President Obama’s commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta certainly has gotten a lot of attention. Quite a few Africans Americans don’t like how he talks to predominantly black audiences. As The Post’s Vanessa Williams reported yesterday, “The personal-responsibility finger-wagging … is getting old” for many. My disagreement with that is well documented. But lost in all the talk about what the president said to the all-male historically black college is how Obama ensured that his finger-wagging message also applied to gay black men.
Now, there was some initial confusion about the reaction to what he said. But if you fast forward to 22:18 on the video of the president’s speech and listen attentively to the audio, you’ll hear something wonderful happen. Obama was extolling the hard work and dedication of one of the graduates who personified his urging to the men to “[k]eep setting an example for what it means to be a man.”
“Be the best husband to your wife,” Obama said. “Yeah!” came the response.
Then, the president added this: “Or your boyfriend, or your partner.” One of the graduates yelled out, “That’s right, too!” The reaction to that response was one of laughter and applause. Given Obama’s “wait a minute now” gesticulation during the laughter, perhaps he worried that folks were reacting negatively to his inclusiveness. He needn’t have. But it was another example of Obama’s fearlessness in talking about gay and lesbian issues in any audience, particularly African American audiences.
Much like his mention of Stonewall and marriage equality in his inaugural address, Obama’s inclusion of “partner, or your boyfriend” was a startling moment. You couldn’t believe he said it, but you were glad and proud that he did. For, with just a few words, a black man who happens to be the leader of the free world told his fellow black men that gay relationships are on par with straight ones. They demand the same responsibility. They deserve the same respect.
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