trap atleast 4 times out of ten someone else will fall into it. What sense does it make to admonsih the people who sidestepped the trap? They’re fine. What sense too does it make to admonish the ones who fell into it? They didn’t set it.
    Admonish the manufacturers of the trap or shut the fuck up. Grand standing about it being the victim’s fault indicates you are part of the problem and should be ignored or watched very closely for signs of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing..
    As for youth being lazy There’s no such thing as fucking lazy. I have never met a lazy person in my entire life. Anyone using that word is an automatic deushe. I’ve heard idiot business owners call thier workers lazy because they were no longer interested in working like dogs for pennies. Nothign lazy about THAT. Nothign lazy about students not wanting to work the rest of thier lives to pay off loans for degrees no one will honor either.

  16. Robert says:

    White people are funny…I wonder if you received some of your insight from Urban dictionary…I find it curious that you don’t stop to recognize that there is nothing false with the first quoted statement from O’Bama. The only thing that makes it controversial is your interpretation that you so eagerly feed in this blog. But you are possibly not an objective journalist because those are few and far between.

    • carjacker says:

      I’m not an objective journalist? Did I claim to be a journalist? It’s a blog, dude. What gave away my objectivity? Was it the word “Socialism” plastered everywhere? Do you need to get your eyes checked?

  17. KP says:

    anybody think the Obama’s are expressing their own personal frustration with the black community?

  18. TEW says:

    This is utter foolishness, what he said to Morehouse was what has been said at HBCUs for Years. He said nothing different than Bill Cosby or Benjamin E. Mays have said. But most on this thread no nothing about this. As a Black native Atlantan who’s parents both matriculated at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Institutions for those unaware) before going on to major institutions for Post Grad degrees, this message used to be a staple message in the Black Academic community which is bottom line, we will incur foolishness, racism issues, and the like but WE must never settle to find an excuse, settle to accept poor circumstances, settle to be less educated or less to acquiescence to not strive to do our best and cower due to the unfair practices or biased beliefs of others. We like no other community are perfect and we unfairly are the brunt of most unethical practices BUT as a community need to ensure that we are holding ourselves to a higher standard. The only reason anyone has an opinion on this is that it was the President and the commencement was broadcast for all to see. But those of us who actually have been to a Morehouse commencement or similar HBCU commencement and grew up in Black educated families were only hearing the message we have heard ALL of our lives.

  19. TEW says:

    Carjacker: Cause you have experienced racism and can understand first hand what being experiencing someone racist is? Yeah right. You don’t know what you are talking about. OUR community, the black community used to strive for a higher standard despite the circumstances and OUR community used to help each other once they achieved levels of success. This speech was about personal responsibility for our OWN community and then tackling the issues that heaped on us by the rest of society. But you know NOTHING about this because it is my doubt that you ever grew up in black and poor, grew up in a black household, grew up in a black community. Either find out the REAL details or write about something you are more knowledgeable about.

  20. whispersd says:

    “How often do we hear politicians or talking heads chastising Black viewers over not taking enough “personal responsibility.”
    Do you really think whites are never told to take personal responsibility?

    But this is the really fucked up part:
    “But, as Leola Johnson, a professor at Macalester College, pointed out in the Washington Post, the these speeches aren’t meant for the Black audience in the first place. They’re meant for white people, especially liberals. “It’s the legacy of Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” she said, “and that whole group of white liberals who want to say it’s not just about structural problems that black people aren’t doing well, it’s about their own values.””

    No, it couldn’t possibly be the case that President Obama wants to point out his own path to success as an example to college graduates as a way to succeed. HIs speech, as a black man, to a black audience, is aimed primarily at white liberals.

    Just who is the racist here? You don’t think Obama could possibly be sincere in what he says? It’s gotta be about keeping white people happy?

    • Urbnsunrize says:

      nothing our president does is sincere. you can just look at what he says vs. what he votes for and puts into executive orders…

  21. Yoruhina says:

    As a female African American 19-year-old, I agree with Obama that black people do need to get their act together. We can’t always blame their problems on outside forces and keep doing whatever demoralizing activities we do. My family and I went through a lot of racist events, but we just brushed ourselves off and kept going. I went a majority white school, however, there was a good balance of black people there as well. Still I went through much racism there. Black females are looked down upon for students in that school. Even black men refuse to do anything with black women. We need to learn to love each other and respect ourselves. But how? I say that to do this black people need more help and guidance. We can’t be babied, but a little push can help. We can’t stand here and keep blaming black people for their wrongs. Where does that get us and the whole nation?

  22. Ian Beddowes says:

    Obama killed more Black Libyans in 1 year than the Ku Klux Klan killed Black Americans in its whole existence. And you expect him to say the right thing?

  23. Smitty says:

    Clearly you have never visited WorldStarHipHop before. This is exactly the message that needs to be expressed to this generation.

    • carjacker says:

      Oh, snap. You’re right! White people never say stupid shit in music or on TV. White people’s culture is so enlightened and pristine. Jeff Foxworthy is a god damned genius.

  24. Tee says:

    As a westernized black African, I must say that it’s people like this poster, the Black elite shaping Black thought in this country, who are the problem. A problem thats based on two assumptions: the supposed “American Exceptionalism” and the perception that there is some sort uniquenes of American racism.

    The notion that freedom for all applies unequivocally to the Black man (or any other non-Caucasian race) as it does the White in this country is an illusion and a pointless fantasy. If I’m not mistaken blacks make up around 16% of the US pop. An un-unified 16% doesn’t give you any say in a democracy. Latins representation growing at a rapid rate does. It forces things like immigration reform. Not because old white congressmen suddenly care about the plight of immigrants but because until there is some measure of economic parity between the US and Mexico, Hispanics will grow to outnumber whites at the current pace.

