“No More” Say Critics of Obama’s Morehouse Speech

"Okay, enough encouragement.  Here comes the scolding."

“Okay, enough encouragement. Here comes the scolding.”

The president is invited to give the commencement speech to colleges all across the country.   As far as speakers go, President Obama and  First Lady Michelle Obama are considered major “gets.”

However, his speech last week at Morehouse College got on the nerves of some of his critics.

    “We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, 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 you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’ We’ve got no time for excuses – not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t.

Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and overcame.

    “You now hail from a lineage and legacy of immeasurably strong men – men who bore tremendous burdens and still laid the stones for the path on which we now walk. You wear the mantle of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, Ralph Bunche and Langston Hughes, George Washington Carver and Ralph Abernathy, Thurgood Marshall and yes, Dr. King. These men were many things to many people. They knew full well the role that racism played in their lives. But when it came to their own accomplishments and sense of purpose, they had no time for excuses.”

    “I was raised by a heroic single mother and wonderful grandparents who made incredible sacrifices for me. And I know there are moms and grandparents here today who did the same thing for all of you. But I still wish I had a father who was not only present, but involved. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father wasn’t for my mother and me. I’ve tried to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man.

ta-nehisi-coates

“I’m going to scold the Black president for scolding Black people.”

    “It’s hard work that demands your constant attention, and frequent sacrifice. And Michelle will be the first to tell you that I’m not perfect. Even now, I’m still learning how to be the best husband and father I can be. Because success in everything else is unfulfilling if we fail at family. I know that when I’m on my deathbed someday, I won’t be thinking about any particular legislation I passed, or policy I promoted; I won’t be thinking about the speech I gave, or the Nobel Prize I received. I’ll be thinking about a walk I took with my daughters. A lazy afternoon with my wife. Whether I did right by all of them.

    “Be a good role model and set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know someone who isn’t on point, go back and bring that brother along. The brothers who have been left behind – who haven’t had the same opportunities we have – they need to hear from us. We’ve got to be in the barbershops with them, at church with them, spending time and energy and presence helping pull them up, exposing them to new opportunities, and supporting their dreams. We have to teach them what it means to be a man – to serve your city like Maynard Jackson; to shape the culture like Spike Lee. Chester Davenport was one of the first people to integrate the University of Georgia law school. When he got there, no one would sit next to him in class. But Chester didn’t mind. Later on, he said, ‘It was the thing for me to do. Someone needed to be the first.’ Today, Chester is here celebrating his 50th reunion. If you’ve had role models, fathers, brothers like that – thank them today. If you haven’t, commit yourself to being that man for someone else.”

This was a pretty standard Obama riff: be responsible. Be a man.  Take care of your responsibilities.  Don’t blame others for your lot in life.  We’ve heard variations of this uplift-the-race speech from Obama since 2008.   This is not new.

What is news is how some Black commentators have had enough and don’t want to hear it anymore.  They want President Obama to talk to them the way he talks to predominantly White audiences.

Ta-Neshi Coates:  Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people — and particularly black youth — and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that “there’s no longer room for any excuses” — as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of “all America,” but he also is singularly the scold of “black America.”

Courtland Milloy There is something vaguely contemptuous about the president’s style of criticism when addressing black audiences. Invariably, his rosy rhetoric comes with insensitive scolding — his mesmerizing visage leaving them oblivious to the blood he has drawn.

“Heh-heh. I have destroyed their youthful spirit.”

“The blood he has drawn?”  Come on, Courtland.  You can make your point without resorting to heavy-handed and silly exaggerations.   Coates has also written much better columns than this and he, as well as nearly every Black columnist I’ve ever read have all scolded Black Americans over one thing or another.    Sitting back and pointing out where others have come up short is practically what the job description for a columnist.

What the President said was not drastically different from what others from Bill Cosby to Minister Farrakhan have previously said. I, like many others here have “called out” my own people for our failings. Leadership is not always telling us what we want to hear, but what we need to hear. Why should this be more of an irritant coming from Obama than anyone else?

