He’s Black- Just Not Black Enough

One of my favorite places to go for all things political is Arianna Huffington’s website.

Yesterday, like always, I was pokin’ around and found a blog by Ben Cohen entitled, “Obama Should Stop Lecturing African Americans”.

I understand that this particular controversy isn’t new. Lots of folks- including the likes of  Rev. Jesse Jackson- say Obama has been talking down to black people by insisting that the black community take more personal responsibility to improve their own quality of life.

I must say, before moving on- Jesse Jackson has a personal ax to grind with Obama. Jackson’s pissed off because Obama has managed to climb the ranks without having to drop on his hands and knees and pay homage to him or any of the other Civil Rights-era cats… Obama didn’t do it that way, and Jesse’s feelings got hurt.

In addition, Jackson’s not thrilled with Obama’s tough stance on black men being fathers to their children… clearly some advice the Rev should take to heart.

Anyone have any idea when Jesse last saw his own love child?

This isn’t the first time Jackson has gotten in Obama’s ass about racial stuff- remember the Jena Six case? He said Obama was acting “white” because the senator didn’t make the case the foundation of his entire campaign.

Personally, I think Obama’s right, but have chosen to keep my mouth shut about this particular issue. 

Until now, that is.

I think it’s important to note that Obama is not saying that African Americans are solely- or even mostly- to blame for all the problems currently plaguing the black community. He’s saying no one else is going to clean the mess up for us- regardless of who originally made it. 

If it’s going to get fixed, we absolutely need to take personal responsibility for our own lives. No one else is going to do it for us. That’s just reality.

There is a reason I have only now chosen to delve into this subject, and that reason has to do with my own heritage.

Regular readers of mine know that I am bi-racial. In addition, I was adopted and raised by a white family.

My entire life, because I’m only “half black” and was not raised by a black family, I have been told that I am not black enough to speak out- at least not in any way that could be interpreted as criticism- about the plight of black people.

Sometimes people’s reactions are so strong, they border on hatred, as if I have no right to express my opinions- no matter that I’m as black as I am white.

That’s why I took issue with Ben Cohen’s blog.

Mr. Cohen believes that Obama doesn’t share enough common ground with black Americans to be talking out about personal responsibility. He points out that Obama was raised by his white mother and white grandparents, and that unlike most African Americans, his father chose to immigrate to this country from Africa- he wasn’t forced here hundreds of years ago on a slave boat. In the blogger’s mind, Obama is therefore disqualified from expressing his opinion on the matter.

I was outraged to read this, as this is the exact argument people have used to shut me up as well. Since when do we have to have experienced the exact same thing as someone in order to have an opinion about it? If this argument held true, we’d be in a world of hurt as human beings.

We can only speak of that which we have personally experienced?

Why is it that when Obama is defending the black community no one is saying a word about the fact that he isn’t truly “one of us”- but as soon as he speaks out about personal responsibility, he suddenly isn’t black enough to say such things?

Really- we can’t have it both ways.

Cohen believes Obama doesn’t share enough history with African Americans to speak out about such topics as absent fathers. He even goes as far as to quote statistics about how African immigrants in this country fare better on average than African Americans do. Obama, for example, has spoken about the epidemic of absent fathers among blacks in this country. Ben Cohen doesn’t feel the senator has the right to talk about that stuff.

Funny, considering Obama’s own- black- father wasn’t exactly present when he was growing up.

Why shouldn’t he talk about it? Why shouldn’t I talk about it?

Further, if Obama isn’t qualified to discuss the current problems facing blacks, doesn’t that mean Ben Cohen isn’t either? Mr. Cohen, after all, wasn’t just raised by white people- he is a white person.

If the black guy isn’t allowed to talk about black issues… why is the white guy entitled to do so?

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One thought on “He’s Black- Just Not Black Enough

  1. The African-American community itself is becoming more and more diverse, and you are living proof of that. It’s good to hear your writing voice.

    Jackson might be feeling irrelevant these days, and his remarks about severing reproductive organs and talking down to nwords might simply be a cry for help.

    If you look at an even bigger picture, Jackson is yet another of many media ministers—both black and white— who have embarassed themselves with intolerant remarks, financial impropriety, or sexual hypocracy. Falwell, Farakhan, Robertson, Swaggart, et al have each created a backlash with careless comments or impulsive behavior.

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