Man, I’m glad I decided to turn on CNN today. This morning, Barack Obama was speaking out a live town hall in Florida. Usually at these town halls Barack is preaching to the choir – a crowd of people who are grateful and happy that he’s graced them with his presence.
But this morning things took a turn for the left when three, young, black male protestors unfurled a banner that read “What About The Black Community, Obama?” (Can’t knock their hustle though, as they promoted their website, http://www.uhurunews.com and phone number live on national television.)
The crowd shouted the brothers down, chanting “Yes We Can” as the men tried to ask Barack a question from their spot in the audience. Though visibly taken aback, Barack quieted the crowd, and told the young men that they could get their questions answered, as long as they respected the format and pretty much waited their turn. Fair enough. (But CNN reported that two Secret Service men discreetly flanked the men after this incident.)
The young brother, when he got his chance, basically (and I’m paraphrasing him) asked Barack why he’s never, not once, acknowledged the issues facing the black community including the Jena 6, Hurricane Katrina, Sean Bell’s murder, and the recent police murder of another young black man, Javon Dawson, in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the town hall took place.
Barack defended his record, noting that he’d addressed all of those issues and that his political career was born of his community work and his history as a civil rights lawyer. When the young man seemed unsatisfied with the answer, Barack firmly got things back on track.
I found the whole exchange to be hilarious, but also telling. It was like watching your country cousins crash your upscale wedding and then bust in asking “Why you ain’t invite us?” The young man had a a point, although he could have made it better when he got his moment. While specials like CNN’s “Black In America” purport to tell the story of black people, they usually focus on the problems of the disenfranchised underclass. This brother was apparently educated, despite the fact that his urban uniform of cornrows, white tee and jeans are often misconstrued as ignorant/dangerous. But while he was passionate (and the site is decent) he would have made a stronger case if he’d known that Barack had addressed those things, and come with a more succinct question.
I have a feeling that at the end of the day that if the two men from such opposite sides of the spectrum ever got to sit down privately, they’d probably find more common ground that not. While Barack enjoys more consensus among black people than any other single person, place or thing that I’ve seen in my lifetime, the generational/hip-hop gap is real with passionate advocates on both sides. (Look at the recent issue with Ludacris’ <a target='_blank' mce_href='http://globalgrind.com/content/40315/Ludacris-Politics-Obama-Is-Here' href='http://globalgrind.com/content/40315/Ludacris-Politics-Obama-Is-Here