Favorite

Obama at Morehouse 

During President Obama's recent speech to the black men who graduated from Morehouse College he uttered this amazing statement: "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."

Obama is president of the United States at a time when the New York City Police Department is being sued for a "stop and frisk" policy that targeted black and brown people. For him to tell young black men who have struggled already against adversity that "nobody cares if you've suffered some discrimination" demonstrates a mindset that is prevalent, to be sure, but is unmistakably oppressive and unjust.

The ethical responsibility (since Mr. Obama chose to talk about responsibility) of people blessed with power and influence is to use those blessings to relieve suffering, not ignore it by claiming nobody cares. If anyone must care, it must be the people with the power to lift barriers, confront unjust practices and policies, and grant relief to people whose opportunities and lives have been hurt by them. It remains Obama's job as president to remind the nation that racism, sexism and other forms of injustice still matter and must not be ignored.

Imagine the outcry had Obama told a group of Latino graduates that "nobody cares about discrimination." Or imagine the furor had he told female graduates of West Point, the Naval Academy, or the Air Force Academy that "nobody cares about discrimination" in the face of glaring reports about rapes, sexual harassment, and other mistreatment of women in the military.

Morehouse graduates already know that many people don't care about their historical and personal struggles against oppression. They should have been congratulated for persevering to this point in the face of oppression. Beyond that, however, Obama should have used his "bully pulpit" to proclaim that his administration will help them fight injustice, poverty, and other forces that have often sidelined ambitious and able-minded people of color. Then he should have returned to Washington and backed up his rhetoric with executive action.

President Obama could have reminded the nation that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Morehouse Man, murdered while he labored for economic justice for working people, and that working people continue to see their hopes attacked. Instead of using global economics as an excuse for ignoring those among us who have suffered undeserved hardships, he should have reminded these men and the wider society that our nation and the world will never enjoy peace or prosperity so long as the privileged few ignore the pain and hardships suffered daily by the unprivileged masses.

That message would have kept faith with Morehouse Men such as Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Howard Thurman. They never allowed us to use racism and discrimination as excuses. Yet they also never suggested to black people or the wider society that racism and discrimination are excusable.

President Obama delivered a politically popular speech because his remarks pandered to the myth of meritocracy that has long been the mantra of white privilege. Perhaps he doesn't know that a myth isn't reality. Perhaps he doesn't believe that the myth can or should be exposed as flawed and hurtful. Perhaps he knows (he is an educated fellow in many ways) but has decided that he would rather use his power and influence to perpetuate the myth rather than challenge it and denounce its continuing impact on the nation those Morehouse graduates must contend with.

Sadly, Obama is popular because he is crafty enough to use Martin Luther King's name, alma mater and memory to divert our attention from the harsh and ongoing realities of injustice and oppression that King spent his life challenging and which, at last, killed him. Obama is undoubtedly a skillful rhetorician. But it is saddening and infuriating to realize he has aligned his administration with the insensitive and insincere views of the privileged rather than obey the Biblical mandate to define justice and prosperity from the perspective of those who are vulnerable. According to Jesus, King, Mays, Thurman, and the legacy of the Biblical prophets, that is the true definition of a righteous (just) political leader and society, not pandering oratory.

Wendell Griffen is a Pulaski County circuit judge, pastor of the New Millennium Church and a former justice on the Arkansas Appeals Court.

Favorite

Speaking of Barack Obama

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Wendell Griffen

  • The moral case for tax fairness

    The Arkansas legislature is considering two dramatically different views of tax reduction. One approach benefits the wealthiest Arkansans who already pay the lowest effective tax rates in the state. An alternative approach gives the most tax relief to the middle and low-income Arkansas families who already pay the highest effective tax rates in the state. This is not only a policy choice, it's also a moral choice.
    • Apr 4, 2013
  • Drone policy indefensible

    We have probably talked and heard more about the Academy Award nominations and winners this month than whether it is right or makes sense for a nation supposedly dedicated to life and civil liberty to be killing its citizens for taking unpopular stances in foreign countries. What does that say about our devotion to life and liberty? What does it say about our ethics?
    • Feb 28, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Guest Writer

  • A better now

    The Boys and Men Opportunity Success Team (BMOST), an initiative led by a coalition of local stakeholders that includes the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, city of Little Rock, Arkansas Baptist College, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Pulaski Technical College and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas, is determined to show you that what you see and hear about black and brown boys and men isn't the whole story.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Intro to ANNN

    The Arkansas Nonprofit News Network is an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • Help all veterans

    Veteran-specific bills often miss the mark on helping the most sympathetic military families by focusing on retirement income.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • A heart in this house

    Since Election Day, I have been at a loss as to how to direct my energy. I am spinning in circles.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A heart in this house

    • The elections woke people up, a good thing and caused some people to feel insecure…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: A heart in this house

    • Arkansas needs You.

    • on January 19, 2017
  • Re: A heart in this house

    • Autumn Tolbert, thank You. I met Rev. Barbour in Selma two years ago. A new…

    • on January 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation