President addresses Morehouse graduates

Black American's responsibility

Lee A. Daniels/NNPA Columnist | 5/31/2013, 2:18 p.m. | Updated on 6/3/2013, 5:55 a.m.

The “no excuses” meme used in that way really means: shut up and submit.

In sharp contrast, that exhortation, coming from those who have black Americans’ best interests at heart, as the president and first Lady do, actually means what those who have criticized Obama in this instance— support.

That meaning has long been alternately expressed as well by the old folk saying common among blacks: “You’ve got to be twice as good to get half as much.”

Those words were not said as a sigh of woe, but as a command to never submit, no matter how fierce the gales of racism blew.

Indeed, Obama urged his audience to remember that “Every one of you has a grandma or an uncle or a parent who’s told you that at some point in life, as an African American, you have to work twice as hard as anyone else if you want to get by. … And I promise you … that spirit of [pursuing] excellence, and hard work, and dedication, and no excuses is needed now more than ever.

In other words, the president’s “no excuses” command is a warning that the centuries-long struggle of black Americans to gain their full, deserved share of opportunity in their native land continues. That has been, and remains, each generation’s legacy— and heroic responsibility.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.