The funny thing about race in America is that it is often never raised as an issue when it should be, and ignored when it shouldn’t be. Take the field of politics for example.
Last week, President Obama gave a speech at a Washington D.C. gathering of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) which could only be described as “fiery” in both its content and delivery. Last Saturday, the president told black lawmakers to “quit crying and complaining” and to support his policy initiatives, including his latest one to create jobs.
In sounding more militant than moderate, the president’s speech was a response to the increasing chorus of discontent vocalized by many black leaders that his administration hasn’t been addressing concerns of the African-American community…especially with regards to the current economic slump, which as hit the back community particularly hard (black unemployment is nearly double the national average at 16.7 percent).
But more controversial was the assertion from some liberal-thinking individuals that the Associated Press’s (AP) transcribing of the president’s words was “racist.”
According to one such individual, African-American author Karen Hunter, the news service failed to “clean up” the speech as “other news outlets did” when it transcribed the content of Obama’s speech to the CBC. At issue was the AP’s choosing to include the “dropped ‘g’s” in the president’s chosen diction at the event, so that it’s printed version of the president’s speech appeared as followed:
"Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes," he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do." (Source: The Associated Press).
After Hunter had voiced this observation on the MSNBC cable news network the following Sunday, the issue became an instant debate in some news quarters.
And as with any non-issue related to politics, people have chosen sides. Some liberals say that printing the president’s speech by uncustomarily leaving it in its truly uttered form caters to negative racial stereotypes, while conservatives say that leaving the Chief Executive’s words shows a shameless pandering to African-Americans by using a common linguistic style among this particular group.
The truth is that what the president did in his speech is something which happens every day within the black community; ordinarily articulate—oftentimes educated—African-Americans communicating ideas and beliefs to each other in a way which lessens intrapersonal tensions, and creates a rapport among those from different backgrounds and experiences. Adopting blackspeak—for want of a better term—by blacks to address other blacks for the aforementioned purposes is no more different than African-Americans who adopt standard English in a job interview or when addressing a white crowd. It’s no more an “issue” than when former President George W. Bush’s opted to speak fluent Spanish when he addressed Latino-Americans crowds. It’s no more “pandering” than those choosing to tailor their political messages to groups like farmers, corporate CEOs, or middle-class white Christians. The bottom line is that focusing on such mundane things as this creates an issue where there really is none.
In this upcoming election season, let’s stick to the real issues—jobs, government spending, national security, and getting rid of career politicians who are more beholden to Big Money and their petty self-interests than to the American people!
Part 1 of President Obama's speech to the Congressional Black Caucus
Part 2 of President Obama's speech to the Congressional Black Caucus