President Barack Obama made statements at the Morehouse College graduation that immediately caused concern upon hearing him state it. I am disappointed with this speech in general as a result. Apparently, the President attempted to cover-up these thinly veiled attacks with feel-good stories in the speech. Hence, I was initially on the fence about it. But once I applied questions to the statements, the speech started to fall apart (to my dismay).
The statements to which I refer follow.
“I understand there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: “Excuses are tools of the incompetent used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.” Well, we’ve got no time for excuses. Not because the bitter legacy of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil** — many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did — all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned. (Applause.)
Nobody*** cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination. And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and they overcame them. And if they overcame*** them, you can overcome them, too. (Applause.)”
My comments for the asterisked (mine) words indicated in the quotes are below.
**First, what Black person ever expects that he or she will be given anything in the United States of America, where for many of them their ancestors were in bondage as slaves or suffered under the Jim Crow policies? Spreading this idea worldwide with the insertion of students from BRIC countries does not make the assertion any more apt because those students are likely to find jobs in their own countries. Brazil, in particular, has its own issues with race, so easily glossed over with the President’s broad-brush statement. Black (and mixed-race) people in Brazil face the same systematic discrimination issues as Blacks in the United States. The college students in the jobs competition President Obama speaks of in his speech are very likely to be light skinned and wealthy.
“Going to university in Brazil is not a mass experience, as in the United States. And only a quarter of places are in public institutions. Other government education programmes, such as creche-building in poor neighbourhoods, better literacy training for teachers and subsidies for poor students who attend private universities, will improve the lives of many more black Brazilians than the quota programme. But public universities are more prestigious—and barred from charging fees by the constitution. That their places have long gone disproportionately to the 12% of Brazilians who are privately educated, most of them rich and white, is hard to swallow.”
***This paragraph of the President’s speech is exceptionally harsh, especially considering the fact that no matter how hard a Black person works individually, that person (being a college graduate is understood to be hard working) will not be able to overcome the disproportionate distribution of social power (which heavily favors the White population). This reality has been covered many times in this blog. The words “nobody cares” and “overcame” in light of the racial reality being discussed is therefore excessive.