I refused to watch the speech of the first Black president on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington DC to save myself from another needless day of depression. I figured I would peacefully watch his delivery another day, when all the emotions of that day had receded. Boy, that Obama can truly irk you just about ANY DAY of the week.
How sad that the first Black president used that anniversary to blame and shame the Black people for the racism they continue to endure to this date.
Here are my reactions to Obama’ speech.
The presence of Clinton and Biden et al ‘democrats’ at the podium gave the whole activity a feeling like… having a pimple on your nose: it’s ugly, it calls the attention on to the nose and makes it impossible to concentrate on what you are saying; it simply shouldn’t be there. I thought that their presence there cheapened the celebration. After all, these politicians are the ones who continue to turn King’s dream into ‘the impossible dream’.
But let’s see the speech itself. I’ll start first with the last part of Obama’ speech.
1. Did Obama blame the victim? Yes he did.
I found most offensive the last part of his speech. It’s the part where he ‘looks’ at what remains to be done.
On that special day, Obama found the opportunity to publicly blame and shame Blacks for the consequences of today’s police brutality and the brutality of a system that continues to push minorities further down the hole. Before enumerating those statements in the speech, let’s take a look at how far back Obama has had this negative perception of African Americans.
“…so wrapped up had I been in my own PERCEIVED injuries, so eager was I to escape the IMAGINED traps that white authority had set for me…Except now I was hearing the same thing from black people I respected, people with more EXCUSES for BITTERNESS than I might ever claim for myself.”
That’s a quote from his book Dreams of My Father, highlights by me.
Today, in the speech, he says:
“Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse- making for criminal behavior.”
“…what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support,”
“…as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child”
“All of that history [of “excuses”] is how progress stalled. That’s how hope was diverted. It’s how our country remained divided.
That last statement is the blaming of the victim: “progress” has been “stalled” by Blacks who use poverty as an excuse to not raising their children, who “too often” have only a “desire for government support”. It is Blacks who has kept “our country” divided. He tells us that it has been the poor Black folks, all along, who have derailed his campaign of “hope”:
“That’s how hope was diverted.”
Who is ‘excusing’ criminal behavior? Blacks alone, other minorities? Who is committing the ‘criminal behaviors? Blacks alone, other minorities? Are these mere “grievances”against police brutality, or DENUNCIATIONS of racism? He didn’t say. It was a GENERAL statement, which makes it sound as if ALL Blacks and minorities are in the same box with “imagined traps set by Whites”.
Obama made a public statement ECHOING the republicans’ view of poor people:
“a mere desire for government support,”
I was asking myself, as I watched the dreaded video of his speech, did the Black ‘folks’ in the public hear what I just heard coming out from his own mouth? Did it register in their minds? If not, then why? It happened, I didn’t imagine it. Go to the video tape or read the transcript of the speech. He did say these things.
2. A long introduction to set up the argument that there is no more racism in America.
Obama went at length to describe the situation of Blacks pre-the ‘March on Wash’ 50 years ago. In other words, he described a Black experience which he admitted, in Dreams of my Father, didn’t affect him and to which he could not relate. This makes his speech just as empathic to the Black experience as that of Clinton, a white president.
Obama’s empathy for the Black’s experience is ‘legendary’.
From Dreams of My Father:
“What I needed was a community…A place where I could put down stakes and test my commitments [to Black ‘folks’].”
But he came out short in that test, as he stated in the book:
“I can’t even hold up my experience as being somehow representative of the black American experience…”
“I have no business speaking for black folks”.
“…for it was true that the people I met on the job [as Black organizer] were generally much older than me, with a set of concerns and demands that created barriers to friendship [between him and the Black folks].”
3. “And because they kept marching, America changed.”
From there on in his speech, he went to tells us how it is that there is no more racism in America. Of course, the most glaring ‘evidence’ is that, because they marched 50 years ago, “the White House changed”.
According to Obama there is no more racism in America because of the Civil Rights laws, voting rights laws (even though these are all disappearing) and education rights laws. THAT’S THE EVIDENCE.
African Americans have seen their economic status eroded during Obama’s administration more than in any other time in the last 50 years, and racism is the ‘rule of law’ for our police. But Obama thinks that we have no new problems in this new millennium and that we ought to simply be vigilant to not lose what was gain 50 years ago and we ‘still’ have INTACT:
“Whether it’s by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all in the criminal justice system and not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails — (applause) — it requires vigilance.”
It is fair to question whether those “changes because they marched” have withstand the winds of times, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t want you to do that questioning:
“To dismiss the magnitude of this progress, to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years.”
It makes sense for him to resent that we may question whether anything has changed. After all, he, the first Black President, has been in office for two terms, but things keep getting worse for us. So, he doesn’t want to hear your ‘grievances’.
Obama has always shown his artistry in delivering speeches where he acknowledges the “grievances” of the minorities; he speaks as if he owns and lives those problems. He repeats them but, somehow, he forgets to mention that now, as a president, he is contributing to the problems we face. You are NOT one of us, Mr. Obama. Stop using the color of your skin to shut us up.
Well, there you have it. This is how I heard Obama’s address to the nation, not to African Americans. Because, after all, he found, in his quest for himself years ago, that he doesn’t need to talk to Black folks or to their experience:
“…learning to accept that particular truth – that I can embrace my black brothers and sisters, whether in this country or Africa, and affirm a common destiny without pretending to speak to, or for, all our various struggles – is part of what this book is about.” Dreams of My Father.
Amen to that.