    EVERYWHERE ON THIS PLANET ethnocentricity has and will always be the order of the day. Black people are treated worse in China. Indigenous peoples the same in Latin America. White people in Africa are at least looked down upon even if not exactly repressed. America is no Exception. People have been repressed throughout all human history and continue to be repressed the world over. Liberal bleeding hearts of equality are unrealistic. Mankind is self-interested first and ethnocentric right after. White Americans just find it harder to care about Blacks as much as their Caucasian brethren but so does every other race. Life is hard. Everybody doesn’t get a prize, we’re not all winners. Do we try to as much as politically feasible to even the playing field? Of course. Does that mean we shirk all personal responsibility to figure your own shit out in life taking cues from people who’ve overcome much much more? Absofuckinglutely

    • one question, where in Africa are white people looked down on?

      • Tee says:

        Well for instance in Nigeria where I’m originally from, whites are referred to as “oyinobo” which literally translates to White man but is used in a derogatory manner. You make fun of them in Yoruba behind their backs because that’s just what you’re supposed to do. And it’s most certainly not unique to Nigeria

        • the word oyinbo as you expressed translates to white. This is the first time in my entire life that I have ever heard someone made reference to Oyinbo being used in a derogatory way.

          What I know for a fact is that majority of white people are treated like queens and kings in Nigeria. In fact there is yahoo, yahoo men and women in Nigeria that marry them for mixed raced babies because apparently they are prettier than “pure” Nigerian babies etc.

  25. a fantastic response to POTOS and his wife’s elitists interpretation of the situation on ground ( US history of racism and its constant influence in life as it is in the country). It is unfortunate that once some minorities make it up there, they feel the need to use the nonsensical disrespectful empty words about how personal responsibility is important yet they ignore structural racism that the author wonderfully outlined.

  26. jay says:

    The writer, though believing they are wise, totally misses the point. I am a black man who has had to claw his way to the top through hardship. I also attende an HBCU. All the Obama’s are saying is do not let obstacles stop you or create excuses. Those obstacles are the racists and the system. He is not denying their existence nor is he chastising black youth. The theme is one of personal responsibility in light of those who would stand in the way. What does this writer know of facing these types of challenges. It seems like someone looking in to write something they know nothing about.

  27. JP says:

    The use of ellipsis in the opening long quote from Obama’s Morehouse speech (especially without providing a link to the original text, http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/05/20/transcript-obamas-commencement-speech-at-morehouse-college/) seems misleading. The three dots suggest that only a few words have been removed, as opposed to this entire paragraph of his speech:

    “I understand 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.” Well, we’ve got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil — many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did — all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned. (Applause.)”

    This point does not necessarily challenge your broader argument, but I think the context of 1) the Morehouse creed that explicitly uses the langage of excuses, incompetency, the lack of achievement, and 2) the hyper-competitive marketplace that’s all the rage in political discourse, ought to challenge you to frame your criticism in terms of Obama’s specific speech at Morehouse, which was much more complex and less fucking racist than you say it is.

    The discussion of the hyper-competitive world puts Obama’s “Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination” language in a much different light. Its a rhetorical connection to his previous sentences, in which he emphasizes that racism and discrimination still exist in the world but that entering the global workforce that Morehouse students are facing, they have to be forward-looking, honest, trustworthy, responsible men

    What your criticism boils down to then is the lack of “any reference to the systemic crises facing Black people in America.” I.e. the scolding, the value judgments, the calls for personal responsibility—without an acknowledgment of the context of structural racism that continues to exist.

    Yet Obama begins, frames his entire speech, with a quote from Benjamin Mays that combines a moral argument about role modeling with a recognition of the institutional context in which Morehouse grads attempt to advance themselves:

    “It will not be sufficient for Morehouse College, for any college, for that matter, to produce clever graduates — but rather honest men, men who can be trusted in public and private life — men who are sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting (those) ills.”

    And later, when talking about Dr. King:

    “Now, think about it. For black men in the ’40s and the ’50s, the threat of violence, the constant humiliations, large and small, the uncertainty that you could support a family, the gnawing doubts born of the Jim Crow culture that told you every day that somehow you were inferior, the temptation to shrink from the world, to accept your place, to avoid risks, to be afraid — that temptation was necessarily strong.

    And yet, here, under the tutelage of men like Dr. Mays, young Martin learned to be unafraid. And he, in turn, taught others to be unafraid. And over time, he taught a nation to be unafraid. And over the last 50 years, thanks to the moral force of Dr. King and a Moses generation that overcame their fear and their cynicism and their despair, barriers have come tumbling down, and new doors of opportunity have swung open, and laws and hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as President of these United States of America. (Applause.)”

    It seems to me that Obama is saying, yes there is systemic racism, and that’s something that must be fought—but there’s also the act of teaching “others to be unafraid.” Of being a role model for other people dealing with these crises. I wonder how else the system can be confronted other than with an intensely powerful, internal, both political and moral organizing force.

    And in response to your point about schools in Chicago and gun violence, in this Morehouse speech, he combines the value angle with a recognition of institutional problems such as underfunded schools:

    “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.”

    And here he turns to make his case that collective, policy-based responsibilities and, individual, private, intimate responsibilities go hand in hand:

    “My job, as President, is to advocate for policies that generate more opportunity for everybody — policies that strengthen the middle class and give more people the chance to climb their way into the middle class. Policies that create more good jobs and reduce poverty, and educate more children, and give more families the security of health care, and protect more of our children from the horrors of gun violence. That’s my job. Those are matters of public policy, and it is important for all of us — black, white and brown — to advocate for an America where everybody has got a fair shot in life. Not just some. Not just a few. (Applause.)

