Yes, Black People Talk About Responsibility.

Last night, CNN aired a documentary on the financial standing of African American families, that featured this inspired plea on the problem of debt by Pastor DeForest B. Soaries Jr., the senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. Here's the promo:

I don't have much of an opinion as to whether debt is a bigger problem than racism -- I don't see why they have to be in opposition -- but I'm kind of annoyed by the notion that it's a novel or controversial new message. The message that "you should be financially responsible" has been a standard part of black sermons for as long as there have been black churches, to say nothing of rhetoric from popular figures in the black community like Bill Cosby, or the current president of the United States. It's simply true that if you spend enough time with nearly any group of black people, you will hear someone talk about personal responsibility and the importance of thrift. To borrow some from Ta-Nehisi Coates, it's not that black people have abandoned middle-class values; it's that many African Americans live in worlds where they simply aren't operative.

In any case, that these conversations are found noteworthy says little about black people, and everything about the extent to which African Americans remain invisible, except as a problem or a pathology.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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