I kept hearing yesterday from some pundits and journalists that Obama’s Father’s Day speech was directed at “white, working class people”. Whether or not that was true (or that white working class people were politically symapthetic to his calls for absentee African-American men to step up to their role as fathers) it struck me as both an extraordinarily dumb concern on the part of white people and an unexceptional speech to be giving in a black church. Not surprisingly, Ta-Nehisi Coates is all over this:
But reporters need to stop acting like this dude is the only civilized black man in the world. I just came from the beautiful Real Men Cook event here in Harlem. This thing has been going for almost twenty years now, celebrating fathers who are doing right, and serving as rebuke (if I may) to the ones that are ghost. We don’t need Barack Obama to tell us to be fathers, though I’m glad he’s doing it. We need reporters to actively engage the people they claim to cover.[…]
But when this stuff is reported, it’s written as if it’s the first time anyone’s said this. The basic rule seems to be among white media–if we haven’t heard it, it didn’t happen.
Also, if white people are sitting around waiting for a series of “Sister Souljah” moments from Obama to prove his American values bona fides then I hope they’re kept waiting. It’s a disingenuous and uniformed notion (“Oh, all those black folk who don’t have fathers! Won’t anybody do something?!”) as if, as Coates says, Obama was the first to raise the issue or white people are honestly waiting for someone to wag their finger at another racial or ethnic group so they can make up their mind on who to vote for.