    But along with collective responsibilities, we have individual responsibilities. There are some things, as black men, we can only do for ourselves. There are some things, as Morehouse Men, that you are obliged to do for those still left behind. As Morehouse Men, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you’re about to collect — and that’s the power of your example.”

    Obama argues for a two-pronged approach to dealing with systemic racism. Both the advocacy of and political organizing for governmental and societal reform in the explicit context of racism and discrimination, and the encouragement of more examples to follow within the Black community.

    So while it’s probably true that the way in which Obama has typically discussed individual responsibility, specifically, does feed the rhetoric of conservatives who would like to suggest its all about moral values and institutional discrimination is gone (and have won the media pretty well over to that preposterous suggestion), I strongly disagree with the following: “The message is clear. Racism, at least structural racism, is extinct. If Black people in America face any crisis at all it’s their own fault.”

    I don’t hear any attempt to blame at Morehouse. I hear an attempt to lead, both in terms of policy as the political leader of the national community, and in terms of morality, as the most prominent Black man (outside of South Africa certainly) in the today’s world.

  28. Jay, I teach at an HBCU and, like you, I had hardships. This sort of speech is inappropriate for a commencement address. As the author notes, Obama has a pattern of these degrading speeches. As for “personal responsibility,” it is often just a dishonest denial of structural oppression. Obama’s usage of it is not very different from how white racists use it to blame Black victims for their own subordination. The reality is that Obama is giving cover for a primary source of institutionalized racism–the United States government. If Obama is not courageous enough to challenge the pervasiveness of institutionalized white supremacy, then he has no right to say anything to Black people about personal responsibility. And, as I have noted elsewhere, Obama would never deliver this message to white students because they would not tolerate it. kzs

  29. brotherap says:

    Neurotic madness! The blogger wastes time by exhibiting how profoundly supercilious their critique of this president continues to be by asserting such juvenile superficial attacks of his right as one now celebrated who has endured the experiences that he now counsels young people of the same background to hopefully avoid. You, blogger, are not unlike the beguiling wolf woefully attempting to play innocent, but given away by your insidiously putrid puss filled fangs dripping with the madness of deceit.

  30. Pingback: May I rant about how fucking racist Barack and Michelle Obama’s commencement speeches were? | Seattle Free Press

  31. Did that blogger want to be provacative by criticizing President Obama’s and First Lady Michelle Obama’s commencement speeches with a title about how “fucking racist” they were, rather than remarking about their constructive and encouraging themes? Mission accomplished!

  32. David Harris says:

    Oh, so you’re calling Obama an “uncle tom.” Why didn’t you just say that instead of writing that long, inarticulate, totally-unsupported argument.

  33. TrojanPam says:

    Ironically, what I’ve also noticed is when President Obama chastises black people for doing OR not doing one thing or another

    His most vocal black supporters on blogs like this usually or always seem to think he’s talking about someone else, and will often use the words, “he’s right about them” or “they are doing XYZ, just like Obama says…”

    In other words, his most vocal supporters NEVER seem to think he’s talking about them
    he’s always talking about those “other” black people and their children

    strange AND very dangerously delusional thinking

    in my opinion…

    • Yes, I absolutely agree. I am proud to say I’m one of 4% of Black female registered voters who did not vote for this president, in part because, yes, he IS talking about me, and all Black people except the elite ones like him. (Of course, there are tons of other reasons I would not vote for him, or anyone running on the Democratic or Republican ticket.)

      I think that his most vocal Black supporters are akin to any group of people voting against/supporting something that is directly in opposition to their own self-interest, such as poor people who vote for candidates who favor the rich, because they hope that they, one day, will be rich too, and not like these “other” poor people who supposedly don’t have a clue or any aspirations.

      • TrojanPam says:

        @ diasporajustice

        I didn’t vote for Obama in either election, because I knew he was (s)elected by the white elites to be the BLACK SCAPEGOAT to take the BLAME for the policies that the white people in charge are created.

        For example “Obamacare” was WRITTEN by the healthcare industry, which donated over $100 MILLION to the passage of those bills. The same kind of “bill” that Romney signed when he was governor of Massachusetts (!) so there is NO real difference between the Republicans and Democrats — they are BOTH run by the same “hidden hands.”

        the sad part is I believe MOST black people (over the age of 30, 35) know President Obama is NOT telling the most powerful white people what to do, because we KNOW that is not the way the REAL world works — and we see that everyday on our jobs that blacks do not tell white people what to do

        And even sadder, many of us care MORE about protecting Obama than we care about protecting our own black children’s self-esteem.

  34. shane says:

    Look this getting out of hand. Obama made remarks to stop the lamenting and to get on with life and the ambition we set ourselves. The past is the past and future is yet to be written. Though many people are held bent on using the time in front of them to lament and dig up the past. Get on with life ……. xx

  35. ae says:

    This article is indicative of the smug self-righteousness that is so pervasive in today’s “liberal” circles. Yes, structural racism exists, yes, people of color are by no means held down solely because of personal failings within their communities. My question is, what do you want us to do about it? Too many times I hear anti-racist advocates rant about the racism of so-and-so’s speech, but very rarely do I ever hear people trying to offer any solutions other than “we have to expose the racism that is still inherent in today’s society.” While I agree that we should expose often subversive racist policies, sentiments, etc, the only way to get rid of them, is, as Obama says, to take personal responsibility for these problems. To say that a call to take matters into one’s own hands is racist is to deny to the potential that black communities have for empowering themselves. It is not easy to bring power back into a community that has been held down for so long by more powerful majority groups, but as history has showed us countless times, it can be done, and it must be done if systemic changed is to be realized.

