Disrespecting the President—“Will You Be My Homeboy?”

Disrespecting the President—“Will You Be My Homeboy?”
by L. Arthalia Cravin

I am probably the only person on planet earth who was neither impressed nor amused with the 11-year old black kid who managed to get an interview with President Obama. What I saw was a little “mannish” kid who should have received better counseling by the adults who prepared him for the interview.

The term “mannish,” and “womanish” were commonly used when I was a child, some 50 years ago, to describe children who tried to act grown-up–too soon. For example, a 7-year old girl who wore nylon stockings would have been called “womanish.” Likewise, a young boy who tried to smoke, or curse, would have been called “mannish.” These terms were meant to remind children that they were not adults—yet–and to stop trying to grow up too soon. Both terms have long since lost all relevance because nowadays kids seem to come out the womb already “half grown.” By the time they’re 5 and 6, too many of “this generation” of kids are dressing like little skanks and wondering (out loud) what sex feels like. How they got that way is the stuff of another column.

The 11-year old interviewer, who might get an “A” for persistence, went too far when he ended the interview by asking the President if he would be his “homeboy.” The kid told the President that vice President Biden had already agreed, (during an interview by the same kid) to be his “homeboy,” Homeboy? An 11-year old kid asking the President of the United States to be his “homeboy?” The only thing that comes close to this insult of the President was the man from Montana who stood up at a town hall meeting last week, and yelled at the President that trying to fix the healthcare system “was a bunch of bull.” When in the history of the Presidency of the United States has any citizen spoken to the President that way? Did anyone say to Bush that his explanation about going to war in Iraq was “a bunch of bull?” Did anyone every say to Richard Nixon that Watergate was “a bunch of bull?” The answer to both questions is “No.” So why is President Obama the target of so much disrespect?

Am I the only person who discerns the difference in treatment of this President? Am I over-reacting to the 11-year old boy’s use of the term “homeboy? What exactly is a “homeboy” anyway? The best definition I can find for “homeboy” comes from the “free” online dictionary: (1) “homeboy – a fellow male member of a youth gang.” (2) “homeboy – a male friend from your neighborhood or hometown.” Which one was the 11-year old kid referring to? Why did the President, before saying “yes” not teach the kid a lesson and ask, “Young man, before I answer that question, let me say this: I am a grown man, what do you mean by “home-boy?” Such a response would have put the young man, and the adults who put him up to it, on notice that asking such a question was ill-advised. Instead of hurriedly saying “yes,” the President should have said, “Young man, I think we should look for a more wholesome relationship, than “homeboy,” that will benefit you a lot better in the long run.” The President also could have said, “If vice President Biden has agreed to be your “homeboy” then that ought to be enough. Why don’t I become one of your mentors?” The President should have said a lot of things to correct the kid’s totally disrespectful question. What do your think?

Copyright 2009 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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  1. avatar Kenneth says:

    Dear Miss Cravin,

    I am always enlightened by your articles and eloquent writing style; but this is one time that I will have to question YOUR question. Where exactly are you from; definition 2 is what I believe the 11 year old was asking. Don’t get me wrong, both of these meanings are legit in today’s society, but used to be–the part of Texas that we’re from–homeboy merely meant \friend\, \longtime friend\, \close friend\, or just as the definition in your article states someone you know from the neighborhood (or \hood\ as it is referred to today) or town.

    Not to be confused with some wild child writing in response to your article about the 11-year-old; but I am 40 years old from the Texas area. Are you serious? Are you shame of who you are or where you come from as you would know–\homeboy\ is really the mildest and most cordial venacular that black males use referring to each other or anybody for that matter.

    What if the 11-year-old had asked, \President Obama, would you be my nigga?\ This is real Ms. Cravin because not only do young black males (and older black males as well) use this venacular, but Caucasian, Spanish (or Mexican), and Asians use it as well….and think it is cool.

    I don’t see the harm in the 11-year-old asking the President could he be his homeboy. I’m sorry, I don’t. That calls for taking a long look in the mirror at who we are. \Homeboy\ is not a \nigga\ or a \nigger\ term. \Homeboy\ still means friend ultimately–that there is an alliance.

    \Homie\ or \homey\ goes both ways. Although I have heard the term \homeboy\ used (only a few times)during altercations. The President should actually be flattered I think. In the 11-year-old’s defense–what black child has ever asked a President or any authority figure to be their \HOMEBOY\ (friend)?