This is one of those conversations I’m tempted to join but can’t. As someone who grew up Black and poor in the US, the descendant of slaves, and as someone who reads and studies deeply on education in poor and working class Black communities, it’s just too frustrating to engage those who have easy answers about what other people should do for themselves to overcome structural racism and poverty. I just can’t.
But that aside, my problem with the Obamas is that they are not the mommy and daddy of “Black America” (which doesn’t exist). He is the president of the richest, most powerful nation on Earth, responsible for developing and executing policy to make our nation live up to its democratic ideals. That’s his job—but instead, time and time again, he kowtows to millionaires and billionaires, and pushes education policies which hurt poor people most, which make it more difficult for poor people to help themselves. So his moral pronouncements to Black folks—and never to whites—are a distraction and beside the point. And moreover, hypocritical.
As for Michelle, if I do recall, she went to Princeton on affirmative action, a program which has now been largely gutted. And I’m sure she was the beneficiary of other civil-rights era anti-poverty initiatives as well, most of which are also gone. So I don’t need to hear from her either. Indeed, there is a conversation to be had within black cultural spaces about how we treat one another and how we support one another and hold on and dream. But the Obamas are not qualified to lead that conversation, and it is not their place.
This is what social work researchers and practitioners conclude should be Obama’s priorities: http://www.naswdc.org/advocacy/2012%20NASW%20Obama%20Document.pdf"