Barack Obama’s Speech to the NAACP (Video)

I wonder how man non-black (heck … black people, especially if they’re young) got that he was quoting the National Negro Anthem, “Lift E’ery Voice And Sing” at the end? And was that an interesting juxtaposition or what of the wings on the NAACP emblem coming out of the president’s head? And how did I end up at church all of a sudden? Oh, black people. I lurve you.

President Obama gave a great speech about getting here “on the shoulders of giants,” and gave the NAACP of old a big thank you, while giving another personal responsibility speech of which everyone from Bill Cosby to John McWhorter would approve.

Politically astute old head Papa Snob made the observation that if Obama’s speech to the NAACP could only be given by a black man (re: If “President” John McCain had told them “we can fix our schools,” he might have offended someone) there was a problem. That the speech was still a “race” speech if anyone couldn’t give it. This didn’t mean Papa Snob didn’t like the speech. To the contrary, he thought it was great, but he also felt it was indicative of how much progress we still have to make if certain talk is accepted out of Barack Obama because he is black, but is derided if said by a white person. It proves that it is not about the message, but the messenger. By Papa Snob’s measure, this was Obama preaching to the choir, to middle-to-upper-class blacks about what poor blacks need to do, and to accept his criticism, but blast the same criticism from others like Cosby smells of a greater problem.

Why is it that Obama can say what so many others have said and faced ridicule? Is it the message or the messenger?

32 thoughts on “Barack Obama’s Speech to the NAACP (Video)

  1. I think that it is a bit of both…The message It’s hard to look at one’s self and objectively say that some blame is on us. It is easier to blame others for our demise or lack of progress and opportunities…But it’s true, in this day and age, we have to take account for our actions and lack of… We need to stop waiting for the government or others to help.. We need to help our selves.. Lock at the man in the mirror. Who’s to blame for working out on ur kids… YOUWho’s to blame for you not finding work… In most cases.. YOU.. You give up too easy… Quit after one rejection… Life is hard and you have to be persistent!The messengerNo black person would like to hear a speech like that from a white man. The white man is the ultimate emblem of why black America is as it is in most people eyes…

  2. When it’s the national economy, the system and institutions are to blame. When it only affects poor black people, it’s their fault. Pres. Obama has always seemed to be of that camp – blind to his own privilege and how that contributed to his success. If it’s privilege, it means that someone else is without it, but yet we’re expecting them to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps", unless they’re white, then it’s a national problem.

  3. I don’t know – having lived around Black folks all my life….I’m tired of trying to tell someone who is dedicated to losing how to be a winner. The years I spent teaching were some of the most disheartening of my entire life. But – there are always the kids who know they want more than what’s around them, no matter what their background is. And some who are just determined to fail. Don’t know if there’s a speech in the world to get through to some of us.

  4. Not the message or the messenger, it is the listener. We all have a bias and more willing to hear and internalize some information than others.

  5. Messenger. Why do we allow him to lecture us? Obama would not dare tell gays and lesbian they need to be satisifed with dosmetic partnerships. He wouldn’t dare tell Latinos to tell their cousins to stop coming across the border…to stay at home and work on their economy there..

  6. Monica:Why do you object to the message of personal responsibility? Do you feel the message is not warranted or do you just not like the message?

  7. Anyone with a brain would agree with the message, but the troubled parents and youth who the message was intended for, were probably playing PS3 at the time, instead of watching on CNN.

  8. I think the difference is that someone like the Prez or Bill Cosby is essentially saying it out of love and concern b/c they want for us to acheive and do better because they are us and they care about us. Usually when white folks say it is two fold, one out of disgust against us people and also b/c it is a way for them to dodge any blame or involvement they have in the creation of the situation and to free them from any obligation to try to help to fix the situation. It is like when your Mom yells at you for messing up, she is doing it b/c she cares and b/c she loves you and worries about you and wants the best for you, if some random stranger yells at you or an acquaintence who barely knows you, yet some how wronged you at some point, yells at you it is often out of anger, or hate, and they really don’t care about you they are just yelling at you for the sake of venting, or being nasty, or irritable.

  9. I just finished watching Obama’s speech at the NAACP Convention. I did not hear any "pull yourself up by your bootself" talk; or at least that is not how I interpreted his words. I didn’t see anything wrong with him saying that parents should actually parent their children or that we need to go back to the village concept of raising children; people on black blogs say that shit everyday but suddenly it’s a problem when Obama says it??? As far as certain being able to say things while others can’t it definitely depends on the messanger and how they deliver their message. IMO, I think a lot of people had a problem with what Bill Cosby was saying because it was how he said it. It didn’t sound like it came from a place of love, it just sounded like the rantings of a mean old man. And of course a white person saying some of the things Obama said would not be received very well because a large part of the problems in many black communities are caused by institutional racism and white privelege.

