Commentary — 23 March 2010

It’s time to grow up Black people. It’s time to put away those childish things if we wish to sit at the grown folks table instead of the kiddie one. Let’s be honest, for a wide swath of Black America, the 2008 election season was the first that many of us watched for its full duration. 2008 unfortunately marked the first national political convention that many of us paid any attention, Democrat or otherwise.

Don’t get brand new on Mo’Kelly now. You know this is true and you know to whom out there I’m speaking.

Part of which had to do with the coming of age of the relationship between the internet and the political process. Part of it arguably had to do with the coming of age of the African-American electorate. We were fully vested…for the first time. Emphasis on “We” and “were.” Both words will be addressed.

Cutting to the chase, history was made, an African-American ascended to the Oval Office and an unwritten law was put into effect; “Thou shall not critique the policies of President Obama or criticize the legislative moves of said president.”

That is…not if you wish to avoid being called a “hater,” “sell-out” or “crab-in-a-barrel.” Break the law at your own peril.

Really?

Most of y’all just started voting (if at all) sometime this century. And now you want to dictate the political ethos of the whole of African-Americans? Really? Honestly?

Yes, the argument would be some emotional rant centered around the idea that dissent aligns you with the vast Right-Wing conspiracy which helped bring down President Clinton and now also seeks to bring down President Obama.

Paraphrased: “You’re either with us…or against us.”

Sometimes I feel as in I’m in Bizzaro World. Up is down and cats and dogs now shack up. Many of these 20-somethings espousing this foolishness either voted for the first time or didn’t even vote at all in 2008; yet have the temerity to lecture those like me who have voted and participated in all elections national and local since 1988.

Time to grow up Black people and the first step is listening to your elders.

At the heart of this discussion is whether one can philosophically disagree with President Obama on some issues yet honestly support the president. Most of the 97% of my fellow African-Americans who voted for President Obama have misguidedly suggested you can’t.

Oh really?

See, here’s where my decades of active participation in the political process serves to my benefit and others’ detriment. The aforementioned President Clinton was and still is tremendously popular within the African-American community. There’s nothing wrong with it…Bill is “cool people” as they say. Yet, let the record reflect his signature on the Welfare Bill of 1995 and the Crime Bill (100 to 1 crack to powder cocaine sentencing guidelines) did African-Americans no favors.

In other words, Mo’Kelly could support the president and disagree with the policies that disproportionately affect or afflict African-Americans. Bill Clinton was a better option than Bob Dole or George H.W. Bush but that did not absolve Clinton of legitimate critique across his two terms.

Last I checked…my disapproval neither stood in Clinton’s way of a 2nd term nor led to him being impeached. Imagine that. In fact, Slick Willie is kicking it in Harlem in 2010, surrounded by many of the people and neighborhoods most adversely affected by the aforementioned bills. Going even further, Bill still wields considerable influence as there are ex-Clinton staffers aplenty in the Obama administration, from Hillary on down.

So be careful who you accuse of being a “Clinton supporter.” The Clintons have a hand deep in the pockets literally and figuratively of this administration. It is what it is and we can run the list.

That needs to be said a second time.  Be very careful who you accuse of being a “Clinton supporter.”

How about that for irony?

I love my people, but I know my people. Most African-Americans (including myself) would tell you they are against the war in Iraq, but also support the troops. Meaning, there is room to philosophically disagree with the reasons for our involvement yet wish nothing but success for our troops.

Somehow, some way, for some reason, the sound logic often used by my fellow African-Americans in discussion of the war goes out the window in discussion of the 44th president. All bets are off it seems.

Time to grow up Black people. Put the pacifier down and back away from it once and for all.

If your response to a critique or criticism of President Obama contains the word “hater,” “crab,” “sell-out” or some inventive combination of the three…you need to go to your room and not come out until you think about what you’ve done. It’s sophomoric, ill-informed and infantile. This is big-boy politics. Ghetto hi-fivers need not apply. He’s the President of the United States, critique and criticism are written into the job description. His legislative decisions will be critiqued, his results or lack thereof will be criticized.

(And rightfully so.)

My vote for a candidate is not a 4-year blank check of support. It is my investment in my future, meaning I’ve earned the right to check in on it from time to time. I’m even allowed to make suggestions and press for changes in direction along the way. No vote by Mo’Kelly is an uncritical pass for four or even eight years. If it is for you, shame on you. It wasn’t when I first voted in 1988 for Michael Dukakis and it wasn’t in 2008.  Voting isn’t a singular act, it’s a promise to remain engaged.