  36. TrojanPam says:

    Keep in mind that the Obamas — like all presidents and their wives
    DO NOT WRITE THEIR OWN SPEECHES
    Those speeches are written by WHITE speech writers
    which SHOULD explain a lot, people

    • Yes, I wondered about this too. But Obama is a former professor, I’m certain he has some degree of editorial oversight over his speeches, particularly ones directed at Black audiences. Either way, I have no doubt that the speeches are representative of his personal sentiments (“do y’all have Popeyes?”). His hypocritical moralizing is repugnant. kzs

      • TrojanPam says:

        @ ghetto intellectual

        For me, the problem is black people either NOT understanding or forgetting that in a white supremacy system (like America) white people control EVERYTHING especially at the highest levels of government. That being said, President Obama is NOT free to say or do anything he wants to do or say, just like those of us in the HIGHEST levels of corporate America have a script we read when in the public eye.

        Remember when he said, “The police behaved stupidly,” after Harvard Prof Gates was arrested in his OWN home and Obama had to apologize to the civil service white male policeman for criticizing his actions? And Prof Gates had to sit and pretend he was alright with having a beer with the same cop who refused to apologize?

        Does that sound like a black man (or men) who can say or do what they want?

        From personal experience, black people know that other black people — regardless of title — are NOT treated the same as white people. AND we know that black people are NOT in charge over white people, so if President Obama makes a speech the white people in CHARGE MUST APPROVE OF IT.

        Ask yourself, why does President Obama address black people in such a way that we would be UP IN ARMS ABOUT if a white person said the following:

        “..stop feeding your kids Popeyes (fried chicken) for breakfast.” (yes, he said it)
        “Obama to Blacks: Take Responsibility” (an actual front page headline in the Chicago Sun-Times)
        “Obama to Black Men: Be Fathers” (actual front page headline in Chicago Sun-Times)
        “Obama tells Black Caucus to Stop Complaining” (yes, he said it)
        Obama told black high school students to stop playing video games (yes, he said it)

        Don’t these comments sound SUSPICIOUSLY like something white people would say to us?

        When Obama talks to whites, Hispanics, and Jews

        he doesn’t tell them to to stop feeding their kids tacos for breakfast, or spam, or tell whites to stop practicing racism, or Jews to stop controlling the banks or airwaves.

        My point is in his speeches or public proclamations to black people it is NEVER about getting us any help (which no one can deny we DESPERATELY need AND deserve)

        including some of the people on this blog who may be out of work, or victims of racism on the job

        What is wrong with Obama encouraging BOTH self-help and his help?

        Why are we so quick (to pretend) that black people don’t need or deserve help? Don’t some of us on this blog need help? Have not all or most of us been impacted greatly by racism? What is going on with us that we would accept such a FLAWED and CALLOUS messaging toward our own people?

        Or maybe, we have lost the ability — due to INTEGRATION and INTERRACIAL SEXING — to care for other black people. If that’s the case, then we are in MORE trouble than I imagined.

        • carjacker says:

          I don’t allow anti-Semitic commentary on my blog.

        • TrojanPam, I was with you at first, but you lost me. You make some very good points, but blaming interracial relationships and integration for a lack of caring and unity amongst Black people? Huh?! That is completely offensive and simply untrue. We learned a long time ago that separate is not equal. And I’m personally offended as a person who is the result of a marriage between a Black woman and a white Jewish man, not that that matters here.

          But you’ve gone off on some wrong separatist track, forgetting that sometimes Black people are actually let into the system of white supremacy because white supremacy is not just about privileging white people, but maintaining the system that exploits ALL people who have to work for a living, Black and white. Some Black people are willing to go along with this for various reasons, such as protecting their own self-interest as being part of the 1%.

          I want unity and solidarity in the struggle for racial, social, and economic freedom with Black people and white people, and all people. In fact, it is unrealistic to think that we could ever beat racism any other way.

        • I’m starting to wonder if Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter writes his speeches.lol

      • Some of these past Presidents may not have had much of a clue what they were reciting in their speeches at certain times (um, Ronald Reagan?), but he and his administration hired the speech writers and advisors, and the Republican party’s administration had their plans in place long before Reagan was incoherent. And Obama may be a lot of things, but he’s certainly not dumb. I have no doubt that he is very carefully expressing exactly what he wants to in his speeches. And, let’s not forget that he was a community organizer– I wouldln’t be surprised if he participated more in his speech writing than some past presidents have as he has a talent there.

        And it doesn’t matter if his speech writers are white are Black, it is their job to know exactly what the President and his administration want to express. For anyone who doesn’t get it by now, it should obvious that Black people can and do repeat statements representing racist stereotype about Black people just as white people can. (I’m sure all Black people know at least a couple Black people who seem to hate all other Black people and blame them 100% for whatever situation they are in. Just cuz we’re Black doesn’t mean we don’t get the same brainwashing– in fact what we get is way worse.) And Black people can uphold policies and systems that have a disproportionately negative effect on Black people just like white people can, as Obama does.

        The elite are not our friend, Black or white. (Though even the Black elite must deal with racism– this is where it gets more complicated. We’ve all heard stories of famous Black people getting racially profiled, etc. And that’s an injustice, always. But they can at least afford fancy attorneys that the rest of us can’t, if needed.)

  37. Hill Guthrie says:

    As an alumnus of Morehouse I was proud and invigorated by the president’s speech and charge to the 2013 graduates to be great citizens. I don’t think his core audience missed this message or felt his remarks were racist. It pains me that much of this language which his long been the hallmark of black community elders, civil rights leaders and the talented tenth is twisted to have little meaning other than fodder for extremists. Those young men choose to be better than excuses and have a legacy of sucess that embodies community involvement and social activism which mirrors what Obama asked of them. Many of the issues you speak are more closely tied to poverty than race. Address that issue than race would be a mute point. To further this argument his belief that the graduates will conquer barriers in front of them like himself and others before them speaks to his belief in the ability and equality of all people.

