I deal with a lot of non-black people.
A lot of Blacks working in corporate or other professional fields do too.
It’s not a complaint… I’m just stating my reality. But there’s something that happens when you deal with a lot of non-Blacks and then jump back into Black surroundings. I make references that I know other Negroes will have a much higher chance of understanding. I speak in terms of “we” and speak of a shared ancestral struggle that brings on occasion a familiarity and sense of camaraderie that doesn’t automatically come when dealing with non-Blacks. It’s something I almost didn’t take notice of until I recently saw President Obama speak at the CBCF Gala in Washington, DC.
The 44th President of the United States is nothing if not a gifted orator. He takes queues from all the great performers; from presidents to preachers to stand up comedians. The President understands timing and the milking of a moment for maximum effect. But for all his amazing skill it seems to only amplify when he is surrounded by an audience of Black folk.
Not African-Americans. Black folk
The President has a way about him when dealing with other Black folks in various situations. (Remember when Obama saw Queen Latifah a few years ago and greeted her with a “What Up, Queen?” in a Chicago style drawl?) His speech at the Congressional Black Caucus Gala was no exception. From facial expressions to heavy preacher rhetoric and pacing — Obama dropped a hot 16 for the Caucus Gala attendees (a friend asked when he finished his speech “Did he just drop the mic?) and they responded with cheers and applause.
For a President who is supposedly losing his “Black base” he sure seemed to have them eating out of the palm of his hand on Saturday night.
More coverage of the CBC Convention here.
President Obama, who has been traveling the country on his “Pass This Bill” tour hit all his major talking points at the Gala. He mocked the GOP for being “pro” many of the things in the Jobs Bill right up until he suggested it. “Y’all used to like building roads.” Obama delivered with attitude and a rare sense of authentic annoyance that seemed less rehearsed and more unleashed. He continued his supposed “class warfare” by pointing out the rich should pay their fair share. But Obama hinted at the troubling time that he’s been having with the CBC. “I listen to some of y’all…” he said with a defiant look in his eye.
Obama walked in the room with what seemed to be a frustration at the questioning he’s received about his policies when it comes to Black Americans — which as of late has been coming directly from the CBC. His method of dealing? Spelling out what he’s already done but SAYING “African-American” when he did it. This came with applause and screams of “That’s right.” He pointed out the 17% unemployment rate amongst Blacks and that this Jobs Bill would help Black Americans and all Americans — but he needed help to get it passed. This was a direct response to some of the Black caucus members, like Rep. Maxine Waters, who specifically stated at the conference that it wouldn’t/couldn’t pass
“I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”
That wasn’t aimed at Black People as the Associated Press claimed. That was for the CBC itself. If the members weren’t happy about his commentary they probably didn’t want to say it to the audience that was screaming with glee as he delivered those parting words. Obama spoke to the audience not simply as a President to the nation–but with the comfort of one speaking to family. When he said “we” it wasn’t as in “We, Americans…” it was “We, Black Folks…” bringing a sense of camaraderie that not only did the audience need, but Obama probably needed himself.
Elon James White co-hosts the widely popular podcast Blacking It Up! which airs live Mon-Thurs 1:30pm ET. Follow Elon James White on Twitter @elonjames