Thursday, July 10, 2008

Barack Obama--Black Parent to the Nation?

One of the "shocking" revelations about the Obama campaign is the fact that there are entire spheres of black life with which most white people have almost no familiarity.

Really! How many white people knew that black professionals have to use different sets of skills when they are working with whites as opposed to blacks. How many whites knew that black beauty shops in South Carolina would be a must stop for any Democrat who wanted to be president? Likewise, how many knew there was a "black church" or that preachers in black churches were damning the United States for its legacy of white supremacy?

Not very many, and I wasn't one of them.

But I might do better now that it looks like Obama is introducing "black parenting" to the nation. There's been lots of reaction to Obama's saying that American children needed to learn foreign languages. Obama certainly affirmed that Hispanic children needed to learn English. But Obama also went on to lecture his audience about the need for all American children needed to learn Spanish and other languages and compared Americans unfavorably to Europeans in terms of language.

Obama was even tougher in talking about staying in school to a largely black audience in Georgia. Obama had this message for all the black kids who think they'll be the next Kobe Bryant or the next big rapper.
"You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil' Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school . . . "

Obama also deflated a lot of hoop dreams. "Obama said he knows some young men think they can't find a job unless they are a really good basketball player. "Which most of you brothas are not," Obama . . . said jokingly. "I know you think you are, but you're not. You are over-rated in your own mind. You will not play in the NBA."

Slate magazine's conservative blogger Mickey Kaus thinks that Obama's moralizing is "arrogant and condescending." But Obama was being too pointed and sarcastic to be "condescending" which sounds upper crust like Obama had gone to Andover prep school like George Bush.

"Imperious" is a better word and it's a good word to characterize a lot of black parenting styles.

I've had enough black friends and ridden enough public transportation in Philly to know that black parents are imperious and tough-minded. Unlike me and my soft-as-downy-pillows white friends, black parents assume they know what's good for children, have no hesitation about reminding children of their many shortcomings, and don't mind adding an extra dash of sarcastic putdowns. Black mothers especially have a reputation for letting their children know exactly what they think and not sparing their feelings in any way.

Barack Obama didn't have a black mother, but it looks like he's picked up a black parenting style as he tells American children what's best for them. The presidency has been a bully pulpit at least since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt. Perhaps one of the things Obama would do with that bully pulpit is become the nation's first black parent.

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