  38. TrojanPam says:

    @ carjacker

    If my comment appeared to be “anti-Semitic” that was not my intention, I used that example as a way of showing how stereotypes — even those about black people BY other black people are just as offensive

    @ diasporajustice

    It is my goal to help to create a system of justice for all the people on the planet. I have no desire to harm or mistreat anyone. That being said, I must respectfully disagree that black people can be part of a white supremacy system. By its very nature, black and non-whites are never seen as the equals of whites BY whites; otherwise, it would not be called “white supremacy”

    Even the lowest class white person is still more privileged than the highest class of black person. The example I gave of Harvard Professor Gates being arrested in his OWN home by a white male civil servant policeman AND both Gates and Obama having to apologize (which Obama did at a press conference) and having to sit down with that white policeman and have a beer with a man who NEVER–in fact, refused– to apologize to Gates for arresting him in his own home.

    America is a CASTE — not a CLASS system — in my opinion, where SKIN COLOR always overrules education and income when it comes to people of color. There are so many examples of this, that I will not belabor the point here

    Again, if I have unintentionally offended anyone here, that was not my intention, but I do try to be honest about my opinions and will defend them to the best of my ability,

    Thank you for graciously allowing me to participate on your blog.

    • carjacker says:

      But how do you square that with the fact that we have a Black president who oversees a system of mass incarceration, imperialism, racial inequality, etc.?

      • TrojanPam says:

        @ carjacker

        the same way I can square it when I see a movie with Eddie Murphy called “Trading Places”

        A slight of hand, a trick, a scheme to deceive and straight up, a Hollywood production (down to the cheering crowd scenes)

        It is obvious (at least to me) that TITLES means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING (just ask Dr. Christian Head, UCLA Physician — Google it because I’m not sure I can post links on this blog) and are a PERFECT vehicle to deceive those who do not look beyond those titles. (another example of Mr. Nelson Mandela, who was given the title of “President” by one of the most brutal white supremacist governments on earth — and do we really believe those white supremacists just “handed over” their power to a black male they had the POWER to lock up all those years? Power NEVER exchanges hands. It must be TAKEN.

        It is also obvious (to me) that three reasons President Obama gets so little respect that Jan Brewer, the Governor of Arizona, felt free to wag her finger in his face in full view of TV cameras (or perhaps because of them), and a Federal Judge felt free enough to say Obama’s mother had sex with a dog and a Congresssman felt free enough to say Michelle Obama had a big butt, is:

        1. they know he is NOT in charge and is merely a black puppet (like Geo Bush was a puppet, only he was a WHITE MAN and his mother was a WHITE WOMAN and he came from a long line of WHITE POWERFUL PEOPLE, so no federal judge or governor would dare talk about his mother OR wag a finger in his face.

        2. He is a black male CHOSEN by the VERY people who EDUCATED HIM, SELECTED HIM, VETTED HIM, FINANCED HIM, and NOMINATED him. That’s like your BOSS hiring you to do a job and gives you a title and THEN takes orders from you. How is that possible in the real world?

        3. He is a black man PERIOD. That’s all that is required in a white supremacist system for any black person to be disrespected. Ask Tiger Woods (and how horribly the media treated him over a personal and very common matter), or Oprah (who was denied entrance at Hermes), or Harvard Professor Gates (arrested in his own home) AND I could ask any number of people on this blog (who are black) about their OWN personal experiences of being disrespected but I need not go that far. We know who WE are.

        I believe President Obama was (s)lected by the elites for three reasons:

        1. to put a black face on all the terroristic agendas abroad to deceive non-white nations that the U.S. has “changed its ways” when in reality, there are even more acts of aggression going on NOW under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration (and I warned people in 2007 that Obama SAID he was going to “start more wars” and it looks like he (the people behind him) are keeping their word
        —-
        2. to put a BLACK FACE on domestic issues that INFURIATE white people collectively (like gun control, homosexual “marriage,” attacks on social security, a healthcare plan that will cause many people financial hardship (you’ll see once it kicks in), and a failing economy (no, things are not getting better, in fact, they’re rapidly getting much worse) — he is set to be the BLACK SCAPEGOAT for all of America’s ills and BLACK PEOPLE will be guilty by DEFAULT.
        ——
        3. to FOOL the black masses that “things are getting better” — while those same black masses are suffering RECORD job losses (regardless of education and experience) and rising poverty and rising racism (more than 1400 new white hate groups have sprung up since Obama’s election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center),

        and the mass closings of schools all over the country (I live in the Chicago area and Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, just closed about 50 schools — the largest mass school closing in U.S. history AND 88 PERCENT of those schools were BLACK SCHOOLS (check out my blog).
        ——
        In short, while the WAR against black people is accelerating, those Obama believers will be so busy protecting HIS BACK, they won’t have their OWN BACKS — or the backs of their children. I believe he was DESIGNED to put black people back to SLEEP during a time when we should be WIDE AWAKE.

        That’s my response (and I apologize for the long post but you did ask) and I would strong suggest that those who are interested check out the Counter-Racist Boot Camp even if you disagree with most or all of what I’ve written because OBVIOUSLY there needs to be some serious analysis of what is facing us and if you have better explanations than I those explanations need to be share with as many people as possible.

        PEACE

        • “2. to put a BLACK FACE on domestic issues that INFURIATE white people collectively (like gun control, homosexual “marriage,” attacks on social security, a healthcare plan that will cause many people financial hardship (you’ll see once it kicks in), and a failing economy (no, things are not getting better, in fact, they’re rapidly getting much worse) — he is set to be the BLACK SCAPEGOAT for all of America’s ills and BLACK PEOPLE will be guilty by DEFAULT.”
          Great quote! These things are happening as we speak. And I could see it coming back in 2008. Only the blind can’t see what’s happening right in front of our faces.

