Friday, August 30, 2013

What Would Happen if the "Scold-in-Chief" Barack Obama Publicly Announced His Deep and Abiding Love for the Black Community?

[My most recent series of essays on the March on Washington anniversary have brought quite a few new readers to We Are Respectable Negroes. As I do during such moments, I inaugurate an informal fundraising drive.

I do not advertise or monetize my work here on WARN. I also choose not to run advertisements or sponsorship because I want to remain independent. Instead, I have a twice a year fundraiser, and moments such as this one, where I extend the hand on high traffic posts.

Random monies thrown into the tip jar Paypal bucket are however always appreciated. My work here and elsewhere are labors of love. However, I never refuse encouragement.]

I aspire to be the Locutus of the Black Borg who gets invited on TV to do the obligatory "what do black people think about X issue?" segment. Until then, I will have to be satisfied with having my Twitter utterance about the "Scold-in-Chief" Barack Obama included in this piece over at Mother Jones.

My earlier essay about how Obama's March on Washington Anniversary speech was just one more example of the country's first black president deciding to publicly shame African-Americans, and portray us as racial grievance mongers, has generated some interesting comments.

Gable1111 offered a provocative observation about Obama and the idea of a "beloved community" that I would like to highlight:
A lot of us thought that the second term would reveal "the real Obama," but instead of "Trouble Man" we get Irkle; instead of swinging for the fences he's humbly bunting with the lowered expectations of just getting to first base, only to continue to get kicked in the teeth by those who's favor he seems to seek. That he continues to do this at a point in time when he clearly doesn't have to says this is not a feint; this is who he is. 
Dr. King had not just love but an obsession for his people. He talked about the "Beloved Community." Is it not possible for Obama for just once to celebrate black folk? Is the only context he will ever speak of his people is to scold? 
For a lot of us the problem is with the "first black president," we thought we were getting W.E.B. Dubois, but instead we're getting Booker T. The March on Washington speech makes that even more apparent.
Nothing is more threatening to White America than black self-love, self-reliance, independence, and uplift. Such values are supposed to be quintessentially "American". However, when black folks who are deeply rooted in the African-American community espouse such principles (excluding paid for lapdog Tea Party GOP black conservatives), the white racial frame views them as dangerous "radicals" and "separatists" who are "anti-white".

President Obama plays the public scold of Black America in order to maintain his bonafides as being a "race neutral" policymaker who is in no way threatening to Middle America like those "angry" black people.

In this role, Obama embodies a dualism wherein his election allows for a sense of racial transcendence for white folks, while simultaneously serving colorblind racism because he will do nothing to address the specific challenges facing the black community.

But, what if Obama responded to those critics who argue that he seems to take particular delight in lecturing black Americans about their failings--and remaining quite silent about the various pathologies that are running amok in White America--by publicly offering some version of the following sentence.

"Yes, I have a deep and abiding love for the black community."

I can imagine three responses.

Obama's declaration of love for the black community is implicitly "anti-white" and an example of "black racism". Two, this is more "proof" that Obama hates white people. Three, the White Right (and others) will of course ask, "what would happen if a white president proclaimed his love for the white community! Double standards! Hypocrisy!"

In all, public expressions of affinity and a sense of linked fate for, and within, the black community by its members are in many ways still verboten in American life.

Why? Because Whiteness and its incumbent systems of White Supremacy and White Privilege are at their root dependent upon a denial of black humanity, dignity, and full equality. Ultimately, black and brown folks loving themselves and each other without fear of white approval or white consequence is a threat to the very foundation of White Supremacy as a racial ideology.

What responses would you imagine if Obama stopped being the Scold-in-Chief of Black America and instead decided to be a black president who publicly announced his love for black people?


Jacob Schmidt said...

What responses would you imagine if Obama stopped being the Scold-in-Chief of Black America and instead decided to be a black president who publicly announced his love for black people?
At times I've felt some sympathy for Obama. If he comes out taking any strong stance on race that doesn't maintain the status quo, he looses politically. A decade or two down the road (thinking optimistically) he might be respected for it, but right now it would kick off a shitstorm.
Than I realize that he's throwing the black community under the bus for political points, and I stop feeling sympathetic.

George Smith said...

Let's theorize that he did do such a thing this week. The White Right would erupt but how could it possibly get more enraged than it already is? If there was a difference, an increase in the hate, rancor and calumny, it would only be by degrees, not by orders of magnitude. What's left for them? They've already turned it up just about as far as possible.

chauncey devega said...

That is the puzzle isn't it. Obama can't do anything to please the conservative-racist crowd. Yet, he defers to them. See his releasing a statement on the murder of Lane.

chauncey devega said...

I wonder what Obama's tell all memoir written in thirty years will reveal? I wonder about his private thoughts.

DanF said...

In parts of Mali, ex-pat Malians who've lived overseas for many years are called "bats" when they return. "What are you? You are not a bird. You are not a mouse. What are you?" Obama, who was largely raised by white grandparents in multicultural Hawaii, quite likely feels both a part of the black community and not at different times.

