Even before Cosby gave his Brown vs. Board of Education speech blaming lower-income blacks for racial disparities in education, I’ve been interested in the power of black elites to shape and mold black public opinion. I threw up a little in my mouth when Obama gave his Father’s Day speech, blaming black men for black poverty.
When Obama was elected President, a number of scholars tested the effect of his election on racial attitudes, on stereotype threat, on educational outcomes.
But for my interests the most important question has yet to be asked. When Obama claims that black poverty is more a function black DYSfunction, are blacks more likely to believe it? The struggle against racial disparities begins in black and brown communities. When black and brown elites blame these disparities on black and brown populations, they DEmobilize populations. When Minister Louis Farrakhan for example brings one million men to the seat of government only to say “we don’t want ANYTHING, but instead want to apologize” these men are shifted AWAY from political activism and towards the type of self-help behavior that does little to nothing to either empower black communities or reduce the effects of racism.
I wrote a grant proposal after Obama’s election to test the Obama effect on black attitudes about poverty and the black poor.
I just received word yesterday that it was accepted.
This will be an excellent opportunity to begin a critical conversation on the role of black leaders in black politics. I’ll keep you updated as to the results.