Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama's Father's Day Sermonette

Since I was out enjoying my own Father's Day last Sunday, I missed the Obama "sermon" at a Southside Chicago church that morning. Depending on what account you read, many other bloggers have slammed him for being a bit too critical of black men, and perhaps even doing some borderline pandering to white audiences.

Since I attempt to watch things in their entirety before commenting, I resisted blogging about this until now. I'd encourage anyone with a spare 20 minutes to watch this in it's entirety and tell me what exactly is so negative about this speech.

I suspect many black male bloggers (I'm not doing any links, find them yourself) overreacted to perhaps the few soundbites of this speech that aired on the evening news without giving the entire YouTube recap the proper time and analysis. Because seriously, if this speech is anything, it's mundane and maybe a bit cliche, but it's hardly offensive to me as a black male on any level.

Many said Obama's lambasting of the stereotypical black father was over the top. I don't really agree with that. He thankfully did note that half of black households do indeed have a Dad present. Again, not great, but certainly not the dire 70% picture many people usually correlate with the unfortunate percentage of out of wedlock births. And while he did lay it on Black fathers who aren't active, he did praise the men (especially Michelle's father) who do indeed sacrifice and put in work. And given the occasion (duh, check the holiday) I think such a speech was timely and appropriate, not pandering. What did you want him to talk about, burning bushes and whales? Sheesh.

Furthermore, much of his speech was about the importance of education (the 8th grade graduation point was especially good) and active parenting (as opposed to parenting via TeeVee), points not necessarily aimed squarely at Dads. The speech was really about self-sufficiency, drumming up collective effort to improve communities, and personal responsibility[1]. It's the kind of speech conservatives would be fawning over if it just happened to be delivered by John McCain.

And even if the speech was aimed squarely at Black men (and I don't think it is, these points are universal), who's to say that's such a bad thing? Reality is, if you've been on your J.O., you shouldn't be offended. If you are offended, maybe, just maybe this is the impetus you need to step your Daddy-game up.

Could he have spoken a bit more about good Dads and a bit less about the bad ones? Probably, but c'mon, what good would that really do? I don't personally know any Dads handlin' their business who need the validation of some guy they'll never meet to tell them they're doing a good job. You don't get cookies for that sorta stuff. And on the flipside, who's to say this speech wasn't meant for some guy who hasn't been handlin' his? Obama's been able to get folks to register, donate, and vote in record numbers. Who knows what power such a speech could convey to an absent father?

Overall, the speech, while not necessarily saying anything new or enlightening (to me at least) was thorough and timely.

But it's not offensive. Not the least bit.

MLK is crying inside... but for good reason.

Question: After watching Obama's speech in it's entirety, do you think he was being overly critical of black men and/or pandering?

[1] Did anyone else catch his complete and total butchering of that old Chris Rock joke? Michelle says they learned how to "give dap" from some younger staffers. Perhaps they should get some pointers on comedic timing as well.

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