Obama and Jay Z Prefer to Inspire Than Work

President Barack Obama (Win McNamee/Getty Images); Jay Z (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama (Win McNamee/Getty Images); Jay Z (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Brittney Cooper, writing at Salon, describes how Jay Z and President Barack Obama rely too heavily on their ability to inspire black Americans instead of taking a more proactive role in carrying out measurable deeds that will help black culture.

Yet when it comes to thinking about the political potential of hip-hop, Jay becomes mucked and mired in the very kind of presentist thinking that not only stunts black politics but also frankly has become the albatross of hip-hop culture. Presentism defines reality according to the tyrannical urgency of now and confuses us into thinking that merely showing up is enough. That it is more than enough. That we are doing the world a favor. Presentism is the playground of the ego. It allows us to be unconcerned with past lessons or future consequences. Presentism in hip-hop culture has led to a revolving door of one-hit wonders. Surely a longer view is required for our politics …

But hip-hop’s political sensibilities also have to grow up, too. We cannot be overly enthralled by the symbolic. Statements like “My presence is charity, just like Obama’s … the hope he provides … is enough” are not acceptable.

Neither Jay nor the president has responded well to being called out by their elders. They have met legitimate critiques with ego-driven resistance, worrying more about how their responses will affect their multicultural street cred. Perhaps as fatherless sons in a generation marked by absentee patriarchs, theirs is a healthy skepticism of the kind of civic and cultural fathering portended by elder black statesmen calling them on their missteps.


Read Brittney Cooper's entire piece at Salon.

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