Former President Barack Obama has some questions for Jared Kushner and the Trump White House after the senior White House adviser implied Black people don’t want to be successful.
“I think we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about. But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful,” Kushner, who is also President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, said on Monday, Oct. 26, during an interview with “Fox & Friends.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 27, at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Orlando, Obama called Kushner out for his comments.
“Now his advisers are out there saying, including his son-in-law — his son-in-law says Black folks have to want to be successful, that’s the problem,” Obama added. “Who are these folks? What history books do they read?”
Barack Obama laced into Jared Kushner, the son-in-law and senior adviser of President Donald Trump, after Kushner invoked a racist trope by implying that the lack of racial equality in the U.S. is due in part to a lack of motivation among Black Americans https://t.co/wYRmZ9XGUr pic.twitter.com/00B0KgHka5— POLITICO (@politico) October 27, 2020
However, Obama himself has been criticized by members of the Black community for striking a similar tone in the past.
One incident took place in May 2013 when Obama gave the commencement address at the nation’s top HBCU for Black men, Morehouse College.
“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a Black man down,” Obama said to the graduates. “There’s no longer any room for excuses. Whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured and overcame.”
Famed pubic intellectual Ta-Nehesi Coates responded with a scathing rebuke of Obama’s comments in The Atlantic.
“Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of ‘all America,’ but he also is singularly the scold of ‘black America.’” Coates said it was a tone Obama did not take with other communities.
Another incident occurred a few months later in August 2013 when Obama spoke to commemorate the anniversary of the March on Washington.
“And then, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots,” Obama said. “Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.”
Journalist and professor Jelani Cobb took Obama to task for this one, tweeting “Obama consistently speaks the language of personal responsibility to black America but not about his own responsibility *to* black America.”
Those Obama tone-policing critiques did not seem to address the former president’s actual attempts to effect policy moves that could’ve adversely affected much of the African-American electorate, such as his first-term administration’s repeated offers to Republican congressional leaders to cut Social Security and Medicare programs in exchange for tax increases, maneuvers that failed largely because GOP leaders did not want to be seen as agreeing with Obama on anything.
But despite the former president’s past statements, many felt Obama’s critiques of Kushner were justified, as he wasn’t the only one to condemn Kushner’s words. Like Obama, those critics largely seem to have skirted addressing the issue of which policies Kushner is claiming have been a boost for African-Americans, preferring instead to focus on the tone of his remarks.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer from Virginia called Kushner’s statements “casual racism.” His congressional colleague, Rep. Barbara Lee of California, agreed.
“Jared Kushner is the face of white privilege and nepotism. He doesn’t want to change our racist, broken system because he benefits from it,” Lee tweeted. “He’s the last person that should be lecturing the Black community on the value of ‘hard work.’”