- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

COMMENTARY:

Amid crisp breezes and bright sunshine, Barack Obama took the presidential oath Tuesday afternoon, to the thunderous applause of his supporters, the cautious hopes of the loyal opposition, and the well wishes of all Americans.

Three days earlier, four men were stabbed, one critically, at a Brooklyn party celebrating “Notorious,” the new movie about rapper Notorious B.I.G. He released the album “Ready to Die” before being killed in Los Angeles in 1997. Rapper Jamal “Gravy” Woolard - who portrays B.I.G. - was charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment against his wife last September, the New York Post reports. “She wouldn’t stop pushing me, so I snuffed her,” he allegedly said.

Question: Will Barack Obama’s erudition and elegance finally eclipse the corrosive, often deadly scourge of hip-hop culture and the ghetto mentality that gnaw away like an army of starved termites beneath black America’s floorboards?

Until at least 2013, the whole world will watch a debonair black man whose studiousness and diligence transported him from a broken home to the world’s most famous house. He will share it with the magnetic Michelle Obama, his wife of 16 years. Just like her husband, the first lady avoided the 50-percent black high-school dropout rate, graduated from an Ivy League university, and earned a Harvard law degree. The Obamas’ two lovely daughters know their father and enjoy him in their daily lives.

The Obamas are not alone among black Americans. Millions of blacks peacefully stay in school, commute to work, nurture their loved ones and improve their communities. Alas, industrious black Americans, particularly in the middle class, are virtually invisible in popular culture. Ubiquitous rappers who too often celebrate violence, degrade women, and perpetrate offstage carnage overshadow such decent citizens. Rappers Milton Bruce Scott, Mac Minister, and C-Murder are among those convicted of homicide (although Mr. Murder faces a re-trial.)

Like bees buzzing from rose to rose, too many black men serially impregnate women who are not their wives, spawning a 67.8 percent black out-of-wedlock birthrate.

Mr. Obama’s daily presence in the White House finally may repel this foul tide. He also may unravel the “Acting White Syndrome,” wherein young black students who do homework and speak proper English are mocked by ghetto-oriented black kids for “acting white.” Light years more than white racism, this is the biggest cancer facing black Americans.

Mr. Obama himself told the 2004 Democratic National Convention that America must “eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.”

My two younger sisters and I endured this treatment at a predominantly black Los Angeles elementary school. “Why you actin’ white?” I heard more times than I care to recall, usually uttered by pint-sized hoodlums who spoke exquisite Jive and seemed destined for middle-management in the Crips or their arch-competitors, the Bloods.

My sisters and I thank our parents for their advice: “Ignore those stupid kids, and listen to your teachers.” Those words propelled us through grade school, into junior and senior high in affluent suburbs (thank you, voluntary integration), and on to college, and lives as responsible, self-reliant professional adults.

“When black kids are told they’re ‘white’ to like school, often they stop trying as hard,” says Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Columbia University Adjunct Professor John McWhorter. “When you’re black and 14, often you have a choice between doing well in school and having black friends.”

Let’s hope Mr. Obama’s example leads young black Americans to stop obsessing about white racism, reject hip-hop and ghetto culture, and embrace intellectual achievement. May a million belts bloom, and baggy trousers stop sliding off black men’s rumps - needlessly making them look foolish. (Mr. Obama recommends: “Brothers should pull up their pants.”) May books open, wisdom deepen, and childbirth follow matrimony as a new era of responsibility envelops America’s ‘hoods.

In this respect, President Barack Obama ironically could become a powerful force for socially conservative change.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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