      • TrojanPam says:

        @ carjacker

        I don’t know if I answered your question but I’ll add that I do NOT blame President Obama for what is happening because he is NOT in charge. He is simply the black vehicle of injustice but he is NOT the driver or the shot caller for this system.

        The Proof: If President Obama had any real power, those with less power would be afraid to treat him and his wife in the disgraceful manner they are being treated.

        Case in point: When former VP Dick Cheney “accidentally” shot a hunting companion in his face (and the man still has buckshot pellets in his face to this day) the man he shot APOLOGIZED to Cheney for “….causing your family so much trouble…”

        While Cheney appeared on late night talk shows JOKING about the incident (and compare that with President Obama having to call a white male civil servant cop personally (an unprecendented action) and invite him to have a beer for simply saying “…the police behaved stupidly…”

        That’s what REAL POWER looks like — and what it DOESN’T look like.

  39. Zim says:

    As one of my friend’s shared: “Truth hurts. I see nothing wrong with what the President or First Lady said. Why we as a people are so sensitive to constructive criticism I will never understand. Encouraging words do help, but there’s more than one way to inspire a community of over 40million people.” Presidents can’t save people. Change always comes from the bottom up, right? I’m not offended at all by what he said, he is not a savior for the black race. My mother, an immigrant, came to this country in an abusive arranged marriage and w/ the legacy of living in a mud house in Nigeria. She worked extremely hard to get to where she is today and her sacrifice is my legacy. I’m not sharing this story because it’s isolated, it’s not. I’m sharing it because she went through a whole heck of a lot more than I did to get where she is. Granted, our generation has it’s own problems to face, I think that people are taking this whole Pres & First lady are racist bigots, etc. to new heights. This is a lot of tough love, what’s wrong with it?

  40. Hooker Jay says:

    After this appeared on the LA Times Opinion/Op-Ed page …

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-lehrer-obama-speech-race-20130526,0,4820845.story

    … I say let the Koch brothers have that fish wrapper.

  41. me says:

    The POTUS job is to cheerlead speeches like this one and others. I’m waiting for the whites only wood shed speech from him, that is if he has the balls.

  42. TrojanPam says:

    @ Hooker Jay

    Thanks for posting that link!

    It illustrates EXACTLY what I have been thinking, that President Obama, while talking AT black youth is actually TALKING TO white people and helping those white people who are racist to get off the HOOK for practicing racism AKA blaming the Victims of racism for being victims.

    For anyone black to think it is correct for President Obama (or anyone) to talk down to a group of black male COLLEGE GRADUATES as though they are street thugs hanging out and playing video games clearly shows how WRONG-HEADED we are as a people

    For anyone black to put DEFENDING A TOTAL STRANGER (Obama) above the feelings of our black youth, after he publicly castigated the best of our young black males, especially when most black males will never graduate from college, I just do NOT understand this thinking..

    How, in any stretch of one’s imagination is that speech appropriate for that group of black male college graduates?

    I challenge all to read the speeches that President Obama and First Lady Michelle have made to BLACK PEOPLE then compare it with the speeches made to NON-BLACK people and you’ll see a clear difference:

    CONDESCENSION AND CONTEMPT DISGUISED AS CONCERN.

    Because that is THEIR JOB, and one of the reasons they were put into office: to disguise the real crimes of the white people IN CHARGE, and to blame the black victims of racism FOR being victims of racism, which is why I don’t hold them completely accountable for what they say or do:

    THEY ARE JUST DOING THE JOBS THEY WERE HIRED TO DO.

    And, in the coming days, after black people have been FULLY demonized and scapegoated, and the anti-blackness has completely poisoned the minds of black people in the way that we think about and act towards OTHER black people

    (You got that right, President Obama, you keep putting your foot in those black butts!)

    We may live to regret that we did not RESPECT, and CHERISH, AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER

    and most of all, that we did would allow ANYONE (even a black male with a fancy title) to BLAME young black male COLLEGE GRADUATES for the racism WE KNOW they will encounter in the workplace, in the housing market, and at the hands of the police and prison system.

    Black adults blaming black youth for the racism we KNOW they are going to encounter is NOTHING SHORT OF SHAMELESS

    • Hill Guthrie says:

      @ Trojan Pam,
      I know this may be difficult for you to understand but the president was not condescendingly talking to the graduates. When you challenge someone you believe will have a successful career in their field to give back to their community, to remain grounded by the accomplishments of those who came before them or recognize that the obstacles of others in our global market are more difficult than our own. The Alumni, faculty, students and parents understood this message.
      Maybe you could poll people more closely associated with the matriculation process at Morehouse or the actual graduates before making hyperbolic statements about their commencement speech.

      • TrojanPam says:

        @ Hill Guthrie

        It is NOT difficult for me to understand that you and I differ in opinion.

        I certainly recognize the pattern of condescension in the way President Obama addresses black people and the PREPONDERANCE of evidence speaks for itself — in my opinion.

        That many blacks (who are still (sadly) so thrilled at the SYMBOLISM NOT THE SUBSTANCE) at having another “first black” who is DOING NOTHING FOR THEM only indicates the CONFUSION amongst the black ranks

        — in particular the educated black collective that for some reason seem disconnected from their OWN experiences with racism and are SUPER QUICK to blame other black people for what white people are doing to them (?)

        Did these educated black adults who agree with President Obama chastising these young black males at their GRADUATION CEREMONY — are they ALSO guilty of watching too much TV and playing too many video games and letting their children do the SAME THING? Is that why so many EDUCATED black ADULTS are OUT OF WORK and/or are CURRENTLY experiencing RACISM on their jobs?

        Too much TV and video games?

        And let’s not forget about the black adults who are cheering Obama on as he castigates these young black male COLLEGE GRADUATES — who didn’t even ATTEND OR FINISH COLLEGE themselves?

        Too much TV and video games?

        I do NOT believe ALL the people at Morehouse (or anywhere else) would agree with you.

        Some might, some might not. However, BOTH you and I are on this blog giving our OPINIONS since neither YOU nor I have taken a poll of every person at Morehouse. So, let’s move on…

        If you choose to believe that telling the BLACK MALE COLLEGE GRADUATES “not to make excuses” and “who cares if you experience racism”

        KNOWING full well they are going to experience it — NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO

        is an appropriate speech to give to young black males who have done what they were supposed to do then the only thing YOU and I can do at this point is to respectfully agree to disagree
        hyperbolic statements, notwithstanding

  43. Blackgod1978 says:

    The problem with the Obama’s comments are that they are attempting to address the issues of white supremacy as if its an individual problem (“personal responsibly vs social responsibility”). It’s systemic…not based on individuals but the group…the integrationists model is based on individual black success not collective black success…

    • TrojanPam says:

      I somewhat agree only I see it as an attempt to OBSCURE the existence of racism/white supremacy by shifting the blame to the Victims who fail BY DESIGN.

      It is DECEPTION, pure and simple.

  44. TrojanPam says:

    Thought I’d share this with all of you:

    “Little is said about his White male speechwriter Cody Keenan. He replaced another White male – Jon Favreau – as the top White House speechwriter.”

    (Google this if the link doesn’t appear in the post)

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/26/cody-keenan-speechwriter-_n_3339495.html?utm_hp_ref=chicago

  45. Hill Guthrie says:

    @ Trojan Pam,
    I can agree to disagree with you about what you see as a pattern of condescension toward black people. I see you are passionate and don’t disagree that people have a significant misconception about the power of our President and his obligations to a less than obvious cohort of supporters. That has been the case for all governments or organization where politics are involved. In the acute situation we are discussing I nor any alumnus or current graduate on Morehouse’s Facebook, web boards, or any backwater gossip channels I know of have mentioned disappointment with how he addressed the graduates. There are alumns who disagree with his policies or feel he hasn’t done enough for the black community but that was true for Martin, Malcolm and Muhammad too.
    Morehouse men are not a monolithic group of people who have one view of Obama’s speech however they are educated to believe that being average is not excusable. Similarly too the author of the blog I feel the context of your excerpts from Obama’s speech paint a different picture than the language you selected. Morehouse has had two Rhodes scholars in the past 10 years, is one of the largest feeder schools for Ivy League Grad programs and Wall Street investment banks as well as educators and community leaders. The goal has always been to create socially conscious leaders through a culture of excellence. It has been successful enough that our graduates believe that they will succeed despite the obstacles and challenges they will face.
    This debate is just a repackaging of W.E.B. Dubois talented tenth vs. Booker T. Washington’s focus on industrial education for the masses of black people. The graduates have a great obligation and great expectations. I for one am glad the president left them with that charge just like I was when the mantle was passed to our class. I don’t believe that people are limited nearly as much by structural barriers as by a lack of self confidence and low expectations. I don’t know if that makes me an elitist however I believe it’s true and would serve our people far better to strive for greatness given that we have compete whether we consider the deck stacked against us or not.

  46. TrojanPam says:

    @ Hill Guthrie

    Yes, I’m “passionate” and I take that as a compliment. Any black person who is NOT “passionate” about the destruction and degradation of black people — especially the people who look like their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and sons and daughters — needs to ask themselves why NOT?

    Regarding how many alumnus or current graduates feel one way or another, since NEITHER you nor I have taken an OFFICIAL POLL that includes everyone connected to Morehouse, I will not attempt to debate how many feel one way or another. In addition, I’ve found that many black people are reluctant to say the least bit of criticism about Obama (understandably) due to all the high emotion (and sometimes hysterical reaction) to ANY criticism

    Even though Obama is a POLITICIAN in a corrupt major party organization, chosen, nominated, vetted, and financed by that party — yet we act like he’s some “independent” entity that bounced on the scene to “change” the nation — and somehow became the BOSS of the same people who chose him, nominated him, vetted him, and financed him to the TUNE OF ALMOST TWO BILLION DOLLARS.

    Regarding Martin, and Malcolm – THEY CAME FROM THE PEOPLE, not from the white elites. They were RAISED by black people within the black community – not by white females. They were not ISOLATED from the problems of black people, they lived UNDER strict racial segregation and they came from the STREETS – CHOSEN BY BLACK PEOPLE.

    Another HUGE difference between them and Obama is they were PUNISHED (and eventually MURDERED) because they fought for the rights of black people – NOT rewarded like Obama with fancy titles, Harvard degree, Harvard Law Review, book deals, real estate deals (in Chicago) and the highest office in the land

    Which SHOULD HAVE BEEN a HUGE RED FLAG for black people that something foul was afoot

    That’s like the MOB bringing in a clean-cut, well-spoken black male who is NOT ITALIAN – and decide to make him MOB BOSS – so he can clean up their criminal organization, and put a stop to their gambling, garbage, prostitution, graft, and other criminal operations. If I made a movie with that storyline, I would be laughed out of Hollywood and NO ONE WOULD TAKE THAT MOVIE SERIOUSLY.

    Since this will probably be the last time I post on this topic — and I appreciate the blog owner allowing me to post my (unpopular) opinions, I’ve been more frank (and direct) than usual than I am on someone else’s blog.

