Why are Black People Afraid to Speak Up About Washington and Obama?

Quick note from Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World 


After posting the piece by Dr. Wilmer Leon, a Political Scientist and objective Obama observer, stating that African Americans are jeopardizing our Democratic freedoms by squashing all voices of dissent as it pertains to President Obama, I received this interesting comment from one of my Facebook friends.

His name has been removed, but perhaps there is some logic to what he’s saying.  He also appears to be neutral in the Obama conversation, which makes his point even more relevant.   His simple, yet poignant statement was something I felt compelled to share with others:

Maybe I can add some insight as to why many Blacks are reluctant to criticize Obama. I think that many of us feel that he is under constant UNFAIR criticism and are afraid that even fair criticism will be seen as just piling on. We can be compared to a mother who is over protective of her child because the father abuses him. She feels that her child should have someone who accepts him unconditionally. As a result she may spoil the child. It’s not right , but it happens. That’s how some view Obama. We see people hoping that he will fail. We see people asking for birth certificates, accusing him of being against America, wanting everything he does to go down in flames, etc. So some of us seem willing to ‘overlook" his faults. It’s not right , but it happens.


Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 


Filed under African Americans

7 responses to “Why are Black People Afraid to Speak Up About Washington and Obama?

  1. Alberta

    I believe afraid is the wrong choice of word; many African Americans have been the victim of unwarranted criticisms therefore is quite familiar with the “no matter what we do is not enough phenomena” and being a people of emphathy we understand only too well what this President is going through, especially having to deal with a very hostile congress who is head bent on seeing him fail. We just don’t want to be apart of this.

  2. AntBee

    Apparently Blacks are NOT afraid of criticize or speak up about our President.

    This Blogger (Dr.Watkins) and many other do so almost daily!

    In fact, we have heard more criticizing of this president than ALL the other presidents combined!!

    Sorry, but your title (as are many others) is misleading.

    Many Blacks also speak up with praise about our president, however these are the ones who can see the work he is trying to do to for AMERICANS which certainly includes black people.

    Some black folk need to shed the “do something for me” mentality, and then maybe we can get on with what WE can do to help this president succeed!

  3. It’s not the criticism of Obama that I object to, I criticize him all the time, when I feel it’s necessary, just like I do White presidents
    (http://wattree.blogspot.com/2011/04/beneath-spin-eric-l.html). What gets next to me, in the case of Cornel West, is the source of the criticism, and its nonspecific nature. When I criticize Obama it over a specific policy. But Tavis and West (they’ve become so connected at the hip that I now see them like Laurel and Hardy) they’re just throwing nonspecific stones – “He’s the mascot of the corporate elite. That’s counterproductive, and it doesn’t tell me anything. Give me a specific policy that I can agree or disagree with you on.

    Is it Obama’s fault that instead of becoming involved in our children’s education we’d rather sit around and let them be corrupted by the values of hip hop videos? It is not. Knowledge is free. There’s just as much knowledge in the corner library as there is at Harvard University, and there’s even more on the internet, so how is our aversion to knowledge anyone else’s fault but our own?

    Likewise, it’s not Obama’s fault that we refuse to vote. The primary reason that we can’t get any attention from politicians is because they can depend on one thing – given a choice, the vast majority of us would rather sit home and admire Kobe’s jump shot than get out and vote for a better future for our children. That accounts for why we have so many potholes in the hood, and little support for our schools. Why should politicians waste any money, time, or effort on us when they can spend those resources across town on people they can depend on to turn out and vote for them?

    And finally, it is not Obama’s fault that we let jackleg preachers come in every Sunday and take badly needed revenue out of the community and into the suburbs, while during the week their “houses of God” sit there vacant. Society can’t make them open up those churches during the week and hire unemployed mothers to provide affordable childcare for working mothers. Neither society, nor Obama, can make them do that. That’s our job.