And to my Super Soul Sister Tonyaa Weathersbee , who took the president to task on Facebook, I must take issue with your observation that “Obama’s speech on black male responsibility is wasted on an audience of Morehouse graduates who get it. They’ve already been responsible enough to pursue a degree, so why drive home what they already know?”

How do we KNOW the president is telling these grads “what they already know?” Who’s to say the social conscience of a Morehouse man is more highly attuned than the working class brutha holdin’ down a 9 to 5? You don’t have to accept W.E.B. DuBois “Talented Tenth” concept to know more than a few Blacks who graduate from institutions of higher learning, have no intentions of doing anything to uplift the race and are going to run as far and as fast from those who haven’t been as blessed as they are. Their top priority is finding a high-paying gig with a Fortune 500 company because baby needs a new pair of shoes and to pay off those student loans too!

If Obama’s tone to the grads at Morehouse is different from that of The Ohio State University, perhaps he realizes the odds differ for their success and the stakes are higher.  A graduate of OSU that blows it once they live school may have alternative paths to success.   A Morehouse man may only get one shot to make it and if they fall short, that failure reflects on not just them and their family, but the collective hopes of the Black community.

If the educates classes of Blacks don’t want to hear any more “tut-tut-tutting” from the President and the working class masses aren’t paying attention, who’s left?

Instead of saying, “I’m tired of hearing Obama telling me what I already know” a better way of looking at it is, “Is he saying anything that isn’t still a problem?” Maybe we should pull ourselves away from Kerry Washington’s imaginary love affair with the fictional White Republican Chief Executive long enough to look at the unresolved real world issues the Black Democratic one is bringing to our seemingly unwanted attention.

Those bitching about the president’s speech are probably the same ones who bitch about how Obama ignores the concerns of Blacks.   Now when he mentions them  and suggests its up to Black grads to address some of the outstanding issues that have plagued the race for decades,  if not centuries, he’s lecturing Black audiences in a way he doesn’t do White audiences.   Well, duh.   Black folks don’t have the same problems as White, gay, Latino and female audiences do.

Don’t kill the messenger because you don’t dig the message.   If we truly want Obama to be the Black president, don’t complain when he speaks to problems peculiar to Black people.    It’s unfortunate Obama’s speech fell on so many deaf ears among the Black illuminati.  Instead of telling the president he has no business talking about the problems Black folks have, they should be writing columns proposing solutions to them.

Next year when Obama doesn’t speak at any Black colleges and says, “Who needs that drama,”  he’ll catch hell for only speaking to White graduates.   You can see this train coming long before it gets here.

I went to college for four years and all I got was rained on and a lecture from the President.

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25 responses

  1. Jueseppi B.

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    Every word Barack Hussein Obama said at Historically Black Morehouse College was …excuse me while I channel Bernie Mack….muthafuckin right on the muthafuckin money for all muthafuckin Black men Everymuthafuckinwhere. It’s about time some Black role model besides Bill Cosby puts his foot up young Black men’s rectum. Amen & Hallelujah.

    (° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  2. Jueseppi B.

    Every word Barack Hussein Obama said at Historically Black Morehouse College was …excuse me while I channel Bernie Mack….muthafuckin right on the muthafuckin money for all muthafuckin Black men Everymuthafuckinwhere.

    1. Whew. Don’t hold back Jueseppi. Don’t hold back. Tell me how you really feel.

      Just without as many “muthafuckin’s.” :mrgreen:

      1. Jueseppi B.

        That was my Bernie Mac impression…

  3. You are so on target, Jeff. We, as a group, have issues and problems that we have not resolved. I don’t read the President as scolding us in an effort to make us feel defeated but rather he is attempting to inspire us, to tell us that we can persevere and we can overcome. Perhaps instead of expending energy in indignation that the President dare comment on some of our failings, we should use that energy to find and apply solutions to the inequities and problems that plague us.

