Problematic Presidential Playlists


Obama on an iPod

Much has been made of the music on President Obama’s iPod. I saw one news story that made him seem like an old fogey who nostalgically partook in much classic rock; within an hour, I saw another which sounded (heh) the alarm about the Commander-in-Chief liking gangsta rap.

Now, there is this opinion piece, from the Wall Street Journal, calling out the President for listening to hip-hop because “that’s the wrong message for the president to be sending black America”.

For so many black Americans, Barack Obama is appealing and promising precisely because he represents a powerful, necessary alternative to Jay-Z’s version of blackness.

That’s why I cheered when Mr. Obama, then a little-known state senator, inserted himself into the cultural debate during the 2004 Democratic National Convention: “Children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white,” he declared. And it’s why I cheered again last year when he told an NAACP gathering that, “Our kids can’t all aspire to be LeBron [James] or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers.”

The president is entitled to his friends and aesthetic tastes. But he undermines his own laudable message and example when he associates himself with a hip-hop culture that diminishes blacks.