by Yvette Carnell
There are so many ironies to President Obama’s Morehouse speech that one hardly knows where to begin …..or end. Yesterday, I pointed out that Obama seems to have a selective memory where his parents are concerned, a flawed memory which entails giving his mother all of the credit and his absent father all of the blame. But as a Facebook friend noted, there’s a second irony to the Morehouse speech: That a man who proclaims himself to be the president of all people, not just black people, would be so bold as to give a ‘credit to your race speech’ at a historically black college.
Here’s President Obama in his own words:
You are the mantle of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes and George Washington Carver and Ralph Abernathy and Thurgood Marshall and, yes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. These men were many things to many people and they knew full well the role that racism played in their life. But when it came to their own accomplishments and sense of purpose, they had no time for excuses. Every one of you has a grandma or an uncle or a parent whose told you at some point in life as an African American you have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by.
There was a downpour at Morehouse yesterday during commencement, but the graduates weren’t only drenched in rain:
Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years, is there’s no longer any room for excuses.
….you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and they overcame, and if they overcame them, you can overcome them too.
It’s the ‘work twice as hard and be a credit to your race’ speech that all Blacks have become accustomed to, but it sounds awkward coming from President Obama, not because of who Obama is, but because of what Mr. Obama does and does not represent.
After being needled by Blacks to handle issues specific to our circumstance, such as legislation to address double digit unemployment in our community for example, Obama pushed back, asserting that he’s the president of all people, not just Black people. But when he took center stage at Morehouse, he transformed to become the voice on race in America?
The takeaway: Mr. Obama is mostly unwilling to discuss race, especially as it relates to policies that will improve the plight of Black America, but he’s perfectly willing to discuss race when it entails him telling Blacks to work “twice as hard”, be good parents, and stop making excuses (a word he used at least four times).
Obama wants you to be a credit to your race, but he doesn’t feel as if he owes the Black race anything. He wants you to live by the standard of ‘twice as good’ but doesn’t feel that he, as President of the United States, should do anything to ameliorate that double standard.
If that’s not irony, then I don’t know what is.
Obama is not just a failed president. He is a failed Black president. How ‘s that for duality?