Posted by Brad @ 12:12 pm on July 20th 2009

Quote of the Day

I think we’ll look back at President Barack Obama as being hugely influential on the question of race in America, indeed a critical turning point on part with the 60s, but not just or even primarily because he’s a black guy who became President. He is also one of the strongest voices in the African American community (but existing kind of outside or even above it) for personal responsibility and an end to the victim mentality that permeated (and understandably and even necessarily so) African American leadership from the civil rights era until this decade. The pushback against that has been a long time coming from within those communities—and has always existed, I should add, in pockets. But since say the mid-90s, the role of the people regularly labeled “hucksters” (your Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons) trading on injury have declined precipitously, and the idea of a self-directed destiny and a sharp denunciation of excuse-making has been ascendant (at the time, I criticized people for lauding Bill Cosby’s rants on this subject not because they were wrong, but because so many of them were ignoring that his critiques were enormously well-received by the black community, and indeed at that time had almost become mainstream. People were acting like he had gone rouge and defied the black community, ignoring that for his comments, he got a standing ovation, and many black leaders and community members had been saying the same thing for years).

Point being, I think we’ve reached critical mass in the black community for this kind of thinking. Listening to President Obama give the speech to the NAACP he does below for some reason makes me think of the last step of the Ghandian ladder (the part after they laugh at you and after they fight you, the part where you win). The social evolution of minority groups from de-humanized pariahs to average joe mainstream fascinates me, and with the black community, I think we’re on the full cusp of something profound, an end, if you like, of the “us vs. them” mentality that has been at times prevalent (and I say again, understandably and probably necessarily).

The quote from President Obama is this (at around the 24 minute mark).

“Weíve got to say to our children, yes, if youíre African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. Thatís not a reason to get bad grades. Thatís not a reason to cut class. Thatís not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands. You can not forget that. Thatís what we need to teach all our children: no excuses.”

Note too that it’s the biggest applause line in the entire speech.

This is not the future of the conversation in the black community. It is the present.

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