Sunday, November 09, 2008

"African Americans have just entered the no-excuses zone"

He leapt the tallest barrier. What does it mean for black America?
Sunday, November 9, 2008

African Americans have just entered the no-excuses zone.

We finally have one of our own in the White House. With Barack Obama's ascension to the highest office in the United States, most African Americans feel that we have arrived as fully equal citizens. But we need to recognize that with Obama's victory come challenges---and that many of those challenges will be put to the black community itself.

Obama isn't like the leaders who have traditionally spoken for black America. As president, he's unlikely to embrace the confrontational identity politics that have defined black activism for so long. He won't tolerate an African American brand of racism or a culture of violence. Nor is he likely to be patient with the long-standing narrative of victimhood that has defined black America to itself and to the mainstream for more than a century.

Obama is already constructing a new black political and cultural narrative---gathering together the best of the past, including the coalition politics that characterized the early civil rights movement and an image of strong black males that doesn't involve bling-bling or hip-hop misogyny. He has decried the low-hanging pants fashion so popular with young black men, blasted rapper Ludacris for offensive song lyrics and called on fathers to take responsibility for their families. Are African Americans ready to accept all this and respond positively? Are they ready for a truly post-racial America?

The rest of Ms. Barras's piece is here.

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3 Comments:

At 10:44 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

This argument is a bit of a stretch. Obama's win proves that an African-American can become President. But the playing field is far from level. If John Kerry had Obama's eloquence, organization, and temperament, he would have beaten Bush by 10 points, at a time when Bush was not as vilified as he is today.

It is nonetheless a great inspiration for young African-Americans, which will be of great help.

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Ms. Barras isn't arguing that the playing field is level for blacks. She's just part of an ongoing cultural debate within the African-American community. Like many other American blacks, Barras is appalled by the often violent, vile, anti-woman rap/hip-hop ethos and the self-defeating permanent victim status that relegates American blacks to a permanent underclass status. Obama is allied with the Bill Cosby/Barras side of the debate.

 
At 10:10 PM, Anonymous herman is my handle said...

I think, as is his usual stance and as is appropriate in this case, Obama is on both sides of this debate. He is certainly not on only the Cosby side.

The negative feedback loop of black subordination in this country has a lot of elements in it. Black people did have agency in many of them. Obama has said as much before, in his Father's Day speech for example.

That said, black people didn't have agency in many others of them -- they did not, for example, write the drug laws that have sent so many nonviolent black men to prison, which contributed greatly to the proliferation of violence in that community (a pretty recent phenomenon, post-1968 mostly) and to the breakdown of the black family (also mostly a post-1968 affair).

I don't think Obama is solidly in the "blame the blacks" category that Cosby is in. I don't think he would ever say or think anything like "African-Americans have just entered the no-excuses zone." That sounds more like Bill O'Reilly than Barack Obama, frankly.

His speeches and writings indicate a more mixed and sophisticated view than that, and for that I'm grateful.

 

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