The Obama Legacy for Black People
Today marks the final day of President Obama’s tenure as the President of the United States. I think I got caught up in the whirlwind of commentary on Obama’s legacy, the incoming administration, the comedy show that is Senate confirmation hearings, and the immense amounts of bullshit rhetoric coming from extremist black conscious folks that I almost lost track of the importance of this moment in history. Theirs so much rhetoric and noise out their you can just get lost in it all.
I was just watching the Vox interview of President Obama talking about the Affordable Care Act and then, for some reason, I read a Fox New article on why his administration was the most corrupt in recent history even though in reality it’s the most scandal free in our time. The Vox interview was great, but the Fox News article kind of woke me up to the fact that I had gotten caught up in this wave of political spin “news” that’s aimed at talking at me and attempting to convince me to believe something rather than invite me to look at it objectively. It wasn’t until I watched my last Obama short video clip that I remembered why the Obama presidency was the most consequential moment for the upliftment of black people since the Voting Rights Act. In that video clip, I saw “the picture” that summarized everything for me.
There are actually two pieces of media, both involving black children, that summarized why the Obama presidency was one of most important events in recent black history: (a) the picture and (b) the video.
The picture is currently hanging in the White House and shows a black boy touching President Obama’s hair as he leans down in front of the child. The boy asked to touch his hair out of amazement that it looked so much like his. He actually had to touch it to fully confirm what his eyes were seeing.
The video is of a little girl crying because she realizes Obama will no longer be her president. Why are these symbols the primary representatives of the immense importance and impact of his presidency? Because it summarizes the psychological effect of a black man occupying the most powerful position in a western, predominantly white dominated nation that has always told black children in so many ways that they could only go so far and achieve so much.
I know that’s not enough for the black power and radical crowd and those who wanted to see more overt action to support the upliftment of black people in this country, but the fact of the matter is, our problem as a people is not first and foremost a policy problem. It’s a psychological problem. It’s all mental with us.
One of the issues white women continue to fight in this country is the proverbial glass ceiling that prevents them from occupying the same positions and equal pay as their white male counterparts. That struggle is real no doubt, although major strides have been made that indicate gender bias in higher executive positions in Corporate America have been almost fully integrated with qualified women. The same can’t be said, however, about black male and female integration into these higher positions.
The truth is, black people have never had to deal with a glass ceiling, but rather a concrete slab that’s reinforced with steel girders anywhere from six to eight feet thick. Is that slab that overt and obvious? No, it’s not because the fundamental essence of that slab existence is rooted in our psychology as black people in this country. It’s so hard to explain, but so many of us as black people have this ‘belief’ that only so much is possible and those great things and prestigious positions that are ultimately achievable will require twice the work in about half the time to be obtained. A great example of this is in the movie Cloud Atlas where a runaway slave stowed aboard a ship. He convinced one of the passengers to speak to the captain on his behalf to work on the ship in exchange for him staying aboard. The captain agreed, but was really going to kill him until he saw him doing things he’s never seen a sailor do before. The stowaway was basically swinging from the sails and tying ropes at the same time. He was like Simone Biles doing back flips on a balance beam – no lie. If he was a normal person with average skills, he would have been shark food – real talk.
When I was growing up, we would eat dinner at the table and watch the news. It was a standard practice in my house at that time. The evening news was super depressing and would be filled with examples of black people shooting and robbing each other. There would also be stories of house fires a few times a week and they would usually have a woman being interviewed who wasn’t very well spoken giving the play-by-play of what happened. It was embarrassing and depressing to see that as a child. Every now and then their would be a national story where someone killed someone important or did a mass shooting. It got to the point where we would pray the suspect wasn’t black. Why? Because it was so psychologically deflating to see someone who looks like you ALWAYS perpetrating crimes and fuckery; especially, when no other images or role models seemed to exist. In other words, what I see in those who I most closely can relate too ends up shaping my world. I can’t tell you how ‘impactful’ this was as a child.
