Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The REAL Significance of Obama's Presidency

Yesterday was one for the history books - Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States. Depending on what history book you read, he is (supposedly) the first President of the United States of African descent. There are those who say differently, but at as far as most people are concerned, Barack Obama is the first African-American president. My parents (in their 70s) were very pleased, as were many other Black Americans and African-Americans (there's a difference, technically). Although you know how I feel about Obama, I recognize that having an African-American president is a great step in the right direction for a country whose past has been rooted in racial inequality and injustice.


But once you come down off of the Civil Rights Movement high, you might actually start to think about what Obama's presidency REALLY means. His office and his job have NOTHING to do with race. His being elected DOES NOT improve race relations in this country or abroad.

In fact, his presidency has already proven that Americans are still STUCK ON STUPID when it comes to cultural and racial sensitivity and tolerance, whether they be Black, White, Brown, or otherwise.

Case in point:

As the inauguration approached, more White and Latino Americans began asking my husband and I if we were excited, if we were "going to party" with "our president", and other paternalistic, foot-in-mouth questions. Am I planning to 'party' with 'my president' on Tuesday? I'm supposed to be excited about this just because I'm Black, with no regard to my values or even my political affiliation? No matter what I stand for, Obama's being Black is supposed to be enough to make me want to party? That's how you see it? Of COURSE that's how they see it, because that's all we project! Then we allow the drive-by media to make it all about race while pretending it's not all about race! Aaaaagh!

[NOTE: Did you notice that the only people who weren't harping on Obama's racial heritage were the Republicans who many accuse of being racist? They didn't even care! But I digress...]

White Americans rarely have any idea of what to say in situations that involve the development of another race. One major reason is their paternalistic view of minorities, but another factor is how we tend to wear our race on our sleeve, making everything about being Black. EVERYTHING. How do you win when you're not Black, and you want to encourage someone who is Black concerning the historical relevance of having an African-American president? When Black people vote so unilaterally, how do they know when they're talking to Black people who are conservative Republicans? Many of you may have gotten these stupid comments and questions, too, but you didn't realize what they were because all you could see was your dark skin in the White House. I get it. Now, however, it's time to sober up and look at how things really are. We've got to stop crying or doing the funky chicken or whatever and start critically analyzing what's going on if we care anything at all about the impact that Obama's presidency will have on Black America as a whole.

Since Black Americans made this election all about having our first African-American president, please believe that's what his tenure is going to be about. The media played on White guilt while Obama campaigned, being sure to put every proud Black face and African relative the man had on national television. We showed our preoccupation with race, and they showed it to the world (If you don't think this was intentionally done and that it didn't affect any White voters, you are fooling yourself). So, understand that Obama's skin is always going to be in the forefront during his tenure as president, whether you like it or not, and whether people are willing to admit it or not.

So, what does that mean?

* If he makes any huge mistakes (and he will), non-Black Americans will deflect those failures upon Black leadership in general.

* If Black Americans as a whole do not improve their condition during his tenure, Obama will appear to be an exceptional African-American compared to the rest of us ignorant thugs.

* If Hollywood gets too progress-happy, we may see a huge increase in Black characters who are professionals and government officials in television and movies - that's just superficial and annoying to ANYONE who watches it long enough.

* All of the cries of disenfranchisement will be thwarted and considered baseless because if America can elect an African-American president, the playing field must be leveled, right? This isn't good if you are a proponent for Affirmative Action or other special rights for minorities.

* Black History Month will probably bring out the nationalistic tendencies in most of us, causing us to overdo it and put our Blackness in everyone else's face, turning off White Americans who thought that electing an African-American president was about togetherness and the progress of the country as a whole when it was really about us 'having our day in the sun'. This will serve to separate us even more.

* If Obama screws up royally, White Americans won't be voting for another African-American president for a long time, considering that so much emphasis was placed on his being African-American.

Don't get me wrong, people; I understand the historical significance of an African-American president, and it is something that should be celebrated. However, I believe that we were exploited by the Democratic Party and the left-wing media in order to further their own causes, NOT ours! At the end of the day, we play the race card and we make race an issue WAY TOO MUCH, even when we have the right to do so. It's like the football team who discourages end zone dancing - when you have a victory, act like you expected to. When you make your way to success, have some class; act like you've been there before. We can still celebrate progress while having a certain amount of necessary reservation. We want people to treat us as if they are colorblind when we're not. So, when it works in our favor, we're happy. However, when the racially charged beast we helped create comes back to bite us in the butt, who will we blame then?

It's time to sober up and tighten our game up. February should be spent critically analyzing our history and coming up with a plan to live up to the bar that we have helped Obama raise. Time to step up your game or face certain shame.

Come on, people...


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Outstanding Post!

    What a refreshing read on this otherwise dreary day in Southern California. I am an average white guy who over the past 6 months have been forced to re-evaluate myself constantly, and in the end, what I've come to realize is I really do not care about President Obama's racial heritage; he is in fact half white as well. What I am concerned about is whether or not he can administer the office of the President of the United States.

    In his inaugural speech on Tuesday, he made a statement directed at our enemies something to the affect of "if you unclench your fist and extend your hand, we will reach out to you". That scares me to death because he is still caught up in this 'peace ideology' rather than understanding the reality of who our enemies are and what they ultimately want. That is the perfect example of inexperience. Already, he has issued an order to close Gitmo within a year, seeing the residents as 'criminals' rather than 'enemy combatants.' Again, this example speaks to his lack of experience.

    I am a veteran of the United States Navy, I still honor my oath, and as such will support President Obama, but I fear we are watching the closing act of a 250 year long play called Democracy. French Philosopher Alexis De Tocqueville said the following:

    "America will last until the populace discovers that it can vote for itself the largesse out of the public treasury."

    He was right and since the average democracy lasts only 250 years; the timing couldn't be more perfect.

    Once again, well written, and I appreciate your candor and position.

  3. Great and refreshing post! With Obama, it was colour, with Hillary, it was gender. Who cares about colour/gender/religion etc, it's the person that matters.
    Obama seems like a very smart man, I think he will pick up the game soon and make people remember him not superficially for his colour but for a job well done. (hopefully)

  4. "However, I believe that we were exploited by the Democratic Party and the left-wing media in order to further their own causes, NOT ours!"

    A light bulb moment, but not for this reader, who has always understood that the Dems and left wing media always do what's in their best interests.

  5. Nice post, Obama has taken a lot of heat lately but he has dealt with it like a Pro. He is handling the economy as best he can.