Friday, July 24, 2009
Feet of Clay
If you have a chance check out my brother speaking 9 April 2009 at The New York Public Library on a panel titled Making Sense of Black Nationalism in the Obama Era.
PENIEL JOSEPH: I disagree with that. I think the Eric Holder speech. We’re talking about the Attorney General of the United States, first black attorney general, made a speech February 17th of this year about race called A Nation of Cowards, it’s a very specific speech, more sophisticated than Obama’s March 4, 2008, speech. He talks about the reasons for Black History Month. He talks about the politics and practices of white supremacy and institutionalized racism and how Black History Month can be the font to start conversation nationally that we haven’t seen since the Kerner commission. So Holder’s speech was a much more sophisticated speech about race. Because what Obama did was what King Solomon did—he parsed. Right, so he said we’re going to split the baby down the people, so black people are to blame and so are white people. There’s a problem there because black people didn’t start slavery and black people didn’t institutionalize Jim Crow. So the idea is if we want to have an honest conversation about race, it’s not about parsing and saying, “well, we’re both to blame, fifty / fifty,” so the politics of Katrina are “because your mom smoked crack and George Bush was a jerk, fifty/fifty.” That’s just not the truth empirically. And I’m saying this as a historian.