BETWEEN me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? ––W.E.B. DuBois
It’s the same story that never, ever gets old. High incarceration rates with a growing prison population, drop out rates, violent crimes – real or imagined, unemployment rates, and even something as mundane as music and fashion styles unflattering to some people are all negro problems. That’s right. These are problems only black people deal with. So, we are the ones who must correct it. We are the ones who must get our acts together. We are the cause of all our problems and everyone else’s.
At least this is how most of America sees it, especially the Commander-in-chief himself.
Recently, President Barack Obama made a speech to the graduating class of Morehouse while First Lady Michelle did the same at Bowie State. It was an honor for the students of two historically black colleges to have the Obamas speak at their graduations. However, I’m sure they weren’t prepared for the spirit of Booker T. Washington to hit them dead in the face.
In both speeches, the Obamas veered into finger-wagging lectures about personal responsibility’s triumph over structural inequity. The president issued now-familiar urgings for black people to stop making “excuses”—a plainly strange demand to give a room full of young people who are celebrating a big, hard achievement. The first lady told us even our dreams are insufficient, that black kids must fantasize about being successful professionals rather than celebrities. You’ll not find similar themes in their speeches to non-black audiences.
This is no different than what Bill Cosby pulled at the infamous NAACP speech several years ago in 2004. He harssly criticized the black community on everything from poor english, petty criminality, single parenthood, hyper-consumerism, poor education and naming children. He claims that we “weren’t holding up our end of the deal” (referencing the struggles and sacrifices of civil rights leaders before us), and that “God was tired of us.” Damn!
It’s one thing to have white people say how we are the cause of everything wrong with American society, but to hear it from members of your people is daunting. Such lectures are demeaning and misleading. It suggests that whatever’s wrong with black people are within black people. What’s worse is that it scapegoats the cause of a community’s problems away from the real causes, and that includes – in large part – to the continuous onslaught of white institutional racism.
There are numerous volumes of information to support and back up the truths the systematic and social racism is a major factor to the problems facing blacks in America. Yet, it is never considered, let alone mentioned – at least not without being accused of “blaming whitey.”
There is never a discussion on how poor and broken schools in poor black neighborhoods are being underfunded and ultimately shut down. No one bats an eye if hundreds of black youth are dying in poor inner city streets due to lack of employment, activities, an influx of drugs and guns that can easily be obtained, a seriously underfunded education system and a lack of healthcare. And let’s not leave out the horrible, racist and fatal treatment at the hands of cops and a ravenous “justice” system looking for more poor black bodies for more profit. Yet somehow, it is still all our fault!
Mr. and Ms. Obama, if you want to preach about personal responsibility, why not sit down and talk to corrupt politicans, greedy CEOs and crooked bankers about being accountable for the bullshit they’ve caused? But, since most of them are rich and white, I guess that’s forbidden.
Note: Check out our recent discussion on this subject on Madness & Reality Radio below: