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Obama to Black Youth: Nothing Wrong with “Acting White”

In comments little-remarked upon by the media, President Obama Monday suggested that too many African Americans are using their culture to separate themselves from mainstream society, and that this should come to an end.

Obama spoke during an event for his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in Washington. I don’t support the initiative: I think its goals are worthwhile, but I believe government shouldn’t be establishing programs targeting specific races. Nevertheless, Obama made many constructive statements to the youth attending the question and answer session, which went on for nearly an hour.

Addressing a question that was actually about Native American culture, Obama said cultural pride could be maintained even as minority cultures wove themselves into the larger society. And then he pivoted to black culture.

As the heads of African Americans in the audience shook in knowing agreement, Obama criticized a penchant within the black community for castigating those perceived as “acting white.”

From his remarks:

There’s no contradiction between knowing your culture — the traditional cultures out of which your families come, but also being part of the larger culture.

And I think that one of the things — this is true not just for Native Americans, but it’s also true for African Americans.  Sometimes African Americans, in communities where I’ve worked, there’s been the notion of “acting white” — which sometimes is overstated, but there’s an element of truth to it, where, okay, if boys are reading too much, then, well, why are you doing that? Or why are you speaking so properly?

And the notion that there’s some authentic way of being black, that if you’re going to be black you have to act a certain way and wear a certain kind of clothes, that has to go.  (Applause.)  Because there are a whole bunch of different ways for African American men to be authentic.

Obama touches on something it’s hard for people – particularly white conservatives who care about the issue – to say: that the real problems of black Americans today stem not from a lack of government assistance or quotas, but from intractable problems within their own culture and community.

Obama Brother's KeeperIt’s hard to say because you get accused of being racist. But it’s important to state because until liberals, black leaders, and African Americans themselves fully recognize the problem, blacks are going to have trouble ascending to full economic and social equality in America.

I don’t deny that part of what is wrong in black culture is due to the legacy of slavery, racism and discrimination. And there’s still some amount racism and discrimination. But that’s not, at this point, what is holding black people back.

What’s holding them back is a culture in which fathers are often not present, marriage is in a state of near-total destruction, the work ethic is not what it must be, and sexual and violent images are pervasive.

Obama is to be commended for delving into this. He talked also in his remarks about the need for hard work, goal setting, networking, and other tools of success.

If only he could see that the dependency on government his policies foster, as well as his divisive rhetoric, are defeating such useful advice.

Here’s some video of his remarks. The portion related to black Americans begins at about 4:30.

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51 Responses to Obama to Black Youth: Nothing Wrong with “Acting White”

  1. Keith, what a post! Such insight, such forgiveness for all the o’s really usual insulting public remarks about how the whites are now and forever the cause of all the black miseries. I thank you.
    Is it possible he said anything so sensible? I haven’t seen much reason to believe it.
    If that’s the o in the video, he really looks old and black. He is entitled to both.

    • If a white politician said that, they would be run out of town on a rail. Not to mention, being asked to step down and ordered to mandatory sensitivity classes.

    • All true. But dang. That breaks his perfect record. First time he got something right.

      It occurred to me also that this would be an organizer instead of the Alinsky model of community agitator he’s been, Doc250.

  2. Wonderful comment. A reminder (forgive the analogy) that it is rare for things to be all white or all black. Although I can barely tolerate hearing or reading what he says, I have to stop and think. He is actually ‘being’, rather than ‘acting’ as a community organizer in the slums of South Chicago. I cannot remember when he has actually addressed and interacted with the people in front of him, without self aggrandizement. It is too bad that someone recognized his overriding egocentricity, and recruited him to be a front man. We may have all lost a lot because of that.

  3. Could he have possibly read Dr. Ben Carson’s book ? It’s pretty much the theme throughout Carson’s inspiring words.

    Obama’s only waited 6 years to “seem” concerned about black and white, right and left or up and down. ;)

  4. Very succinctly put Keith, and so true. However, I can’t bring myself to praise Obama, because almost 100% of the time he defeats his message by his policies and at this point, I don’t believe many people are quite sure where the political rhetoric ends and the sincerity begins.
    I live in the south and I work for a fairly large company. I have seen this very attitude a lot in my dealings with black people – the not wanting to be perceived as “acting too white” thing.
    It is a prime reason why so many young black men and women drop out of school and work at dead end jobs. Sure, they dream and talk about making something out of themselves, but when it comes down to it, their role models are not the men and women who have done the hard work of educating themselves and making the effort to fit into the larger societal fabric. Rather they dream of hitting it big in the lottery, being the next hot rapper, or the next sports superstar. I even had one young black male tell me once that his 5 year plan included getting hit by a UPS truck and getting a big settlement.
    The successful black people that I come into contact with do not worry about “acting too white.” They know who they are and they know what they want, and they are taking or have taken the steps to get there.

  5. Wish he’d brought this up five and a half years ago. I wish that MIchelle Antoinette had addressed unmarried teen pregnancies instead of telling people what to feed kids.

    • Bill Cosby put is thoughts in against the idea putting Ibonics in school.
      I have wondered why he has not spoken out many things for the last several years. No one gave him a FREE PHONE!
      I don’t think he is concerned of what the MSM may say.

  6. “If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon” set young Black Men back years. Black conservatives, Justice Thomas and Condi Rice are vilified among Blacks. Meanwhile, Al “Tawana” Sharpton is a frequent WH guest.

  7. These are excellent words. That they come from Obama is a bit surprising to me, since he falls back into the dialect more often than he should. But to be fair, he “acts white” quite a bit, and this message is critically important for the entire African-American (and every “Fill-in-the-blank-American”). We are and have been a melting pot. Old cultures are celebrated, but we all are Americans and need to live in an American culture.

    • YES, INDEED.
      If only the “New” Americans thought it was a good idea to assimilate…you know, learn/speak English, abandon the crazy shrouds for women, let people see the faces of women (no problemo, seeing guys’ faces). You know, stuff like that.

      • It is confusing–the bespoke suits, the folksy slangy speech–what are we to think? He’s a dad hardly ever pictured with his kids. Most people invited to the WH (except staff) are black, though this is only 13% of the population. This percentage also to a large extent dominates behavior, the arts, the sense of persecution. I dunno anymore. I am sick of the constant insinuations of racism where none exists. I am not saying none exists anyplace–but it’s not the sole motivator of everything. Be president of everyone. You asked for this job. Do it.

  8. What BS. His policies, his base, his Administration, his friends, every fiber of his being foments racial and class warfare. Talk about practicing what you preach. This man is a complete snake.

    The information is only useful is the person delivering it lives up to the word.

    • And what does any of this have to do with “acting white”. Good manners, hard work, a strong family with core values and beliefs — this has nothing to do with being white. How about being American.

    • ” And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
      I consider myself a pretty tolerant and forgiving person, BUT, Obama has shown nothing but contempt and hatred for all the things that make America great and exceptional.
      He has allowed the likes of Reid, Pelosi, Holder and others to spew poison from their once esteemed offices.
      No leadership, to much golf and fundraising.
      Too many “trespasses” against me, America and my fellow countrymen. I ain’t buying it either gpmc.

  9. They should act white. Perhaps if they did they could dress properly, speak English properly and live lives of moral character.

  10. I was the only white female employee in a small Drug Store in Denver in the 80s. I managed the pharmacy but also took charge of the store and the liquor department when the owner was not available. My co workers treated me very well and the barber who worked across the street and could see directly into the pharmacy section kept an eye on me. I took everybody’s blood pressure and if it needed treatment I found a doctor that would order it for them. Lots of my patients were big burly guys, but I was never afraid. They were as nice as they could be to me. One afternoon I followed 2 shoplifters out into the street. I wasn’t scared until they turned around on me. Just then a cop car pulled up on either side and took them away.

  11. The teleprompter tech’s may have inserted the incorrect speech.
    If POTUS had any previous creditability through his actions I might
    believe he believed, what he was “reading” to the audience.

  12. I won’t commend Obama for saying something that’s blazingly obvious to most of us and has been said by black conservatives for a long time, but we’re hammered as “racist” and they’re sneeringly labeled Uncle Toms by most of Obama’s fans for saying it.

    When has Obama ever defended any black conservative who’s been bashed for making similar statements? Probably never. Au contraire, he likes seeing them bashed for challenging the race code.

    As long as Obama keeps up the meme that criticism of his horrendous “leadership” is rooted in racism, I will not applaud him for stating the obvious.

