President Obama and Black America are in a constant lover's quarrel. In past speeches to predominantly African-American crowds, he's been accused of talking down to his strongest constituency in a manner that he wouldn't dare in front of white audiences. On Sunday, President Obama issued the commencement address to Morehouse University’s graduating class and touched on familiar themes of race, opportunity and black fatherhood. However, while his speech was well-received at Morehouse, parts of it have been heavily scrutinized.
Via Huffington Post:
“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices,” Mr. Obama said. “And I have to say, growing up I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down.”
“But one of the things all of you have learned over the last four years is there’s no longer any room for excuses,” the president said to the roughly 500 graduates in a downpour, his words punctuated by claps of thunder.
While critics misinterpreted his speech to imply that race was not a factor in a "post-racial" world, I get where he's coming from. The civil rights era's most respected educator may have been Morehouse president, Benjamin Mays, who had a saying that mirrored Obama's, “He who starts behind in the great race of life must forever remain behind or run faster than the man in front.”
The quote perfectly depicted the disadvantage African-Americans faced in a prejudiced society, but it also compelled African-Americans to strike harder than white counterparts for equality. The Jim Crow South wasn't a perfect world, but it's the dog-eat-dog one they lived in. Obama's viewpoint is simply the 21st century solution to an old problem.
Race is no longer the glass ceiling it once was. Not saying it is not there, but brothers and sisters have many more hammers. There are definitely legitimate experiences where race (and class) have been impediments, but it also has the tendency to be used as an all-encompassing cop-out. Times have changed and it's time we all changed our mindsets with it.