The Speech Barack Obama Could Have Given to White Fathers If He Wasn’t So Busy Talking Down to Black People.

Father of the South Side.
Not exactly the best white father to his Black sons: Thomas Jefferson

Jesse Jackson was completely and absolutely correct: Of course, Barack Obama was, and is, talking down to Black people. If there’s any doubt about this, compare the tenor of very first major speech he gave after he effectively captured the Democratic nomination—one to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) Annual Policy Conference on June 4th—to that of the one he gave at Apostolic Church of God in Chicago on Father’s Day, June 15th.

What struck me most when I heard the first presentation was how absolutely free his promises to the state of Israel, via AIPAC, were of any kinds of requirements, demands, or timetables, or even requests that the nation meet any sort of standards.

It was almost, like, “You guys wanna build a giant spaceship out of solid marble? We’ll back it! Wanna cover the West Bank with brie? We understand!

You know how, typically, statesmen balance their commendations to a nation with polite, understated pushing for change of some kind there?

Nada. Anything Israel wanted to do, seemingly, was cool. “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided!” Obama bellowed, to profound applause, flatly stepping on, as though it were a big pile of doo-doo, one of the biggest points of contention between Israel and Palestine, and neatly rewriting the provisions of international law with one overenthusiastic frat yell.

I remember hearing this AIPAC speech over WBAI and thinking, “Nobody ever speaks to Black people this way.” Then, eleven days later, Obama proved it.

What we got was an address telling Black people to be better fathers.

This passes for a policy statement?

“Ha ha ha ha…keep laughing, you guys…”Well, no, of course not. None is needed. The Obama campaign knows, correctly, I’d argue, that he’s got the Black vote on bulletproof titanium lock. That’s why he not only didn’t need to tell us anything of substance at Apostolic, right, but he could, instead, do double duty: Use the time to talk down to us while, at the same time, making critical points with Caucasians. As Ben Cohen said so well, in a piece so well-titled (“Obama Should Stop Lecturing African Americans”):

Obama knows the topic will endear him to white voters — those quietly afraid of too many blacks in their neighborhoods, and afraid Obama may share their anger. Obama is playing the tricky game of being ‘tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime’. He must be seen by African Americans to be one of them, and by whites to share their fears and concerns.

This is what Jesse Jackson means when he says Obama is talking down to Black people. It’s also, whatever you may think of Jackson, what he never did in his two presidential campaigns. It’s also why he never got elected.

Why doesn’t Obama talk to white fathers like this? Could you imagine?

Can’t? Read the first two paragraphs of Black Agenda Report‘s “What Obama Might Say to White Fathers,” by Shannon Joyce Prince:

On Father’s Day Senator Barack Obama walked into a white church and stepped up to pulpit, absent his charismatic smile. He adjusted the microphone and straightened his silken tie, before resting his bistre colored hands on the pulpit. After staring out sternly over the pale faces of the congregation, he began to speak.

“White fathers,” he intoned ominously. “You have abandoned your responsibilities. You are acting like boys and not men. You and I know this is true. It’s reflected in the fact that according to the Center for Disease Control white young people are over twice as likely than black young people to drive drunk, a third more likely to carry a weapon, three times more likely to binge drink, and twice to four times more likely (depending on the drug) to use cocaine, coke, inhalants, steroids, hallucinogens, and methamphetamines. Furthermore, according to the conservative Manhattan Institute, your polo-shirted, loafer-wearing, suburban sons and daughters are more likely than their urban school counterparts to smoke cigarettes, have sex at an early age, and have commitment-free sex. They are also more likely to sell drugs than urban students. Clearly, the absence of white men from far too many families is taking a toll on white youths. As for those of you who are not absentee fathers, it’s a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don’t just sit in the house and watch HGTV all weekend long. Do some parenting.

Could you imagine? Imagine that.



#1 Hashim Warren on 07.21.08 at 11:12 am

Obama’s speech in that church wasn’t aimed at scoring points with Whites. It was aimed at scoring points with Blacks!

Lecturing Black men to be better fathers is a crowd pleaser at any Black church, trust me. I’m up at church in Harlem every Sunday, and my minister never mentions the social structure behind the problems in the Black family.

#2 Mark on 07.21.08 at 1:08 pm

Yeah, Hashim is spot on. Harry, I heard the Obama/Cosby-isms all the time when I was a kid coming from my African American elders. I don’t see why this is now “talking down” to Black people. Is it because he’s mixed? Not an elder?

If anybody knows a hot mic situation, it’s Jesse.

#3 MK on 07.21.08 at 2:43 pm

Black preachers spend the year preaching about the obstacles Black people face and encouraging them to overcome their weaknesses, true. But they also are quick to describe in detail the obstacles that come through White racism, neglect, “resentment” and basic power playing. Obama won’t touch any of this. Nor will he lecture White people about any of their morale failings, enough to fill a book. When you won’t tell all of the truth because then you won’t get what you want, your selfish and a type of liar. Barack is willing to sacrifice the truth to win, and sacrifice Black people in the process. White people already “know” that “it’s all their fault”. Now its internationally confirmed by what some see as the most successful Black man in American history, who didn’t need a Black father, or a Black mother to succeed. Wait, does that crash his whole premise?

#4 keepitmovin on 07.21.08 at 10:04 pm

I can understand Obama’s intentions , however,disfunction exists in all communities. The message should have been sent across the board. As far as JJ’s use of the “N” word, which should have never been used under any circumstances, could he have been using it in the tone of an old slave holder to mock say …how a nonblack would use it? I say enough of the infighting because both used poor judgement.

#5 Testify on 07.21.08 at 10:08 pm

Tell it, Harry! Great post. Nice to see someone getting past the words that Jesse chose and analyzing the actual content of what he said, and exploring why he said it.

#6 gordon gartrelle on 07.22.08 at 4:35 am

Thank you, Hashim.

Here’s the part of Obama’s speech that the racist mainstream media and the Dyson-worshippers conveniently ignore:

“You and I know this is true everywhere, but nowhere is it more true than in the African-American community.”

Unfortunately, progressive and/or educated black people have a pathological fixation on white folks: white acceptance, white perceptions, white norms, etc.

For instance, whenever someone is talking about a black person fucking up, the first response is “but what about the white people that fuck up?” And when the topic is the pitiful performance of many black kids in schools, the focus is on closing the “achievement gap” so that black kids catch up to white kids.

This causes them to bend over backward to excuse black degenerates (at least in public; in private, the black left hates black fuckups more than the racist right does).

We hate the idea that smug white people may use Obama’s criticism of black fathers to absolve themselves of responsibility for racism, so the solution is to blast Obama for calling out the bad fathers?

How backward is that?

What good will it do to ignore uncomfortable truths and shoot the messenger for “airing dirty laundry?”

#7 DP on 07.23.08 at 10:11 am

It(talking down to Black fathers) is certainly meant to score street cred points with the white, and it is also meant to score panty points with Black women.

Peep Kevin Powell’s game of embedding rap lyrics and hip-hop jargon like the phrase “real talk” into his speeches and the fact that he performs, er, politics to mostly all female crowds.

If you say something sideways about Kevin Powell at a Bed-Stuy barbecue and I guar-an-tee that you won’t be dating any Brooklyn women for the rest of the summer.

Leave a Comment