I've been watching and listening and there is something that is becoming true and it is the truth about black Americans. It is a sort of truth that is coming from multiple directions, but it is not converging around one concept of set of facts. It's just noticeably more honest and forthright than we have seen.
This morning, a quote over at Booker Rising said something about the Obama family that was said about the Cosby Show over two decades ago:
I am loving the positive imagery and symbolism of this new President and First Lady. It is going to do wonders for 'black love' in America, and I dare say for an entire generation of young people who will grow up watching this young first couple balance marriage and family with grace....What I think will be most important is that young black men will see a powerful black man who is deeply involved with his children, and who openly adores and admires his wife. His beautiful, strong, intelligent black woman. I'd better go before I start crying again (been doing a lot of that lately). Let me be the first to say that I am so hopeful for the black community, and for a reshaping of our values and behavior. Maybe we will have a return to old-fashioned courting, letter writing, respect, admiration, and enduring friendship between men and women. God knows we need this so desperately in the black family right now.
In one way, this is an insult to black people, as if Obama were so rare and unique that he is almost unrecognizable and therefore a bracing reminder of what we're supposed to be. The soft bigotry of low expectations is embedded in every Obama Hallmark moment. In another way, I am reminded that such moments are easy to find. If somebody followed me and my family around every waking moment, or the families of any of my close black friends, they would see the very same thing - provided they edited the set down to the good bits.
Jimi Izrael is saying similar things with characteristic humor and edge. He notes some behaviors that are on the outs if we are to keep up with the Obamas. His is a top twenty list. I particularly like these few:
17. Hip to be square-being uninformed and uneducated won’t be so cool anymore.
18. College= No longer an option-Any black dude not talking about going to college will become an instant pariah. GED=Status Ain’t ‘Hood.
19. Death of the Angry Black Man-Obama’s a cool customer, and he changes the perspective about the black man’s palate of emotions . Finally, people will allow black men a larger degree of feelings than ‘angry’ and ‘not-so angry.’
But we know all this. All of this sort of talk is not an epiphany so much as it is a breath of fresh transparency. An axiom of Cobb is that black culture is transparent. The black internal cultural wars will continue and for now it is clear that the upscale contingent has the upper hand - as it should be. Afronerd must be happy. I'm happy in the way I thought I would be before Obama turned out to me more against my political philosophy than I expected, precisely for this black cultural benefit. Here's what's going on.
What is striking about this era is that having everybody talking about a black man and a black family all of the time (that demonstrably 52% of Americans trust to lead the nation - assuredly positive) is like having the big buck come out of the woods. All of the timid does and baby deers follow, slowly but surely. And like a circle of confessors in therapy start to really show themselves once they are convinced that the leader is not going to take advantage, the truth slowly starts to emerge. Not something startling but the amount is greater and the details are more vivid. This is what's happening in America with regard to the truths about black culture and our changing attitudes towards it. Obama is the catalyst. So far, so good.I like the confidence with which people are boldly speaking their minds about black culture and I will do what I can to promote such verbal conflict at Cobb. What I believe we will find is primarily that the Old School values embedded in the example of the Obama family will validate what black conservatives have been saying all along - furthermore that the enacted policies of the Obama adminstration, if it proves to be as moderate as it sometimes claims, will be used by wags like me to further a sort of social conservatism that black communities desperately need. I take this opportunity to cite my previous works vis a vis Hymowitz and Moynihan and hope such matters bear fruit.
This is precisely what I've been talking about. Once again we must reconsider Moynihan. Although I did that without a defense of marriage itself in mind, such matters are much more clear to me now. Hymowitz goes on to speak about the familiar devastation to black families.Given the legacy of slavery that made marriage impossible for blacks and Jim Crow laws that emasculated men, the unmarriage revolution was bound to hit blacks especially hard. When Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote his controversial report "The Negro Family", he was warning the country about a 25% illegitimacy rate among blacks. In one chapter of my book, I tell the story of how black leaders and black and white academics accused Moynihan of every sin in the p.c. book. He was a racist who could not possibly understand "the strengths of the black family." He was a sexist who failed to appreciate the "strong black woman" and her "extended kinship networks." It became impossible to have an honest conversation about what was happening in the black community for the next twenty years even as black welfare rolls, crime rates, and teen births were soaring. Well, now the rupture between marriage and black childbearing is just about complete. Seventy percent of black births are to single mothers. Seventy percent. This has had a disastrous effect on men, who have lost their major social roles as provider and father. It is also a tragedy for the country because it makes the goal of full black equality unachievable. Growing up in single parent homes, black kids are destined to stay behind.Dead right. Read the whole thing.
The difference and the distance between black partisans who were interested in raising the race and white liberal counterculturalists ought to be clear and profound. To the extent that brotherhood was a component of the black consciousness revolution we were more about building strong relationships than tearing them down. In the 70s when Warren Beatty was making movies about free love, we were fantasizing about how cool it would be if Huey and Angela would hook up. The entire phenomenon that was Roots underscored black need to feel connected to family. But something went horribly wrong with the nexus between white liberals and black radicals. Could it be that we also wanted Clarence Williams to abandon his black woman for Peggy Lipton? Hard to say.
Here's what I will say which is consistent with what I've been saying. The ability for white controlled media to skew the accurate portrayal of a normal black family far outstripped black ability to communicate its value. Perhaps in a rush to join the integrated world, or just to leave the segregated world, too many black men and women left their old family values too, thinking that this was the new American way. It was, but it was also very wrong, and now far too many are paying the price.
I was among those who chuckled during the culture wars at Reaganite champions of 'family values'. But I was single, childless and advancing my career. For me it was all about economic advancement. What I saw that blackfolks needed more than anything else was an economic base of substance. Well, I don't write family values in quotes any longer. They are real values with important consequences that cannot be downplayed, and I say they are central to the prospects of African Americans. Black people persist, but black families are challenged. Blackfolks will survive, but without marriage we will not advance or sustain those advances.