    1. Agreed, Sheria. The President hasn’t gone all deaf, dumb and blind to the ills of Black folks. That’s the Republicans job. And what Coates, Milloy and other folks sitting on a tack seem to have glossed over is, Obama could do a lot more for Black Americans if there were a lot less White Republicans in Washington.

      I’m really surprised and a bit disappointed by Ta-Neshi Coates. He usually writes with a lot more perception. Not this time though.

  4. It is a shame that some “Blacks” don’t think that Obama is Black enough to talk to them. The divide of our American experience runs deep. The White “House Black” President is not listened to by some “Blacks” in the fields of life. Is this a loathing of the message or the messenger ? We all need to wake up, take up, and pull,each other up and stop,pulling each other down.

  5. Excellent take Mr. Winbush!

  6. I don’t like to reblog w/o permission, so can I reblog this post, please.

    1. Yes, you certainly may reblog this post. And thanks for asking and reading. :D

  7. I totally agree with you, man.

  8. Reblogged this on GroundUp and commented:
    Unless we finally Overcame and somebody forget to let me know, Jeff Winbush’s response to the negative criticism of President Obama’s inspiring commencement speech at Moorehouse is spot on and a must read.

  9. “It’s unfortunate Obama’s speech fell on so many deaf ears among the Black illuminati. Instead of telling the president he has no business talking about the problems Black folks have, they should be writing columns proposing solutions to them.”

    C’mon, brother! You”re asking too much of the Black Illuminati.

  10. It is time to give up this crap speech as if Black Americans in particular always make excuses. I don’t appreciate Barry Obama’s speech. He is talking to young college GRADUATES whom are looking to become DOCTORS, LAWYERS, FUTURE POLITICIANS…ETC. Not your street NIGGER who does not give a damn about his life or anyone else’s. Black folks need to get it together and start caring for one another as others care for their own. Instead of getting LOVE, you get MESS like Barry’s speech at MOREHOUSE. When are WE going to start uplifting our BLACK MEN AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO FOCUS ON TAKING OVER THE WORLD. That is the problem with BLACK PEOPLE, NOT ENOUGH UPLIFTING BUT YOU CAN SURE TEAR A NIGGER DOWN ALL OF THE TIME. BARRY’S speech was ridiculous and this is a NEW GENERATION. We need OUR MEN in order to continue on our RACE. So please, leave that NIGGER ALWAYS MAKING EXCUSES SPEECH AT THE DOOR. And it is clear, Barry Obama is seriously out of touch with BLACK AMERICA…SMH. By the way, he will not dare talk to WHITE COLLEGE GRADUATES in this manner. I’ve worked around and the excuses fly all of the time. But then again, whites have a support system black folks tend not to want to give to one another.

    1. “It is time to give up this crap speech as if Black Americans in particular always make excuses. I don’t appreciate Barry Obama’s speech. He is talking to young college GRADUATES whom are looking to become DOCTORS, LAWYERS, FUTURE POLITICIANS…ETC. Not your street NIGGER who does not give a damn about his life or anyone else’s.”

      Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt seriously whether a college degree is indicative of one being a responsible husband or father. But like I said, maybe that’s just me being naive. Yep, it’s quite possible that I listened to Obama’s speech too closely.

  11. I was born in the late sixties and lived through the seventies and grew up with a mother who was and still is more a black power/liberation individual than anything else. I listened to the President’s speech and also read the transcript and have seen or heard some of the “blowback” including some of the comments here. It is a testament to the state of dysfunction that exists within the black community that this speech by this person would be taken as anything other than positive encouragement to young men who have put in time energy and effort to graduate from an institution of higher learning. Why is it that anyone encouraging or exhorting people to be responsible somehow negative? If we could go back in time heck to the 1950’s and tell them that there would be a black president we would not be believed. IF we could go back and tell Martin Luther King Jr. that there would be a black president who would go to his alma mater to deliver the commencement speech do you think the response would have been “well he shouldn’t come down so hard on street folks” or that the remarks were an indictment of the black community? Since when did black america become defined by “Street Niggas” ?

