Wednesday, May 27, 2015

John McWhorter — It’s about time Obama stuck up for his ‘respectability politics’

(The Washington Post)
Did you hear about the black president who gets roasted for the gaffe of presuming black people have control over themselves and their fate?
It’s an old story at this point: President Obama’s speech at the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary commemoration; his commencement address at Morehouse College; the launch of his My Brother’s Keeper initiative. They’ve all come under scrutiny from African-American observers who become alarmed whenever the president strays from treating black people as powerless victims of society whose only salvation will be an upending of the American system that will never happen.
Jamelle Bouie calls Obama’s formulation “wrong” and Jelani Cobb once boiled it down this way: “It has been Obama’s consistent habit to douse moments of black achievement with soggy moralizing.”
But at his “poverty summit” Tuesday, the president pushed back, saying, among other things:
On this whole family-character values-structure issue. It’s true that if I’m giving a commencement at Morehouse that I will have a conversation with young black men about taking responsibility as fathers that I probably will not have with the women of Barnard. And I make no apologies for that. And the reason is, is because I am a black man who grew up without a father and I know the cost that I paid for that. And I also know that I have the capacity to break that cycle, and as a consequence, I think my daughters are better off.
He’s dead on, and he should keep at it.