  13. A day late and several trillion dollars short. His hollow rhetoric, if it were a tangible thing, could be used as a kick drum. He gives a whit about the black community, and even less about the Caucasian community. It seems you (bold seeker) only garner his attention if you are a sodomite, a muslim, an environmental Nazi, or an underschooled migrant. He’s too busy with his extraneous activities to even visit the calamity he birthed on the border! It’s a travesty of justice and the Presidential seat. Don’t believe me? Just look up the word travesty!
    The salt in the wound is Washington’s failure to hold him accountable.
    I like the good Doctor Carson. He has a salve for those wounds we keep licking.

  14. Barry went on to say:

    “Because there are a whole bunch of different ways for African American men to be authentic.
    If you look at Michelle, she grew up South Side.”

    Nice segue. Freudian slip?

  15. This is perhaps the best speech Obama has ever given on race relations. Honest, concise, to the core of the issue. As a man who grew up in a biracial family, he sees both sides of the race issue, but until now, refused to publicly comment on it. Politics does that to everyone, not just him. It is the best served comments and advice he has given the black community since his initial election.

    Jason L. Riley has a new book out and is on Fox promoting it. Ck it out.
    Riley said this the other day:

    What slavery could not do, the liberal policy of America has…and that is to break up the American black family.

    So true.

    H

  16. Nice words from him. I have to agree with Denise that he may have seen Dr. Carson getting somewhere with them and decided to co-opt. It may have started before Obama but this sort of culture has ballooned among whites since 2008: father not present in the home, marriage in a state of near-total collapse, the decline of a work ethic, and the popularity of sexual and violent images. That is not a typo or Freudian slip. These things have increased x-fold among Caucasians. Part of the problem is the idolization of black athletes and entertainers by whites. Another part is that a good proportion of the white demographic has succumbed to the siren call of a welfare life style.

  17. Hate to say it but this but Obama’s comment here is consistent with other Africans who come here to take advantage of the opportunities, and are aghast at the attitude of our native born black folk where they refuse to advance in their own life skills and pull others down by saying, “that’s white of you.” This is the only GOOD thing ever coming out of his mouth and may, ironically, indicate that Obama truly IS NOT American but actually a Kenyan.

  18. What Obama was really saying is “Now is the time for all blacks on welfare to get a job and grow up because I’m taking all of your freebies and giving them to the Mexicans.
    And don’t forget to vote Democrat.”

  19. Well what do ya know, he can say things that are not a lie. This is the most useful stuff to come out of his mouth since he got into politics and none of it a lie. If the black youth takes this to heart they’ll be better off for it. Of course they wouldn’t tolerate it coming from “whitey” so it took a man like Obama to come across with it. Now this is the one and only thing he can be proud of. I still don’t trust him or believe him but this is good. I wonder if the MSM will run with this so the rest of the black youth can get a positive from it.

  20. It should NOT be about acting like ANY particular race. It should be about acting HUMAN and that goes for every race. It should be about being more EDUCATED so you can act more human and become a better, more productive ( for yourself, the culture and your employers )
    citizen. And if you are a citizen of a particular culture…being able to speak the predominate LANGUAGE OF THAT CULTURE.

    There was a time when I used to hear the phrase “ugly American” a lot. I believe that phrase came about in Europe ( probably France ) because they hated crude, lazy American tourists who didn’t bother to at least try and speak the language of the host city/country. Well…I think that the NEW “ugly Americans” are all of the people who come to the USA from other countries ( legally or illegally ) who want all that America has to offer, but they can’t be bothered to SPEAK THE LANGUAGE of their new home. I would call that acting human. Just not acting American. ANYONE who does NOT educate themselves properly, of any race or any country, IS acting LESS than a human should or COULD be.

  21. “if boys are reading too much” Yeah, that is a truly serious problem… What a wonderful way to remain stupid and dependent… This is why Blacks have the highest unemployment in the United States, more than double of whites… Completely absurd…..

  22. I think it would be even more beneficial to the cause if Americans would simply identify themselves as Americans. If you want to make references to your family, it would be better served to say I am an American of Latino descent, or African descent, etc. If you are not proud to be an American and speak English, you really should consider moving to a country that reflects your values and cultural desires. There is no shame in accepting who you are, but it is equally “racist” to impose other than American heritage on others because you choose otherwise.