Obama's scold voice may be a position that has worked well for him as he has navigated the white culture of higher education and politics, (and it's a generational position I see frequently in my early Gen X, late Boomer peers as it's a short-cut to being taken seriously - I'll concede this point if you'll concede that one). But it is also likely that as a bat, he may well believe it, and he doesn't see it as throwing anyone under the bus.

I'll be interested in reading those memoirs too (but I'm knocking on fifty, so I hope they are released sooner). He's a smart man; self-aware and introspective with an unquestionably unique point of view in history. I can only hope he's brutally honest when he writes it. I'd title it, "Three Black Guys Walk into a Bar, and I was asked to Comment".

Gable1111 said...

I agree; nothing is more threatening to the forces of racism and bigotry than Black love. And why wouldn't it be, when what drives them is hatred?

They want us to hate ourselves as they hate us, because when we do it validates them in ways nothing they could ever do would. From their perspective our happiness can only lie in a rejection of our history and our reality. We must whitewash all of that in order to be acceptable. Ironically, if you don't hate yourself, they call you the "racist."

And this is why these "black conservatives" who make a buck spouting essentially self hatred, find a home in that crowd, the more provocative the stronger the embrace. Think Thomas, Elder, Carson, E.W Jackson, et al. If these guys weren't willing to trash their own (and don't get me wrong, I am not by far saying we are perfect, but there is a time and place...) in the hateful tones steeped in the talking points and theories of the shopworn stereotypes, they'd have no use for them.

They didn't kill King because they thought he was a dangerous radical, who would foment a violent revolution. King was a threat because the foundation for his philosophy was love, the antithesis to everything these people are about. And that love was opening not just the eyes of black folk, but whites too. King had the intellect, articulation and oratorical skills to bring it home and make it plain, and leverage love in ways that create pathways to for the possibility for real change.

But to answer the question, what do I think the response would be if Obama broke out and extolled the virtues of black folk? Nothing that hasn't already been said. What more could they say? They have come at this man with both barrels blazing from day one. The very day he was elected they "wanted their country back." How could one man take all that away? He's already been called the anti-Christ, Marx, Stalin and Hitler. The one time Obama came close to acknowledge the reality and humanity of black folk, without the scold, was in the wake of the Zimmerman acquittal, when he said if he had a son, he'd look like Trayvon, they accused him of trying to start a race war.

These over the top responses to someone who, when you look at him objectively, is really a mild mannered guy; one of the least threatening people anyone could ever meet, is telling.

Miles_Ellison said...

It really doesn't matter what he says. People are either too stupid to comprehend or too deep in their ideological/racial agendas to even entertain any other perspective. So he might as well say it.

Blac Sci-Fi said...

I tend to look at the entire picture. In doing so I am reminded of some of the recent news from the Justice Dept. regarding drug sentencing and voting rights.
Misdirection is a common practice of powerful leaders when they don't want too much attention paid to the left so they point to the right. PBO is, if anything, a master of misdirection. And, the reality is that fathers are often left to do and say things that mothers can't.
If the truth about black on black crime and out-of-wedlock births hurts, that doesn't make it any less true or necessary to say or CHANGE. In affect, we are our own worse enemy. What is the standard for living a decent life if the standards are set by Hollywood with no meaningful alternative being envisioned and spoken.
Sure, it's easy to critique those caught in the cycle of poverty, but, aren't some of these problems the same that our grandparents dealt with in a more overtly racist society. They managed to get married and strive for education and passed along that legacy and "underground railroad" of accomplishment.
"The fierce urgency of now?"
Again, if the government programs are in place, if the schools are open, if the support systems are there, if daycare and head start are still available, we need to take advantage of these things and move forward.
The President is fighting like hell to maintain these programs in the face of overwhelming racist congress, and winning. So who is taking advantage of the ladder we marched for, bled for and died for while it's still in place? White women, the LGBT commuity and other ethnic minorities are running up that ladder and they aren't looking back.. What about us?
In addition..."compared to what?"... Africa?, Russia, the Middle East. These are places in the world where opportunity for minorities and women and gays are denied without a whisper against the leadership. Why is the entire planet trying to get to the USA and take advantage of our schools and freedom? If I were President and I saw a family from India come here and prosper while my own people were trying to be crack dealers by poisning our community, I'd have a lot more to day than PBO.
Are you suggesting that our grandparents and greatgrandparents had it easy?
Why are music and sports (career lottery?) the only accomplishments we read about? Was BET creator Bob Johnson forced to devolve into minstrilism at gun point before selling out? Every ethnic group in America has a TV, Cable or Radio station and is broadcasting their message. How about us?
PBO has said early and often that his politics are driven by "make me do it" appeals from the masses. He needs the MASSES to make an overwhelming case that he can, in a democracy, carry forward and enact.
I don't have a problem with a man who is "living it" sharing the secrets of his success. He has made it plain and is telling the truth. Let the mothers pat the backs and sing you to sleep. PBO is issung a wake-up call. And, he's only going to be in office for a presicous few more months before it's back to bussiness as usual.
What are we going to "make him do" before he's gone?