COMMENTARY | The gangsta rapper known as Common showed up at Michelle Obama’s poetry evening, even though some had speculated that he would bow out in order to spare the president and first lady the embarrassment of his presence.
According to the Daily Caller, Common’s performance eschewed the more notorious parts of his body of work that involve praise for cop killers, advocacy of burning presidents, and objectifying women in favor of some more benign verses such as “One King’s Dream, He was able to Barack us.”
In Hot Air, Howard Portnoy suggests that President Obama missed a number of opportunities by not dis-inviting Common.
First, he quotes African American Thomas Chatterton Williams as suggesting that the Obamas could have embraced literary figures outside what he called the hip hop echo chamber. The kind of “art” Common represents glorifies violence while at the same time wrapping it in the shroud of racial victimhood. Instead of eschewing that toxic view of the world, the Obamas embraced it.
Second, the Obamas might have used the occasion of a dis-invite to finally open that “honest dialogue” on race. President Obama especially might have pointed out that opposition to cop killing and acceptance of interracial marriage are largely settled questions in American culture. Anyone who disagrees is outside the mainstream.
There is a third opportunity that the Obamas missed, which is to have a Sister Soujah moment. During the 1992 campaign, then-Gov. Bill Clinton denounced the racist lyrics of an African American performing artist calling herself Sister Soujah, proving that he could take on an important part of the Democratic constituency. He was able to attract a lot of independent voters with this stand. African American voters, even though no doubt many agreed with Clinton’s sentiment, had nowhere else to go.
Barack Obama, ever since the revelations of the hateful, racist sermons of his long-time pastor Jeremiah Wright, has earned the suspicion that he embraces rather than rejects angry racial politics, inflaming African American passions while stirring up white liberal guilt. If the president had turned Common away and denounced his views, he might have gone a long way toward allaying those suspicions.
Obama has thus shied away from showing courage, which might have enhanced his chances of being reelected, in favor of the easy path. But by embracing Common, he might well have damaged his chances of reelection considerably.
Source: Rapper appears at White House evening poetry event, sidelined during afternoon session, Neil Munro, Daily Caller, May 11, 2011
An Opportunity Obama Missed by Not Disinviting Common, Howard Portnoy, Hot Air, May 12, 2011