Monday, April 06, 2009

Acting White: Why Blacks Can't/Won't Criticize Obama

Talk show host Tavis Smiley criticized Obama during the Democratic primary and was swiftly castigated by the black community. The task of scrutinizing the new president is left to those, white or black, with sworn allegiance to Republican or conservative ideologies, as they have already been taken over by the ‘dark’ side.

Now I have my own spin. In black culture, criticism, on average, is presented and received personally, regardless of its objective base. With whites, alternatively, professional or political combatants of one moment are often seen ‘breaking bread’ soon after, which blacks view as hypocritical and whites see as on par. Illinois Professor Kochman, in his book, “Black and White Conflict in Styles”, argues that whites debate the idea, while blacks debate the person debating the idea, a significant distinction.

If Professor Kochman is correct, this would explain why black criticisms of Obama are rebutted with personal attack labels of Uncle Tom, sellout, and the like, all of which Mr. Smiley experienced. However, this response also insulates the President from a level of scrutiny of his believers, which he needs to be effective. Obama is up to his neck with the country's problems, and this suggests two things.

First, blacks who expect Obama to significantly change the group’s plight should understand that said plight, such as it is, will change only inasmuch as that of all Americans changes. Second, motivating the President cannot be accomplished by attacking him personally, nor should we assume that any criticism of him by blacks, or whites, constitutes a personal attack and/or requiring an in-kind response.

If we can put these ‘kid gloves’ and knee-jerk reactions aside, perhaps we can arrive at a point where people who support Obama can influence/disagree with him as well, tossing away the rubber-stamp and rose-colored glasses. And this would be a good thing.

James C. Collier

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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

This goes way beyond race. The political climate in this country has gotten to the point where ideas and positions no longer matter.

Most of the electorate cannot comprehend politics beyond the "D versus R" level, and that's exactly what the establishment wants. The dialog has been reduced to a sports-fan discourse - rather than establish ones ideas and discern the best candidate, we root for our favorite politician and try to justify it after the fact.

Our current president is proof positive of this paradigm. He was the ultimate "identity politics" candidate. He committed to nothing, told every interest group what they wanted to hear, and did his best to agree with his opponent on every issue. He received the endorsement of pop culture figures and pseudo-populist special interest groups.

Rather than run against his opponent, he ran against the unpopular standing president. To emphasize this difference, he frequently explained how he didn't "look like" the previous administration. To many voters, electing a biracial president was more than just symbolic.

Rather than electing the more qualified, more experienced candidate, America once again elected they guy they'd rather "have a beer with". Democracy requires a principled and well-informed populace, and the American electorate meets neither qualification. Voter registration efforts, intended to encourage even the least informed and invested citizens to participate are touted as democratic, when in fact they undermine the democratic process.

Essentially, the emergence of cable news and the internet has made people feel more informed, when in fact it just replaced independent thought with propaganda. The mainstream media, craving access in order to garner ratings, is just as afraid to criticize Obama as they were to criticize Bush if not more so because of the former's (relative) popularity. Even the independent media sources usually present a one-sided perspective in order to retain the partisan viewer base they've cultivated.

In short, the voting public has grown too large and too mediocre to protect its own interest, and I personally can't fathom any way for us to regain our efficacy.

Big Steve said...

Obama is a great talking head, but unfortunately, it is very sad that he thinks he is still campaigning while letting the old school Dems, the unions (America products only, card check, Davis Bacon prevailing wage), and their 'fairness'/class warfare/populism corrupt his agenda and squander his popularity, 'cause none of it will pass.

No chance on cap & trade, no chance on card check, and very, very slim that anything important will come of his healthcare efforts, especially if he does follow the Mass. example.

He is rushing to fill Jimmy Carter's shoes as being the guy in charge of getting nothing done while creating runaway inflation to poison the future. One number I saw was $163,000/household present value. Did you watch last week's McLaughlin Group where he listed $5.3 Trillion in commitments that have been made or are in the proposed budget? How can anyone think this is the way to go?

Constructive Feedback said...

[quote]Most of the electorate cannot comprehend politics beyond the "D versus R" level, and that's exactly what the establishment wants. The dialog has been reduced to a sports-fan discourse - rather than establish ones ideas and discern the best candidate, we root for our favorite politician and try to justify it after the fact.[/quote]

Anon - you are correct BUT.........

It is my opinion that the BLACK COMMUNITY is in a very different situation than America at large.

