After an extensive review of Obama’s speeches to black audiences over the years, TNC spells out his disappointment:
When Barack Obama makes a moral appeal, he is not performing a Sista Souljah tactic. He is speaking sincere beliefs that run deep in his community. I happen to think those beliefs elide some difficult truths about the nature of power. In the case of the president, I think they elide the fact that there are actual policy steps he could be taking and isn’t. I think yesterday’s post on marijuana busts really brings this home. You will not find me among those arguing for deadbeat dads. But putting away the X-Box will not change those incredible arrest numbers. Policy will. As it stands, the president is on the wrong side of that policy. …
My disappointment with how Obama addresses black people originates in the fact that I believe he, quite literally, knows better and could do better. It is not enough to point out that crowds of black people cheer him on. Greatness demands that you not just make people cheer, that you not just grant them “Oh my people” catharsis, but that you make them think. This is about legacy. This is about asking whether “First Black President” will simply be an accidental honorific.
In a later post, he describes his own approach when speaking at predominantly black schools:
What I generally try to do is avoid messages about “hard work” and “homework,” not because I think those things are unimportant, but because I think they put the cart before the horse. The two words I try to use with them are “excitement” and “entrepreneurial.” I try to get them to think of education not as something that pleases their teachers, but as a ticket out into a world so grand and stunning that it defies their imagination. My belief is that, if I can get them to understand the “why?” of education, then the effort and hard work and long study hours will come after. I don’t know how true that is in practice, but given that I am asked to speak from my own experience, that is the lesson I have drawn.
(Video: Obama speaking to the Apostolic Church of God on Chicago’s South Side on Father’s Day, 2008. Full transcript here.)