  10. @Scott: When have Black people not preached personal responsibility? Have you ever attended any Sunday at a Black church? It’s that the topic of discussion every week. So why do we need to Obama to reiterate the point?I suppose it’s easier to preach personal responsibility than it is produce jobs with a livable wage. It’s easier to preach personal responsibility than it is treat a quality education for every child (regardless of color) as a right not a privilege. It’s easier to preach personal responsibility than it is guarantee equitable treatment under the law.Where’s Obama’s personal responsibility in the NON-closure of Gitmo? With his inadequate economic stimulus? The expanding war in Afghanistan and soon, Iran and Pakistan? Haliburton is still getting paid and so are other military contract agencies. When does he take responsibility for that?I don’t mean to be cynical, but I think this is another ploy to divert attention from Obama’s questionable executive decisions.

  11. Yes it is a race speech. We are not in a post racial time – that is a myth. Obama is saying what blacks need to say to each other MORE often if we are going to start moving ahead again. We have become stagnant by outward success by a few – b-ball players and rappers. Intelligence, education and the like are now looked down upon so our kids now strive for the latest way to earn success. Souljah Boy anyone? Yes, there are folks doing other things and still striving for more, but in large part our kids have given up on themselves, on us and on life. It is like we have forgotten that we came from slavery and had less opportunity and privilege than this but yet we had great leaders at the time, people who were determined to succeed and have a better life. There were people during slavery who dared to read w/the threat of death over their heads, ran from slavery, started revolts etc. They certainly were not privileged and faced fare more consequences than we ever have. I think that we became complacent, comfy in our situation and some of us took on a "well they owe us anyway" kind of attitude. Also, too many of us do not like the truth or being held accountable for the things that we can do. It is too hard, give me a break I have had a hard life excuse is too often given. Whatever. News flash – my life ain’t been easy either – here is a tissue wipe your eyes boo-boo and strive to overcome anyway. Nobody owes us a life – THAT we must get for ourselves, we must earn for ourselves. It is not easy – and it never will be – to get to a better life. It is not fair – and it will never be fair but this is how it is, whether we like it or not. I think the difference between Obama and Cosby was the delivery of the message. Obama’s well known story of how he grew up – well that helped him too.

  12. This was a speech to black people.I’m sure if he was talking to latinos or gays or lesbian, he’ll be talking to them about their needs and what he thinks they should do to make themselves better.You know what, it seems as if people will never be satisfied by Obama… The man is not even a yr yet into office… You can’t expect him to make everything better.. much less make everything better already. I think he is doing more than his best, but we all have to work together. Life is hard and challenging… it won’t be the same for everyone, but we got to make the best of our situations.

  13. Monica:It may be a message that is preached often but it is clear that some folks aren’t getting the message. Either that, or they choose not to heed it.

  14. @ monicawhy are you diverting the point from this thread? those are issues he’s working on. those things are not only not fixed in 6 months, but they’re not part of the topic. don’t get mad and start windmilling just because you don’t like what he said. if you don’t think what he said if valid or doesn’t have merit then say so and why instead of attacking the messenger. hit dogs DO holler.

  15. Criticize me if you need to, I can take it. Your comments don’t change the fact that when his approval numbers begin to dip, Obama suddenly “feels the need” to give a speech on African American “personal responsibility”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a nice bump from the coverage of his comments. I’m just saying. 

  16. @ScottOne of my points was that you teach someone to fish and send to the desert.I bet if you compared the single parent stats of now to when manufacturing jobs were plentiful, you’d be in for a surprise. If jobs are available, people tend to plant roots. What low skills jobs are available outside of the service industry now? In this country we don’t have the social safety nets like our European brothers and sisters. If you only have a piece of job, things like child care and healthcare come out of pocket. You can never get ahead.Thus, preaching personal responsibility in a vacuum, is a nice talking point but that’s pretty all it is.

  17. Monica,I absolutely feel you, and I’m tired of everything being blamed on the poor black folk when the most have been doing what they’re supposed to. The black lower class isn’t ruining The Black Community™. Black elitism is.

  18. I hope it’s obvious that I meant you can’t teach someone how to fish and send them to the desert.

  19. @thewayofheidI glad you understood my (many 🙂 ) points. I often wonder what Black America would be like if the talented tenth offered 0.1 % of the leadership to which they lay claim.

  20. Monica:Teaching a skill is one thing but we are talking about staying in school, not becoming a teen parent or making an honest living. Gov’t can help people to a certain extent but at the end of the day it is up to each individual to do the right thing.

