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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
This morning, I had to ask myself some hard questions, which I immediately took to my friends on Facebook: Are black people, as a collective, even capable of evaluating our political options objectively? They say that the best way to waste your vote is to stay home or choose a third party candidate. Actually, the best way to waste your vote is to give unconditional support to a candidate and then not ask him to do anything.
After president Obama laid his case out for the American people, Rev. Jesse Jackson said that he would like the Democrats to pay more attention to poverty and gun violence. But when I got to AOL Black Voices, one of the leading black online media outlets in the country, I saw a headline that says, “Malia and Sasha are seriously adorable!” Then, there is another headline next to the first one that has Michelle Obama saying to Barack, “I want to retrace our honeymoon.”
People are starving, children are dying, black people can’t find work and children suffer while their parents are incarcerated. Yet, the black middle class is living an intoxicating Negro fairytale where the only thing that matters is the color of Michelle Obama’s dress. Are we so addicted to style over substance that we have let go of the ability to engage in the act of critical thinking?
Perhaps it’s time for us to be a bit more serious about politics. This is not a reality TV show. This is not the last episode of “Basketball Wives,” nor is it the season finale of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Ladies, Barack is never going to be your husband, and those aren’t your kids. But the fact is that many other little girls who are just as adorable as Sasha and Malia, like 7-year old Heaven Sutton, are at risk of having a stray bullet fly across their neighborhood and hit them in the head while they serve lemonade on their front porch. Yes, in case you’re wondering, that is what happened to Heaven because we refuse to demand that the Democratic Party address urban violence as part of the party platform.
This doesn’t mean that an intelligent person can’t appreciate the beauty of the first family or comment on the style and grace with which first lady Michelle Obama carries herself. But the reason that neither the Obamas nor the rest of the Democratic Party take African Americans seriously is because we’ve relegated ourselves to being cheerleaders instead of a legitimate political constituency. We no longer have objective black journalists who critically assess the policies of the administration, and are instead flooded with a pack of highly-educated groupies who are hoping to get a picture with the president when he comes to town.
While we sit back and fantasize, people are dying. While we comment on how fabulous Michelle Obama looked as she gave her speech, there is some little girl out there crying because her daddy got 10 life sentences for selling drugs. As we talk about how cute Sasha and Malia look in the crowd, there is a little boy being murdered by bullies on his way home from school.
Perhaps it’s time for us to grow up and speak up. Until we do, we’ll never be respected, even by the Obamas themselves.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To check out Dr. Watkins in the Janks Morton Film, Hoodwinked, please visit this link.