The ethnic media’s war on minority personal responsibility

It’s graduation time, and just a few days ago, President Obama gave a commencement speech at Morehouse College, a historically black college. In his speech, he urged graduates not to make excuses and to set a good example. Michelle Obama gave a similar speech at Bowie State, where she urged black graduates to seek to become professionals rather than celebrities. This is the same advice that many Asian parents give to their kids. You would think that these kinds of values would be applauded, that people would clamor to hear the advice of people like the Obamas who have succeeded and are now in positions of power. Here are some of Obama’s words:

But along with collective responsibilities, we have individual responsibilities. There are some things, as black men, we can only do for ourselves. There are some things, as Morehouse Men, that you are obliged to do for those still left behind. As Morehouse Men, you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you’re about to collect — and that’s the power of your example.

So what I ask of you today is the same thing I ask of every graduating class I address: Use that power for something larger than yourself. Live up to President Mays’s challenge. Be “sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society.” And be “willing to accept responsibility for correcting (those) ills.”

In general, these speeches were applauded. But not in the ethnic media, at least not with one writer from Colorlines. Kai Wright writes:

Of course, it’s also true that unemployment among the black graduates Obama addressed will be twice the rate of their white peers if nothing changes in the government he leads.

So…the responsibility of your employment is due to the…government? The government decides what you learn and what you earn? Really? That’s defeatist thinking if I ever heard it. This kind of defeatist thinking is exactly what Obama was speaking against. Sorry, Kai, but I think Obama would disagree with you on this.

This is what I mean when I say that the lectures of Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammed have been tossed aside by the media. The blame game is just out of control. Lest we make the mistake of thinking it’s a “black” thing, we need to remember two things:

1. First, this is the black MEDIA who feels this way. Normal black folk are often fine with the idea of working hard and doing less blaming of the Man. Check out some of the comments below the Colorlines article. The first commenter correctly points out that Obama’s speech is just another example of JFK’s “ask not what you can do” speech, and that Obama has made the speech to white people as well.

2. The Asian and Hispanic ethnic media is just as guilty of perpetuating the same kind of trope. So it’s not a black thing; it’s an ethnic media thing. They just don’t believe we have agency.

Sure, there’s structural inequality in the world, but if you want to succeed in most jobs (most jobs, that is, outside of the media and academia, which reward feelings of doubt and uncertainty), your primary focus needs to be on YOUR role in your life, not what other people are doing or saying. President Obama is right.

16 thoughts on “The ethnic media’s war on minority personal responsibility

  1. What?

    Juan, you’re TOTALLY not banned. It could be that sometimes things fall into the spam folder (by no design of my own), but trust me, you’re not banned. We want your input! Sorry if my Spam robot is not as good as it could be. We get over 100 spam comments a day, so I have to leave it on. If you post (I think) more than 7 links in a single message, it flags. Otherwise, I’m not sure what the criteria is.

    I did a cursory look through the spam folder and didn’t see your comment. If you try to post it again, I’ll make sure it goes up. Sorry about that.

  2. Juan,

    Now Chr, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

    …no, Chr, you can’t drag down this thread into the usual. Sorry. Won’t have it, won’t approve it. If you look at your posts that make it through vs. those that don’t (now numbering close to 200), you’ll see a clear pattern: please don’t drag down my threads into the Columbia dating experiment discussion. Thanks in advance.

  3. Ohhh ok, no problem, I had some issues to post my comments before, but now it seems working, thanks 😉

  4. Seems like there are a few different issues at play here.

    I think a lot of people in public discourse can only see things through an either/or lens.
    In other words, they think if Obama is encouraging them to take responsibility and not make excuses, then that automatically means he is saying there is no institutional barrier to them and it’s entirely their own fault if they don’t succeed.

    There is also the default blame-the-system reaction that is endemic to the Left. The pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality is seen as a conservative one. The Right loves to blame the individual for bad outcomes (ignoring systemic disadvantage), the Left loves to pin it on the system. So any time someone tells a member of a disadvantaged minority that they need to step up and take responsibility for their own future, someone on the Left will inevitably pop up and start talking about the system and how bad it is. Not saying they don’t have a point, but it’s kinda predictable.

    I also wonder if Obama’s own authentic blackness, or lack of it, is also coming into play here; perhaps the writer figured that as the son of an immigrant African and a white woman, he doesn’t get to tell African-American descendants of slavery that they should be working harder.

  5. Eurasian,

    I totally agree.

    To be quite honest, for me, as a person who has been following race since high school, it’s predictable to the point of pain. Here’s one blogger calling Obama a racist:

    http://abetterworldisprobable.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/may-i-rant-about-how-fucking-racist-barack-and-michelle-obamas-commencement-speeches-were/

    And here’s an Asian American voice, repeating the same tired theme:

    http://www.changelabinfo.com/2013/05/24/an-asian-americans-perspective-on-obama-the-morehouse-speech-and-personal-responsibility/#.UaLpO-u_2HZ

    It makes me want to tear my eyes out. Writers are supposed to think differently. They’re supposed to be avoiding the single story. And yet, when presented with something different, something from which they could help society, they react by lashing out at whatever threatens the status quo, when in fact they themselves should be threatening the status quo.

  6. Yeah I wanted to comment but ES said pretty much what I would.

    Thanks for saving me the time 🙂

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