My folks inherently understand these truths and are completely clear on the role of critique in the public space; they just have relinquished all common sense in the past year. Mention the names of former Secs. of State Condi Rice, Colin Powell, RNC Chairman Michael Steele or Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and you’ll hear every eloquent argument available as to why it’s (supposedly) not about their color, but their politics which preclude them from gaining the support of the majority of African-Americans.

The point is this…

For all the emphasis and energy spent “defending” President Obama on all things significant and small, little if any attention has been paid by the African-American electorate to the approaching midterm elections. This is the “We” and the “Were.” “We” “were” engaged more than ever before, but have relinquished both our agency and urgency in the present political dialogue.

Democrats, the party which African-Americans have pledged their loyalty ever since the 1960s (arguably undeserved) have stood idly by as the gubernatorial seats in Virginia and New Jersey slipped away. The longtime Kennedy Senate seat fell by the wayside in Massachusetts, Senator Evan Bayh retired in Indiana. Roland Burris is not seeking re-election in Illinois and that’s not counting the numerous other House Democratic retirees prior to the November election.

The truth of the matter is that anyone genuinely in support of President Obama understands implicitly that a shrinking margin in the Senate or a switch in power in the House to the Republicans does President Obama zero favors the subsequent two years of his term.

How can anyone legitimately support President Obama and have NOTHING to say about the midterms? That is ignorance of cataclysmic proportions and the Republicans thank us for it. While “We” are out there compiling our list of “haters” and jealous “crabs-in-a-barrel” “sell-outs” we’ve taken our eye off the prize…the real prize.

For all the vociferous attacks on those individuals and Black leaders/pundits/intellectuals who have the “unmitigated gall” to petition or critique the agenda of President Obama, there’s not been a single peep as to this other reality. We as African-Americans seem to be preoccupied with the paint job on the car better known as the Democratic Party and have lost sight of the cinder blocks on which it rests.

Time to grow up Black people.

The Congressional Black Caucus has been working in many cases for 50 years longer than President Obama’s name ever traipsed from any of your lips. They were on the Washington front lines before our esteemed president emerged and will be after he’s gone. That is not a criticism of the President, it’s a statement of fact. Presidents have term limits, members of Congress do not.

Mess around and you’ll have some rogue members of Congress elected come November and he/she/they may not be voted out until 2040 or til death do they part.  All because “We” “were” asleep at the wheel.  Names like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms come to mind.

Congressman John Lewis has seen many a president come and go. It’s ok to give him the correct amount of respect, he’s (and others) earned it. Only Congressman Lewis can say he had to endure the N-word in broad daylight for the past five decades while working for justice and equality.

Our president can’t say that. YOU can’t even say that.

Congressman Lewis

Time to grow up Black people…or go to your room with no dessert.

President Obama may be the metaphorical belle of the ball, but the CBC provided the transportation to the dance. Let’s not forget how we got to the dance in the first place. As they say, “dance with who brung ya’.”

The recent passage of the Healthcare Reform Bill was both landmark and historic. Kudos to President Obama. He’s accomplished in one year what his predecessors have failed to do for the past 75. His recent efforts to undergird HBCUs should also to be lauded.

But at no time can I praise any president if there isn’t also room for informed critique…and criticism if need be.

The Gay and Lesbian community will criticize President Obama if he fails to deliver on his promise to redress Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…and well they should. The Latino community will criticize the president if he fails to deliver on comprehensive immigration reform…and well they should.

So it should go without saying Mo’Kelly reserves the right to heap both praise and criticism if President Obama falls short. In this fantasy voyage to a “post-racial” society, where color supposedly does not matter, it only makes sense to apply critical analysis of the presidency of Barack Obama in the same way Mo’Kelly critiqued that of Presidents Bush (H.W. and W.) and Clinton.

And for those of my fellow African-Americans who are of the opinion that critique and/or criticism of the 44th president has no place in the public discourse, may I show you to your room. This discussion is for grown folks…act like it or tuck your own self in for the night.

[Stay tuned…the new mrmokelly.com website is coming to you in 2010.  Set your browsers now.]

The Mo’Kelly Report is an entertainment journal with a political slant; published weekly at The Huffington Post and www.eurweb.com.  It is meant to inform, infuse and incite meaningful discourse…as well as entertain. The Mo’Kelly Report is syndicated by Blogburst. For more Mo’Kelly, http://mrmokelly.com.  Mo’Kelly can be reached at Mo@mrmokelly.com and he welcomes all commentary.

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Mo'Kelly

Morris W. O'Kelly (Mo'Kelly) is a columnist, radio and television commentator. Visit http://mrmokelly.com for the latest from Mr. Mo'Kelly. He is heard weekends from 6-8pm on KFI AM640 in Los Angeles. The program is available via the iHeartRadio app and for download on iTunes and all podcasting apps. Contact Mo'Kelly: @mrmokelly

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