How The Obama Administration Talks To Black America

Source: Ta-Nehisi Coates / The Atlantic

The first lady went to Bowie State and addressed the graduating class. Her speech was a mix of black history and a salute to the graduates. There was also this:

But today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of “separate but equal,” when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper.

There’s a lot wrong here.

At the most basic level, there’s nothing any more wrong with aspiring to be a rapper than there is with aspiring to be a painter, or an actor, or a sculptor. Hip-hop has produced some of the most penetrating art of our time, and inspired much more. My path to this space began with me aspiring to be rapper. Hip-hop taught me to love literature. I am not alone. Perhaps you should not aspire to be a rapper because it generally does not provide a stable income. By that standard you should not aspire to be a writer, either.

At a higher level, there is the time-honored pattern of looking at the rather normal behaviors of black children and pathologizing them. My son wants to play for Bayern Munich. Failing that, he has assured me he will be Kendrick Lamar. When I was kid I wanted to be Tony Dorsett — or Rakim, whichever came first. Perhaps there is some corner of the world where white kids desire to be Timothy Geithner instead of Tom Brady. But I doubt it. What is specific to black kids is that their dreams often don’t extend past entertainment and athletics  That is a direct result of the kind of limited cultural exposure you find in impoverished, segregated neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are the direst result of American policy.

To read this article in its entirety visit The Atlantic.

WATCH: First Lady Michelle Obama’s address at Bowie State

  • Kdogg_sc

    A relevant exampe of what the 1st lady was talking about.

    You used your own personal experience to try to make your point relevant. The 1st Lady was speaking in general and she was 100% correct. There are poor people everywhere in the world. America’s policies may be the reason why Blacks are disproportionally poor or impoverished but those policies are not the blame for our kids not aspiring to be something other than entertainers or athletes. The real blame is our people not separating themselves from the “undesirables” in our community. We support anythng that is “Black” no matter how wrong it is. Even if you use your Hiphop example, the most celebrated hiphop artists are those that fit the thug image. A Doctor cannot become a rapper in our community because he has no street cred. Positive hiphop artists rarely make it in the industry. The Black community needs stops this all-inclusive mentality and actually boycott the perpetuators of the negative stereotypes. The other ethnic groups do not celebrate their “undesirables” the way that we do. We are proud of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, and Gucci Mane because they are making money. They have done more to harm our community in the last 20 years than any policy. The 1st Lady is right and I think you are wrong on this issue.

  • Trent Hughes

    I agree with k dog. True there is nothing wrong with being a rapper, but the problem lies when a lot of aspirations are based on the images of being a rapper which are criminal. I love music. But I also think we as a people should encourage our kids to prosper in all aspects of society.