We too have a "Black Establishment" and they are presently sold out to the Democratic Party. They have placed our community interests lower than their goal of getting more Democrats and Progressives elected into power. Thus, in many areas where Blacks are highly concentrated the election night success of getting a favorable person elected over the school board, mayors office, city council and county board does not translate into ADVANCEMENT over the critical PERMANENT INTERESTS of our people and community:

* Quality Schools
* Safe Streets
* Vibrant Business and Employment Market
* Health Lifestyles


Thus while I agree with you that now politics is a team sport - the impact of such a mindset upon the Black community has been even more deleterious.

The promise of the vision of "When we run things things are going to be different" has turned into a nightmare for many communities that have a favorable political order (not just Black politicians but popular ideology) and yet there is no rebuke from the Black community only FORTIFICATION as they attempt to gain even more ground at the regional and state level, figuring that even MORE FAVORABLE PEOPLE will one day turn the tide against their enemies who have MOVED AWAY AND ALLOWED THEM TO BE ALL ALONE, thus creating a favorable system to address their needs.

The sanction against criticizing the "Popular Black President' is a sign of totalitarian spirit and the will for POPULARITY over EFFECTIVENESS

Anonymous said...

That's why I don't comment or read on most "black" blogs. Not only do they promote weak and tendentious political arguments, disagree about any controversial issue and you're a self-hating Clarence Thomas or Uncle Tom.

Not for me.

It even happens in real life, in all-black settings. I enjoy that sometimes, feeling the rare feeling of being in the "in-group" rather than the minority. But when political stuff comes up, there's an immense pressure to nod your head, to say "true true" to the notions that Malcolm X is an appropriate role model for young people today, that we ought to support more liberalism and more welfare, and obviously our racist government should do more about Darfur.

Black people would do alot better without Black Consciousness.

Homeland Colors said...

I'd like to read the book. Smiley came across as myopic to me during the campaign. Perhaps there is more depth to his argument in the book.

GoldenAh said...

I have to admit I'm not paying close enough attention to what the Obama Administration is doing to come up with an absolute verdict. Perhaps when 100 days have come and gone, I could muster up some criticism. I am waiting for how this "health care reform" may shake out. I don't believe it's going to come out in any form that will improve the health care situation at all.

>>If we can put these ‘kid gloves’ and knee-jerk reactions aside, perhaps we can arrive at a point where people who support Obama can influence/disagree with him as well, tossing away the rubber-stamp and rose-colored glasses.<<

Good luck with that one.

bbgcmac said...

Interesting topic! I wrote a piece defending Tavis from some people that i thought were not giving him a fair shake. (read if you like...)

http://bbgcmac.wordpress.com/2008/11/25/black-cannibalism-or-the-tearing-down-of-tavis-smiley/

I have to tell you though... as a fan historically of Tavis' - a person who has met him several times and have traveled on my own dime for several of his events - when I hear him talk about Obama like when he was promoting the book, "Accountability" on NPR's Talk of the Nation I believe it was, he says the right things about the Pres and I truly believe he wants whats best for our country.. he has an "edge" in my opinion that has not left since the election. There is something there and I don't think he readily admits it. There seems to be a disconnect or a dislike or something of Obama. He holds him to a standard he doesn't seem to hold others too... even him when it comes to the Wells Fargo thing with the lawsuit the NAACP has against them and yet they are still one of his biggest sponsors... I don't hear him being "accountable" in answering anything publicly about that.
That’s just my take on the Tavis thing. Man I am telling you... something is going on and while I think that holistically he wants Obama to succeed for the sake of the country... I don't think he embraces Obama at all... not that he should because he is black - just saying that he doesn't for whatever reason.

Now in terms of black folks criticizing Obama, I take my Q from Mos Def who is pretty much like, "Damn dude just got into office less than three months ago. Ease up and lets see what happens."

Black folks are definitely sophisticated enough to critique the person or the policy and we have done that as long as we have been here. And we are harder on our own people than anyone else. So I honestly don't think that as a whole black folks see Obama as doing anything to hurt them... at least not yet. So what would there be to bitch about?

Me and my friends let him have it when it came to his outrage on the AIG bonuses when we found out that he knew that little provision was there to allow them to have the bonuses in the first place. So we do critique! But don't expect us to go Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh just because some others do... furthermore we don't sweat some of the small stuff like others do anyway as a general rule.

We generally don't give a damn whether Michelle puts her arm around the queen for instance. That’s BS that don't have nothing to do with anything important... that's TMZ gossip fodder. Who cares?

