Poor Tucker Carlson was highly offended by President Obama's riff on blackness during his commencement address at Howard University, specifically the part where the President told students to “Be confident in your blackness.” Carlson had a very important question for the President, wondering what would have happened if Mitt Romney had won the presidency, and told a graduating class at Brigham Young University to “Be confident in your whiteness”:
That's obviously a trick question for Fox News' audience, because if Romney had won, he obviously would have been too busy dealing with the inevitable Race War to be giving speeches at BYU.
Carlson, you may be surprised to learn, is actually a very intelligent and insightful person in real life, so what he's doing here is the privileged white dick version of what black people call "cooning," but which white people call "Sunday."
Since Carlson seems to have missed all the "specifics" in President Obama's remarks about blackness, here they are:
First of all -- and this should not be a problem for this group -- be confident in your heritage. (Applause.) Be confident in your blackness. One of the great changes that’s occurred in our country since I was your age is the realization there's no one way to be black. Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of debate about whether I'm black enough. (Laughter.) In the past couple months, I’ve had lunch with the Queen of England and hosted Kendrick Lamar in the Oval Office. There’s no straitjacket, there's no constraints, there's no litmus test for authenticity.
Look at Howard. One thing most folks don’t know about Howard is how diverse it is. When you arrived here, some of you were like, oh, they've got black people in Iowa? (Laughter.) But it’s true -- this class comes from big cities and rural communities, and some of you crossed oceans to study here. You shatter stereotypes. Some of you come from a long line of Bison. Some of you are the first in your family to graduate from college. (Applause.) You all talk different, you all dress different. You’re Lakers fans, Celtics fans, maybe even some hockey fans. (Laughter.)
And because of those who've come before you, you have models to follow. You can work for a company, or start your own. You can go into politics, or run an organization that holds politicians accountable. You can write a book that wins the National Book Award, or you can write the new run of “Black Panther.” Or, like one of your alumni, Ta-Nehisi Coates, you can go ahead and just do both. You can create your own style, set your own standard of beauty, embrace your own sexuality. Think about an icon we just lost -- Prince. He blew up categories. People didn’t know what Prince was doing. (Laughter.) And folks loved him for it.
You need to have the same confidence. Or as my daughters tell me all the time, “You be you, Daddy.” (Laughter.) Sometimes Sasha puts a variation on it -- "You do you, Daddy." (Laughter.) And because you’re a black person doing whatever it is that you're doing, that makes it a black thing. Feel confident.
Second, even as we each embrace our own beautiful, unique, and valid versions of our blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans -- and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle. That means we cannot sleepwalk through life. We cannot be ignorant of history. (Applause.) We can’t meet the world with a sense of entitlement. We can’t walk by a homeless man without asking why a society as wealthy as ours allows that state of affairs to occur. We can’t just lock up a low-level dealer without asking why this boy, barely out of childhood, felt he had no other options. We have cousins and uncles and brothers and sisters who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were, but somehow got ground down by structures that are unfair and unjust.
And that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African Americans who haven’t been so lucky -- because, yes, you've worked hard, but you've also been lucky. That's a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they've been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did. So don’t have an attitude. But we must expand our moral imaginations to understand and empathize with all people who are struggling, not just black folks who are struggling -- the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender person, and yes, the middle-aged white guy who you may think has all the advantages, but over the last several decades has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change, and feels powerless to stop it. You got to get in his head, too.