    Bottom line, I think a lot of black adults know we cannot protect our children and our way of dealing with our GUILT is to shift the blame (and the GUILT) TO our children to spare our own feelings for the hardships we know they will face, rather than ADMIT OUR FEAR of this white system – and of white people, and our inability to PROTECT THEM.

    We know racism is not the fault of OUR young black people. We know they will be mistreated and cheated no matter how many degrees they have, but we have lapsed into the kind of ESCAPISM that allows us to deal with our own FAILURE to make things better for our children.

    We are still operating with that SLAVE MENTALITY where we beat our children before the white master feels the need to do it under the guise of “protecting them” — and it is WELL PAST TIME TO begin to shake off that hard-hearted way of dealing with our black youth that goes back to our slave days.

    Our young black people will need all the NURTURING and LOVING SUPPORT they can get (from us) before we turn them loose in a hard, cold white supremacist world.

    As far as “striving for greatness” what do people think it means when a group of black males – some from very challenged backgrounds – did when they walked up on stage and got their diplomas? What more do we expect them to do at age 21,22, or 23?

    Lastly, speaking of “Rhode Scholars” — here’s a little footnote about the creator of that scholarship:

    “Cecil John Rhodes PC, DCL (5 July 1853 – 26 March 1902)[1] was an English businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. He was the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which today markets 40% of the world’s rough diamonds and at one time marketed 90%.[2] An ardent believer in British colonialism, he was the founder of the southern African territory of Rhodesia, which was named after him in 1895.”

    While I greatly respect educational achievement, I am NOT impressed by a scholarship STAINED with the blood AND terror of millions of colonized and exploited AFRICAN PEOPLE in one of the most brutal and white supremacist nations in the world. Frankly, I am not impressed with TITLES of any kind, but I’m more impressed with the CHARACTER of a person and what they STAND for (Malcolm and Martin), regardless of their education and “titles” and financial status.

    No disrespect intended. Again, we can agree to disagree.

    • Hill Guthrie says:

      I’ll agree to disagree as I don’t think we share much common ground. I believe in love and nurture are important and hope you have the opportunity to support and influence as many young people as possible.
      The mask of racial identity whether black, white or any other is self interest intertwined with ethnocentric dogma. The issue is removing negative barriers to our success that have somehow become equated with being authentically black. The atrocities of the past don’t exist anymore. I’m in favor of educating ourselves as champions of the legacy of slavery and letting our actions, our collective character define how we are viewed by the world. Only action will change minds not rhetoric and I’m in favor of Obama or anyone else who says that message.

      • TrojanPam says:

        @ Hill Guthrie

        We are definitely NOT on the same page — and while I wish otherwise, I have to accept that

        The atrocities of the past are DEFINITELY not a thing of the past

        Trayvon Martin, a young black male hanged from a tree in Mississippi in Dec 2012, Oscar Grant murdered by a transit cop in 2012, black people being run over as they walked along the side of the road in 2013, a black male and female shot over 100 times by police, rising poverty rates of all americans, the INVASION of Africa by the same people who colonized it — UNDER the Obama administration, by the way,

        the assassination of Africa leaders, the rising unemployment of black people, the 50% dropout rate of black males all over the nation, the shootings (murders) of black males in Chicago (near where I live), the rising incarceration of the black males AND black females whose labor is being “FARMED” out to Corporate America, the decreasing wages of black people, and POOR black people in rural America BEGGING to pick crops (again),

        the closing of almost 50 schools in Chicago (88% of them black) — the LARGEST MASS SCHOOL CLOSING in U.S. history, the gentrification of U.S. cities like Chicago, Brooklyn, Harlem, DC, etc. where blacks are being TAXED out and COST-out of their homes

        and the list is too LONG, so I do not understand how any black person can think the atrocities of the past are over since KATRINA where black people were ALLOWED TO DROWN IN THEIR ATTICS was less than TEN YEARS AGO — which resulted in the SINGLE LARGEST DISPLACEMENT OF BLACKS SINCE THE CIVIL WAR

        I do not understand what “realities” you are looking at but we will just have to agree to disagree — and I will extend an invitation to check out my blogs

        (just click on my name)

  47. Hill Guthrie says:

    Trojan Pam, I hope this point is clear but in no way am I attempting to disrespect your view just passionately disagree with it.

  48. LBM says:

    I don’t think it’s love and nurture when you talk to a group of young men who just struggled through four years of college the same way you would talk to a group who was recently released from incarceration. For those who feel “this generation” needs this kind of talk – who/what produced “this generation?” And why are those who know they work twice as hard, study twice as long, endure ten times as much crap – refusing to relate THAT to our young people? Yes, many of us have persevered and led what we’re told are productive, prosperous lives. But what we haven’t done is be real with our young folk about what it has taken. We haven’t been real about the fact that you can take on all the personal responsibility you can muster and STILL be in survival mode all your life. Many of our young people are seeing this and are not encouraged. So we need to be encouraging with those youth and their families who do embark upon this journey.

    President Obama gives the same speech to every predominantly Black audience. It is tiring.

    Trojan Pam, that sexing thing will bucked for quite a while to come. It’s another one of those things we don’t want to be truthful about. You know interracial marriages are not part of the 50% divorce rate. And no racists have ever slept with those victimized by racism.

  49. TrojanPam says:

    @ LBM

    Without beating a dead horse (or the subject) to death
    all one has to do is compare the speeches given to black audiences with the ones given to non-white audiences and the differences are OBVIOUS.

    Those who defend President Obama (no matter what he does or says) can continue to do that

    Because at the end of the day — and when the REAL deal goes down

    they can’t say they weren’t told

  50. TrojanPam says:

    correction:

    all one has to do is compare the speeches given to black audiences with the ones given to white and non-black audiences and the differences are OBVIOUS.

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