The Angry Independent said...

Not all Blacks are afraid of criticizing Obama. And it's certainly not being left to Republicans/Conservatives.

I'm a Black, non-Republican and I criticize Obama's policies regularly.

I have always said that Blacks who believed that Obama would magically improve the "Black Community" were foolish and misguided.

The problems in the so-called "Black Community" will have to be solved by those who live there.... (if they are fixable at this point... I have my doubts).

Until there is a change in today's degenerate "Black Culture", there won't be a change in educational performance, health, and the overall quality of life for the masses of people in "Black Communities" across the Country. That would be the case regardless of who's in the White House.

TiredOfTheHypocrisy said...

Why would I criticize President Obama, who has been office for five minutes? Just for the sake of belly-aching about something?

And just who is Tavis Smiley and what does he have to complain about? That the president did not seek the Tavis stamp of approval before running for President? Tavis Smiley has begun to believe the hype from the owners of Wal-Mart, that he is "A Black Leader". Well maybe he is but not my leader. Writing a book and hosting the yearly white supported "state of black ....." fill in the blank does not make him anymore that a guy trying to make a buck for HIMSELF.

Until the President started his campaign and won the election, the white media had no use for these so-called black commentators and pundits. When they realized that there are some blacks who would sell their children to go on tele to find fault with anything the President and First Lady said, did or might of thought about ten years ago, these folks suddenly became stars in their own minds.

Now, Tavis, Juan Williams and the other suddenly popular media pundits can criitcize the President as long they can earn some face time on the tele. Maybe one day the white networks will give thema tee-vee show. Ha.

The problem with these sudden black media stars is that they are unable to muster the courage (the word I want to use starts with "b") to defend the President and First Lady from the vicious attacks from the racist republican scum that populates these networks, both hosts and guests. Yet they are ready with criticism of the Obama.

This is what is disturbing about these sudden black media stars: they are silent when it comes to criticizing the Bush/Cheney administrationa and the republicans for the damage they have done, and continue to do, to this country and to black people, to all Americans.

Point me to the efforts of Tavis and his ilk to show their work in seeing that black people were not cheated out of the vote. That black people were not denied the vote because of their names were placed on caging list created by by the republicans. Show me where they criticized Ken Blackwell for his efforts in trying to prevent black people from voting. Point me the his body of work against the racist campaign that McCain and Sarah Palin ran against Obama. And I just know that there are gobs and gobs of articles by these folks criticizing O'Reilly, Limbaush, Hannity and Glen Beck.

Silence. But quick to find fault.

Which is a characteristic PECULIAR to black people that is not demonstrated by any other minority group in this country. When a black person achieves something unique, instead of celebrating that achievement, some blacks immediately begin to attempt to tear that person down.

You don't find any other minority group fighting over each other to get the chance to go on Fox, CNN and MSNBC to assist these networks in their attempts to undermine the President.

Anonymous said...

"Why would I criticize President Obama, who has been office for five minutes?"

Because those "five minutes" were apparently long enough to put us on track to triple the national debt in a decade, including a $2 trillion deficit this year alone. Because in the past 6 months the Democrats in Congress have passed 3 spending bills which each, individually, account for more money than the total spent in Iraq, and there are several more on the horizon. Because he's demonstrated intent to give citizenship to 30 million aliens, each of whom on average will consume far more in social services than they pay in taxes. And the best reason of all to criticize him - because no one else seems willing to do it.

TiredOfTheHypocrisy said...

Point me to the efforts of Tavis and his ilk to show their work in seeing that black people were not cheated out of the vote. That black people were not denied the vote because of their names were placed on caging list created by by the republicans. Show me where they criticized Ken Blackwell for his efforts in trying to prevent black people from voting. Point me the his body of work against the racist campaign that McCain and Sarah Palin ran against Obama. And I just know that there are gobs and gobs of articles by these folks criticizing O'Reilly, Limbaush, Hannity and Glen Beck.

Anonymous said...

Repeating your complaint doesn't make it any more valid or relevant to the topic of criticizing Obama.

Anonymous said...

This goes way beyond race........

Well said anonyous!

I voted for Obama because I couldn't bear the thought 4 more years of a Republican administration.

And I admit, I had the tiniest hope that Obama was for real, would stand up for the average American, clean up Washington and Wall Street, end the Iraq war, and put "for the people" back in government.

Wall Street Bailouts, zero accountability, and politics as usual. How disappointing.
John G