    1. Well said, Beattitudes56. Too often Black America is defined by our worst and dimmest instead of our best and brightest. I really don’t know what speech the president’s critics were listening to. It sure wasn’t the same one I heard.

  12. This is an actively ironic situation, President Obama delivering a “no excuses” speech in the midst of a Presidency based on excuse making, being supported by the excuses of half the bloggers on the Internet. The tragedy here is that excuses are absolutely antithetical to what President Obama has asked for and desperately needs from his base. His whole conception of social change relies not on active leadership, but from grassroots pressure. He said that in 2008, he implored the base, “You will have to pressure me to make change.” The idea is that he can turn to say Wall Street and say, “I’d love to help you, but the people are forcing my hand.” Making excuses for President Obama neuters him politically. Without active leadership, without pressure from the left, the tiny bit of pressure from the far right wins out and two insignificant GOP stooges Rick roll Washington from the cheap seats. The right grassroots run washington because the left grassroots has lain down in excuses. No excuses means no excuses. Time to man up and deliver the heat.

    1. The Republican strategy of obstructionism and saying “NO” to anything proposed or supported by The President is not an “excuse.” It is a verifiable reality and those that refuse to acknowledge it are not dealing with that reality.

      It’s easy to say Obama should “man up” but just look what the GOP is trying to do with the president’s nomination of three candidates to fill vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Sen. Mitch McConnell says he’s not sure if the nominees will get an up or down vote and his cohort Sen. Grassley is trying to introduce legislation to eliminate the three openings on the Court saying, “they don’t have enough work.”

      The ONLY reason McConnell and the Republicans suddenly feel the judges on the D.C. Court of Appeals isn’t busy enough is a number of those already were appointed by Republican presidents and they want to deny the President his right (and their Constitutional responsibility to vote on his nominees) to fill judicial vacancies.

      If you support McConnell and Grassley, Shoebridge, what’s your excuse?

      1. Republican obstruction of judicial nominees is a red herring. It is so far down the food chain of what’s important right now that it’s barely worth mentioning. But the idea that you went there, I guess, shows it really works for the administration.

        In terms of degrees of freedom of formal and informal presidential powers, if President Obama has 100, the Republicans can block about 10. It’s nowhere near the “everything” so many imagine.

        President Obama can’t be so powerful on one hand that he can unilaterally redefine due process as something he can do all by himself in his pajamas while on the other hand being so powerless that Boehner and McConnell can functionally run the White House and the rest of D.C. from a minority position in Congress. It doesn’t add up because it’s not true. He has immense power. Sometimes he chooses not to use it.

        I don’t support McConnell and Grassley. I’m not afraid of them either. I support an aggressive progressive agenda. That’s why I choose to press rather than excuse.

      2. There is nothing remotely resembling “a red herring” in the obstruction of Obama’s nominees and if it’s not important why are the Republicans scrambling for a tactic to block the president’s nominees? What you meant to say is this isn’t important to you. That’s fine. You can prioritize as you please, but whom the president selects on the federal courts is one of any administration’s most enduring legacies.

        I have no idea what you mean by “an aggressive progressive agenda.” Whose agenda? Who came up with it? What is in it? How do you suggest implementing it? What is the strategy to get it enacted and passed through Congress. That’s the problem with progressives. They think they represent the best interests of the people but they never bother asking the people what it is THEY want.

        All this blah-blah-blah about “aggressive progressive agendas” sounds very catchy and must be extremely comforting when there is no action plan for implementing it (or have you thought it out that far?), but as far as having any real world effect upon the existing dynamics in Washington, it’s simply nebulous, feel-good rhetoric and I am not sucked in by rhetoric with no basis in political reality. :?

