A reader writes:
As an African-American, I respect your point about the value of Obama’s speech at Morehouse, but ultimately, I completely agree with TNC’s critique. Why? Because I am tired. It seems that every time Obama comes to the black community to address us, he lectures us; he does not simply speak to us. He gives us a lesson about personal responsibility; he preaches to black men about responsible fatherhood; etc. These are crucial topics, and matters that we, as a community must solve and address, but must he talk about them every goddamned time he comes into the community?
This is especially galling when he refuses to address in explicit terms the specific policy needs of the black community (and they do exist).
I understand that he is the President of ALL of America, but would it kill the man to fight for at least a few policy initiatives that would specifically benefit low-income African-Americans, in particular? God knows we fought for him when we stood in lines across this country, often times for hours, in the face of relentless Republican efforts to disenfranchise us, simply so that he could put up with those boneheads for another four miserable years. If he is going to be our constant scold, it would ease the sting if he was occasionally more than our symbolic benefactor.
I will close on one last note, and I want you, in particular, to be mindful of this. Some of the best and brightest young African-American men in the country attend Morehouse, and many of those men grew up in middle and upper middle-class families (a number of which are likely still intact). I would not be surprised if there are at least 1-2 men in each class who turn down Harvard, and a handful more who turn down other Ivy League schools, in order to attend Morehouse. It has a storied history, and the men who attend that institution graduate, attend exceptionally fine graduate institutions, and often lead wonderfully productive lives.
Of all the groups of young men in the world who needed to hear the lecture that the President gave, they should not have been high on that list. He should have treated them like he would have treated the graduating class at Harvard: like bright young people with a world of possibilities in front of them, who had the right to pretend on just one day that a legacy of pain and the assumption of inadequacy did not accompany their every step.
I’m grateful for that perspective. And for my reader’s sharing of it.