Whenever Black people criticize the Black President for not sufficiently standing up for Black folks in this country, Barack Obama’s supporters say: “He’s the President of ALL Americans. He can’t appear to discriminate in favor of Black people…”
So, when the son of a father born on the African continent becomes the first U.S. President to champion a NATO-led bombing, and removal from power of a sitting African head of state, which many observers describe as the first steps to the re-colonization of Africa by Western European powers, Blacks are told to be quiet about it.
When he spoke to the 41st Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, Obama went to church on the assembled Black leaders. On the vexing problem of unemployment, where the official Black rate is twice the national average, the President said he understands: “It gets folks discouraged. I know. I listen to some of y’all,” Obama told the audience of 3,000 in the Washington convention center Sept. 24. But he said blacks need to have faith in the future–and understand that the fight won’t be won if they don’t blindly rally to his side.
“I need your help,” he continued, reminding the audience that Black folks know all too well from the civil rights struggle that the fight for what is right is never easy. Then, the speech got kind of tricky. The articulate, Hawaii-born, Harvard-educated former professor of Constitutional law sounded down-right “Black-preacher-like,” with a real down-home cadence and elocution.
“Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marchin’ shoes,” he said, his voice rising. “Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin’. We are going to press on. We have work to do,” he continued. He was dropping his “Gs” at the end of his words like a true “Homeboy,” which of course he isn’t. The explanation I heard is that he was “code-switching,” that is speaking in a coded language that his audience would understand. He was not faking a “Gansta’ Lean,” or acting ghetto.
One observer said this was this president’s “Sister Souljah” moment, comparable to when President Bill Clinton scolded the Black entertainer at a convention of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH in 1996, to demonstrate to the larger White public, that he could talk tough to Black folks, not showing them in special favor.
But when this president spoke to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus dinner, he was much more conciliatory. “The real problem isn’t the members of Congress in this room,” he said to an audience which included more than a dozen congressional Democrats. “It’s the members of Congress who put party before country because they believe the only way to resolve our differences is to wait 14 months till the next election.” That’s what he managed to tell a Latino audience. There’s certainly no confusion about him being Hispanic, so I guess he can make nice with them.
When this same President spoke recently to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest group advocating for the rights of homosexuals, Obama was unequivocal. He championed Gay Rights 101 without any trepidation. He hailed the recent repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and urged the Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. I guess he can be extra nice to them because there’s no fear that he could ever be perceived as being “too pro gay” either.
“I don’t know who he was talking to because we’re certainly not complaining,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said of the President’s CBC speech on CBS’s “The Early Show.” In fact, she noted, the CBC had long been pursuing a robust jobs initiative. Waters further pointed out that the president doesn’t address other key voter blocs, such as Hispanic and gay and lesbian groups, quite the same way.
And, true to form, one of the President’s supporters–the Rev. Al Sharpton, leader of the National Action Network–criticized Waters, and other vocal Obama critics, as being some kind of turncoats, because they originally supported the 2008 presidential candidacy of then Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-N.Y.), now Obama’s Secretary of State. See?
But Black folks support this president with an almost blind loyalty (although that support has slipped recently from 85 percent approval to 58 percent approval), so much so, that this season’s out-of-touch Black Republican presidential candidate Hermain Cain said Black voters are “brainwashed” to vote for Democratic candidates over ultra-conservatives like himself and others who enjoy the support of the Tea Party.
So what are Black folks to do? Speak up and be chastised? Or be silent and be accused of being brainwashed?