      3. I think we’ve established that something doesn’t have to be important for the Republicans to attempt to block it and that is the case here. Check out the numbers yourself at http://judicialnominations.org/statistics (just for the raw stats, not the other stuff on that site). They fall into the category of significant but not meaningful differences. In the scope of what’s going on in the world today, 15 out of 235 is just not a big deal. It’s not news that obstruction was the Republican strategy. If it was really a big deal for President Obama, he would have confronted it much sooner. He was slow to nominate and slow to react to obstruction. That tells me, for the President, federal judges were not a priority. Prosecutorial discretion and policy, things well within President Obama’s wheelhouse, have much more impact on the day to day lives of US citizens than federal judges anyway. In terms of justice, that’s where progressive attention should be focused–e.g., judges don’t make and enforce racist drug laws, the other two branches do. Legislation and discretion have greater general impact.

        I have all sorts of concrete, implementable progressive agenda ideas. Name your topic. One priority for me would be to get mainstream Democrats, the exponents of science, to put their money where their mouths are and actually start taking a scientific rather than reactionary approach to social change. For example, take a scientific approach to dealing with partisan division. We know stereotypes are very often incorrect and that US citizens have more in common than in difference with their “political rivals” and (at the grassroots level) much more in common with one another than either have with their own political elites. We also know that people do not respond well to protest, insults, and intimidation–that stuff initiates psychological reactance. We’ve seen that with gun control proposals. Tell someone they can’t have apple pie and they suddenly want it more than they actually want it. Tell someone Republicans are evil, they suddenly want to identify as Republicans more than ever.

        A key move toward ending division would be to do away with the idea of compromise once and for all. Compromise is a trap. With it, we get together and start our discussions with the things we least agree on and most hate about one another. How would we expect that to end successfully? Everyone gets worked up. Both sides give in a smidgeon, if at all. The elite end up producing token bills in which no one gets what they need except the status quo. Squash that. Put petty personal identity investments aside. Stop sticking the finger in the eye of the other guy and instead say, “Hey, we agree pretty much 100% on X, Y, and Z. Let’s do that stuff and worry about the other stuff later.”

        The key factor here isn’t “political reality” because there is no such thing as political reality. There are no social laws akin to gravity. We need to be able to recognize when we are giving in to our reptilian urges for increased self-esteem and screwing ourselves over for our fix. The dynamics in D.C. appear fixed because we can’t see past the scripts of political protest, othering, and downward social comparison that we’ve been clinging to for decades. That’s the “feel good” stuff that keeps the powers that be in power. All they have to do to divide and conquer is throw out something like “judicial nominations” or “war on women” and we latch onto it and divide ourselves. Meanwhile, they all go golfing with Wall Street.

  13. Orlando Coombs

    The Presidents message to Morehouse College Graduates was a very powerful message, very positive and uplifting. Those who criticise the President for his speech has missed the whole point. He was praising and congratulating these brothers for their accomplishments and inspiring them to do better and be all they can be and give back to their communities while at the same time making a success of their own lives. I listen to the whole speech and it was a very beautiful speech. And he also addressed many issues acute to African Americans but at the same time, he is saying that we cant use that as an excuse. A lot of these poverty pimps in the black community dont like Obama cause he brings a message of hope and self empowerment and self reliance. He encouraged them to do positive things with their lives and have an a positive impact on the black community. He didn’t say nothing negative at all to them brothers, nothing. It was all positive and by the way Barack, we love you brother.

    1. I agree with your analysis, Orlando. I wish Smiley and West and the other Obama haters were as rigorous in going after the Republicans, the Tea Party, the right-wing media machine and all the other groups trying to turn the clock back to the perverse idea of “the good ol’ days.” President Obama isn’t perfect, but he’s trying. I don’t see most of his critics doing anything but blowing a lot of hot air and bad breath into the atmosphere.

      Thanks for reading.

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