President Barack Obama is flanked on stage by musicians Jay-Z, left, and Bruce Springsteen at a campaign event at Nationwide Arena, Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
The president is sending a good message when he hangs out with high-profile members of the African American community.
Just this past Sunday The New York Post
's Phil Mushnick penned a rather self-righteous article
condemning President Barack Obama's highly visible friendship with the rapper Jay-Z.
The angry post examining the friendship between the two men was in many ways long overdue for a president regularly analyzed and usually criticized for each and every action he takes.
The column took note of Jay-Z's 'ex-con' and criminal past. (Jay-Z--the stage name for Shawn Carter--briefly sold drugs and pled guilty to an assault charge for a fight in 1999, for which he received probation.) It also took him to task for the violent and sometimes anti-female and anti-gay lyrics used in several of his rap songs in years gone by.
Mushnick goes on to explain that Jay-Z's perfectly penned rhymes about guns and his lyrical use of them now more than ever stand at odds with the very strong anti-gun position the president and the first lady have taken ever since the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., in December. To back up his claims, Mushnick published examples of Jay-Z 's songs from a decade ago, either unaware or, worse, unwilling to acknowledge rapper's more recent and more enlightened musical releases.
Carter's newer selections don't excuse what he wrote earlier. But the recent Watch the Throne
clearly reveals a more mature and evolved adult male who is now married to Beyoncé
, one of the most famous women on the planet, and the father of a new bouncing baby girl. Somehow Mushnick turned a blind eye to these facts when he mindlessly suggested that if President George W. Bush had a white friend and financial contributor to his political campaign similar to Jay-Z, the media would have surely crucified him. This is complete nonsense.
We have to acknowledge that Carter's royal hip-hop marriage to Queen B (Beyoncé) mainstreamed him in ways no business deal could and made him pitch perfect for his role as BBF of the president. But what's obviously lost on Mushnick and possibly on many others like him is that the friendship of this particular president and this particular rapper is much more complex than it appears.
That of course this is the curious and continuous conundrum of the first African-American president. Any of his friendships and relationships can be called into question simply because they fail to reflect anything seen before in history. But they should not be called so much into question: The president knows exactly what he's doing.
The same dynamic was in play a week ago, when Obama was criticized yet again for meeting up with disgraced golfer Tiger Woods
for a play date during President's Day weekend. Woods was once the undisputed darling of the sports world until the news of his numerous affairs hit the tabloids and ruined his marriage and his red-hot career. President Obama's embrace of the fallen hero struck many as odd and ill-timed but for others, particularly those in the African-American community, the move showed much needed support for the once seemingly unstoppable force in sports.
"I liked the fact that he is reaching out and embracing those young men who may have been misguided or done or said the wrong thing in the past,'' says Pastor George Lambert, of New Hope Church, in LaGrange, Georgia. "It speaks volumes to our youth, particularly our black men who feel their lives have little value or that they are always being criticized for their actions no matter what they do. President Obama is quite familiar with that and they connect with him over being in that place.''