    Smiley and West took their show on the road right after Obama refused to appear on Tavis’ corporate sponsored dog-and-pony show to kiss Tavis’ ring. Tavis seemed to have been suffering from the delusion that he was some sort of self-appointed representative of the Black people, and that Obama had an obligation to go through him to gain access to the Black community. And just like a little lapdog, Cornel fell right in line, faithfully caressing Tavis’ delusion of grandeur.

    That’s when I first began to recognize that Cornel’s intellectual competence couldn’t possibly be commensurate with the hype in the corporate media. The fact that I initially bought into that hype taught me a very important lesson, however. It taught me to keep my own ego in check, because it became clear that I obviously didn’t corner the market on wisdom, knowledge, or intellect myself. After all, I’d bought into the hype, and failed to take the time to choose and assess my own heroes. Just like the rest of the Black community, I made the foolish mistake of allowing others to do that for me. But I won’t make that mistake again.

    Let’s take a look at these two gentlemen. Tavis has been going all over the country talking about accountability and making snide allusions to the fact that President Obama was lacking in that area. Cornel West was doing the same, but he also liked to talk about corporate plutocracies and oligarchies. Yet, even as Smiley was holding court in his “State of the Black Union” dog-and-pony show, the logos of some of the worst abusers of Black people – indeed, abusers of all of the poor and middle class in the country – were emblazoned all over the wall in the background. Tavis was also active in trying to get the people of Inglewood, CA to let Walmart come into the community, right along, I might add, with their anti union, anti medical benefits, and promotion of foreign products business philosophy – which of course, would have put many small and minority entrepreneurs out of business.

    Where’s the accountability in that, and why didn’t the good “Brother” West discuss this issue with his buddy? He’s an intellectual, so certainly he saw the long-term impact of what Tavis was advocating would have on the Black community. But obviously, West’s personal interest was in conflict with the interest of the community, and the community lost.

    So just because someone wears a natural, and is running around saying, “Brother, this and Brother, that,” that doesn’t mean that their personal interest and the interest of the Black community coincide. The same is true of people who or embraced by the very same media that’s dragging the Black community through the mud, or who go around saying “folk” instead of “folks” for effect. Many people like this tend to be more self-serving than they are servants of the community. Thus, these are the last people we should listen to, because in order to promote their own interests they tend to tell us what we want to hear, rather of what we need to hear.

    So as I’ve said many times before, Cornel West’s close association with Tavis Smiley gives him the credibility, with respect to Obama, of a man ranting about fascism after just having lunch with Mussolini.

  4. Roosevelt Thompson

    I think you should get of the divide and conquer show, and put your
    energy into a unity show. i have a lot of respect for prof.Cornel West
    and he do speak for a class of people that is lock out and over looked.
    black people gave this president 98% of their vote we expect him to
    to pay his debt. or we will vote for someone who will protect our interest
    and it don’t have a democrat. we need clever minds not dividers to pull
    us out of this hole. won’t you join us?

  5. AntBee

    @Roosevelt Thompson,

    “black people gave this president 98% of their vote we expect him to
    to pay his debt. or we will vote for someone who will protect our interest
    and it don’t have a democrat.

    What debt?

    Who will be the “someone” that will protect our interest?

    It is remarks like your that I refer to when I say that some black folk don’t have a clue!

  6. Roosevelt,

    I’m not sure whether or not your comment was directed at me, but you would do well to pass on your “divide and conquer” ad vice on to West, the man you have so much respect for, because the very plutocrats that he’s always ranting about are playing him:

    “Breaking from Newsmax.com

    Cornel West Angry with Obama

    …President Obama’s African-American supporters are in turmoil after one of their most prominent members, Princeton University professor Cornel West unleashed a powerful, race-tinged attack against his former friend.”

    And as for voting for a fascist, you say, “WE will vote for someone who will protect our interest and it don’t have to be a Democrat,” you need to amend that
    “WE” to “you”, because most Black people have more sense than that. Look around you at the next Republican convention. The only people there darker than a paper bag will be you, Clarence, and the janitor.

  7. abe bey

    What about african americans unity ?

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