In one week, President Obama covered the waterfront on racial politics. Although, in his address to the delegates at the NAACP's Centennial he said, "an African-American child is roughly five times as likely as a white child to see the inside of a jail," he also used the same "personal responsibility" rhetoric as he has every time he has spoken to African American audiences as candidate and president. Just days later, he would answer a question at a prime time press conference regarding the arrest of African American Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that would place him in the middle of the debate on racial profiling.
"Personal responsibility," a Republican vocabulary word born in the Reagan era, plays politically well among moderate and conservative Whites, and even among some White liberals who, unfortunately, have a hard time distinguishing reality from the right-wing noise machine. The "personal responsibility" argument suggests that there is some inherent pathology within African Americans that is disabling. "Personal responsibility" is the modern day replacement for the antebellum term that endured through the middle of the 20th century -- "shiftlessness."
Today, Republicans argue "personal responsibility/shiftlessness" most frequently with the statistic that 70% of African American children are born to single mothers. But according to the Institute for Policy Studies, "the increase in the share of White children living in a single parent home has been much higher (229%) than for Black children (155%) since 1960." Yet Whites are never accused of lacking personal responsibility or preached to about the subject. And sometimes we Democrats, Lefties and Progressives are too quick to repeat what the Right has popularly propagandized without a careful analysis of this rhetoric's roots.