  21. @ScottHow many black people you know in that situation personally? I’m not talking about what you see on television or hear about over cocktails or the people you aid down at the help center or whatever it is you do to pat yourself on the back for being a good person.I grew up in abject poverty and the median income in the area is still around $16000 a year. There was no industry and limited opportunities. Guess what? I knew less than 5 people to drop out of high school and only of my classmates had a baby as a teenager. People had (have) to drive hours to commute to service and factory jobs in other communities. The definition of success isn’t what can be acquired but the quality of the relationships, health and welfare of family and the strength of the community. I can only imagine how the quality of their lives would improve if they could work and shop locally. Living the communities where they work is simply to expensive and they wouldn’t be as close to family. You know what, they still will be told they are not personally responsible just because their very existence doesn’t meet the petty bourgeois’s ideal of what they "should be doing".I hope when the next election rolls around, my folks will give Obama and his ilk the finger. I know they won’t, but I hope they will.

  22. At first I was pissed off when I heard the sound bytes from Obama’s speech. However, the speech wasn’t just about personal responsibility. He spent a lot of time discussing institutional racism and saying that some blacks have internalized the low expectations that a white supremacist ideology has for blacks. I think his words were more acceptable because he made this link and was telling black folks not to be limited, that no one else can control their destinies. From what I’ve heard of Cosby’s speeches, he’s never made that connection. Cosby also spent a lot of time saying ridiculous things about black kids’ stealing pound cake and implying that police brutalitywasn’t a real issue. Moreover, he critcized the blacks who give their kids more "colorful" names. He seemed to be telling blacks to give up their no-good shiftless ways and assimilate. That’s why Cosby offended, despite beng black himself.

  23. I agree with Nadra. It is most assuredly the message. Obama clearly acknowledged the troubles of black children face. He discussed institutional racism and education reform. All of his "personal responsibility" talk was buffered with feelings of understanding and empathy. He not only talked about the problems within the black community, but how the government would help lift others up. Cosby should be taking notes, Obama was far more measured and (more lack of a better term) diplomatic.

  24. Obama’s speech was effective because it was balanced: a combination of what society and government can and should do and what black people should do individually. Cosby, on the other hand, made it all about class: "Poor blacks aren’t holding up their end of the deal," or something to that effect, is what he said. And he threw in a bunch of stereotypes, too.I’m tired, though, of hearing the line about young blacks only aspiring to be hip-hop artists or athletes. Where does that even come from? Most of the young black folks I know just want to make a good living for ourselves. I do think that many of us could stand to broaden our horizons, but I think most people know playing hoops in the hood won’t guarantee you LeBron James’ career. Let’s not insult people’s intelligence.

  25. I love drinking Obama Koolaid. Him and Michelle make me proud cause they live by example. They don’t just talk the talk they hella walk it. Personal responsibility will always remain supreme in America and I really don’t get why that’s debatable. If you don’t put the work in you’ll get left. As far as Obama and how he addresses other races why do you even care? Sometimes us black folks don’t get when someone of color is trying to wink at us in secret code. In so many words he’s trying to tell us to get our shit together and get ready to complete on a Global level. All of this he’s talking down to us mess is really just…uggggh!!! I’ve learned in life that sometimes people just live to be offended instead of doing the necessary work to lead and live by example.Like someone said earlier; a hit dog hollas when it gets hurt.

  26. @Monica, Obama is not gay so he wouldn’t say “be happy with domestic partnerships,” nor is he Latino so he wouldn’t tell his “cousins to stop coming across the border.” He is an African American who was speaking at a well known African American organization to a predominately, no surprise here, African American audience. Have you ever been to a black church? Had black teachers? Black friends? What you describe as Obama lecturing us is Obama doing what’s commonly known in the black community as “keeping it real,” aka being open, honest and comfortable with his people. By golly if you don’t want to sit up and pay attention to President Barack Obama, who do you want to listen to??? @Snob, so what if this is a race message, it’s the friggin NAACP-it better be a race message. @Papa Snob, (he should guest post sometime, would love to hear his perspective on how the nation’s first black president is doing on the job) If “President” McCain gave the same speech, I for one would not have a problem with it. Obama said we need to fix the education problem in America and if black and brown people can’t compete then America can’t compete. I would love for McCain to say that! What is wrong with that????????

  27. He’s saying it because he is a real "live" role model for young black men who are failing the most in schools and society in general (prison, not going to college, drugs, suicide, etc.) MLK died. Jesse and Sharpton are not credible. Cosby was mostly viewed as an "actor" when he preached. Who better than to tell it like it is and have people listen than him?

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