by Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Somehow, I had a feeling that there was more to the story.
It seems the headlines that emerged from a recent Congressional Black Caucus dinner caused a number of black people to wonder whether President Barack Obama decided to serve up a dish of the GOPʼs personal responsibility hypocrisy at the affair.
Such headlines ran the gamut, from “Obama tells blacks to stop complaining” to “Obama tells blacks to stop complaininʼ and fight,” to “Obama to CBC: ʻStop complaining, stop whining.ʼ”
No doubt those words, taken alone, wouldnʼt go down well at dinner with the CBC – whose members are seeing their constituents grapple with unemployment rates of more than 16 percent. That obscene jobless rate isnʼt because of whining on the part of black people, but largely because of greed and excesses on the part of Wall Street.
Those words, in fact, have inspired questions about whether Obama would tell Jewish or Hispanic voters – two of his other key constituencies – to stop whining. Theyʼve provoked criticism from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who believes that Obama was
suggesting that the CBC wasnʼt doing enough to help battle black unemployment.
And if I was at that dinner, and if Obama was speaking in the way that many of the headlines and isolated quotes implied, Iʼd probably walk out. If I wanted that, I could just turn to Fox News. Which is why I had a hard time believing that Obama would resort to that kind of shallowness. So I looked at the video.
What I saw wasnʼt a president who was fussing at black people about whining too much, but one who was exhorting black people to put their frustrations behind them long enough to help him battle the forces that are behind it.
What I saw was a president who urged the CBC to tap into their history of beating back demons like segregation and discrimination and use it to join him in beating back those whoʼd rather see the country fail before they allow him and people who look like him to succeed. I didnʼt see a chider. I didnʼt see a “you people,” kind of condescension coming from him. What I saw was a motivator.
“Throughout our history, change has often come slowly,” Obama said. “Itʼs never easy … I never promised easy. But you canʼt stop.
“Even when folks are beating you over the head, you canʼt stop … through the mud and the muck and the driving rain, you canʼt stop. We know our cause is just. Itʼs a righteous cause.” And the president wrapped up his speech with this: “I donʼt have time to complain; Iʼm going to press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on.
Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. Weʼve got work to do, CBC.”
That wasnʼt a president urging black people to ignore their own plight. It was a president urging black people and black leaders to not become so discouraged about him or about their plight until they give up on fixing it.
Yet, the only thing that made headlines was the last few words of his speech. Thereʼs a cautionary tale here, folks.
First of all, let me say that thereʼs nothing wrong with criticizing the president. Iʼve done so in many of my columns. But in criticizing Obama, what we need to be aware of is that many times, much of the media cares more about the narrative than the truth. And right now, the narrative that seems to be ruling the day is the fact that Obamaʼs most loyal constituency is disappointed with his record on job creation.
But we canʼt base our criticism of Obama on headlines largely written by white people in mainstream media. We canʼt trust them to know more about our history, or understand it enough to report news like Obamaʼs CBC speech, in the proper context.
In other words, and especially as the presidential election cycle heats up, we have to be willing to look at the tape. So that when we do criticize the president, we criticize him on real issues and not on perceived slights that make for controversial headlines. Headlines that are designed to grab eyeballs more than to get at the whole truth.