In a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus, Barack Obama turned up the heat. He was fired up. Rather than just give a normal speech, he drifted off into his best Al Sharpton impersonation and told the audience to “stop complainin’.” When Associated Press reporter Mark Smith covered the story, Smith quoted Obama exactly as he said the words… without the g’s at the end. Now, the AP story is making its own news with some claiming that it was racist to quote Obama without cleaning up his text. Come on!
Here’s a clip from Obama’s speech. Pay close attention to the last portion where he purposely changes how he’s saying his words:
So… now the question is… if you are a reporter assigned to cover that speech, what do you do? I guess what you don’t do is quote Obama exactly as he spoke, or you will be branded a racist. As reported on Yahoo! News, African-American author Karen Hunter complained on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show that “the news service transcribed Obama’s speech without cleaning it up as other outlets did — specifically including the ‘dropped g’s.'”
Hunter called the AP’s version “inherently racist,” sparring with New Republic contributing editor and noted linguistics expert John McWhorter, who argued the g-less version “is actually the correct one,” noting that the president’s victory in the 2008 election was due, in part, to how effortlessly “he can switch into that [black] dialect.”
Whatever the reason, Hunter found it offensive. “I teach a journalism class, and I tell my students to fix people’s grammar, because you don’t want them to sound ignorant,” she said. “For them to do that, it’s code, and I don’t like it.”
So, what happens when Sarah Palin goes out there and says, “You betcha!” The media sure have no problem covering it, and I don’t hear people link Ms. Hunter complaining that it’s racist or somehow derogatory. If Obama purposely changes the way he’s talking in order to “sound more black,” isn’t it accurate to quote him as such? More to the point, how in the world is it racist to transcribe the speech as it was actually given?
“The AP Stylebook counsels against using spellings like gonna or wanna — or in this case, complainin’ and cryin’ — ‘in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to help a desired touch or to convey an emphasis by the speaker,'” Tom Kent, the AP deputy managing editor for standards and production, said in a statement to The Cutline. “In this case, our reporter, who was there in person, felt the spellings were appropriate to convey a particular touch that President Obama appeared to be intentionally making use of.”
It really is insane what some people will complain about. It’s clear that Obama was pandering to a black audience. In fact, that should have been THE story of the speech. Imagine a white president talking to a southern audience and going all “bubba” on them. Do you think that would have been news? But it’s ok for Obama to openly pander by going into “black preacher” mode?
All these claims of racism just burn me up. If Obama is going to pander, he should be called on it. If he wants to change the way he talks to score points with an audience, fine. But, it’s NOT racist to call him on it.
And this was supposed to be the “post racial” president? Give me a break. The only way to bring our country together is to focus on what unites us, not what divides us. And yet, that’s all Obama does. Whether it is race or income or education, with Obama, he’s always pitting one group against another.
If Obama truly wants to bring the country together, then he should realize that America is a center-right country that wants lower taxes and small government. He should get onboard with that program and stop cryin’, stop complainin’, and start workin’.