Somehow the message with seeing all of the black crime was – this is the standard Rakhem. No one will really be surprised if you succumb to this kind of fuckery and foolishness. I’m not saying those were the expectations in my house because they weren’t. My mother was an educator and pushed good grades and college on his every day. My father was a disciplinarian and didn’t play any BS. But even with their support the psychological effects could be clearly felt. I still feel self-conscious when walking into certain stores in the mall without buying something and I know that mindset comes from all the media crap I’ve been fed since age two.
What I’m saying is what you see in the news and on television defines what you believe and see as possible as a child and an adult. I remember when I was younger never even having a concept of a black president. Let me repeat that so you can understand. I’m not saying I didn’t think a black president could be elected. I’m saying, I had no mental concept or thought of a man with melanin in his skin occupying that office. I would have thought about the metaphysics of rice farming in China before I had a concept of a black man or woman in the White House. Now take my white friends who I grew up next door too. They had the same experience as me in that regard. The concept of a black man in the White House entered their mind about as much as sewing sweatsocks inside the earth’s core. On the contrary, a white man as President was the standard, expected, and with the right effort and education, fully possible for them. See the difference? That’s the reinforced cement slab I’m talking about.
I hear all these black power ninjas talking about Obama’s policies and what he didn’t do for black people. It gets tiring after a while, but I get where they’re coming from. The psychological damage is so deep in their minds that they can’t even see the elephant in the room. They’re trapped in the matrix. Let me try to translate what the Obama presidency communicates psychologically to a black child’s subconscious mind.
YOU CAN BE PRESIDENT OF THE MOST POWERFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!
YOU CAN GO TO HARVARD!
YOU CAN PRACTICE LAW!
YOU CAN HAVE A STRONG FAMILY WITH BEAUTIFUL AND INTELLIGENT CHILDREN!
YOU CAN STAY MARRIED!
YOU CAN WIN THE NOBEL PRIZE!
YOU CAN BE A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR!
YOU CAN BE THE SMARTEST PERSON IN THE COUNTRY!
YOU CAN HANDLE YOURSELF WITH GRACE, CLASS, AND HUMOR!
YOU CAN DO THINGS THE RIGHT WAY AND WITHOUT SCANDAL!
YOU CAN HAVE THE RESPECT OF ANYONE REGARDLESS OF RACE, ETHNICITY, SOCIAL STATUS, OR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN!
YOU CAN RISE ABOVE RACISM AND BLATANT HATE AND RACIST ATTACKS!
YOU CAN PRETTY MUCH DO DAMN NEAR ANYTHING!!!!!
This list goes on. This is what black children got psychologically impregnated with from the Obama presidency EVERY second of every day for three-hundred and sixty-five days a year for a total of two-thousand nine hundred and twenty days over an eight year period. And guess what? They’re going to carry that message into the future for the rest of their lives. It has changed the DNA of black American’s forever.
That’s his number one legacy – he made it and represented. That’s so much more important than any law or policy anyone could write. This is core belief changing stuff. This is the sledgehammer and jackhammer to bust through the concrete slab. Before you criticize and think about it. Think about what psychological barrier you have crushed for the youth. What have actually done, besides talk and criticize that makes a deep impact in the minds of our people? #illwait
The same psychological effects are in play for white children as well. His presidency has installed the biology of belief into our entire citizenry. People questioned if Obama’s election marked the end of racism in our country and when the continued to see bigotry; especially, from members of the House and Senate and the conservative right, it became obvious that it wasn’t the end. But I would say, it’s the beginning of the end of it. I would say, if racism can be eliminated in this country, the necessary psychological seed has been laid at this point. Everyone’s DNA has been forever changed. Now we just have to do our best to work on our own personal biases and hope the children of tomorrow will grow up with a different perspective that will ultimately allow new levels of unity among all peoples.
All that said, President Obama did do a number of concrete things for black people as well, like appointing more black federal judges than any other President in history, but his other accomplishments will be left for a separate post.