A User's Guide to Having a Black President
Like the majority of you, I am following the election on CNN. Like you, I am extremely proud of what President Obama has been able to accomplish. He has single-handedly had to put up with more bull than any presidential candidate…ever. Yet, like a true Superspade, he has been able to surmount adversity and prevail. This arguably, makes him the most influential person in politics since JFK and the most important African American figure since Martin and Malcolm. Yet, the question everyone is struggling with is this: what does this really mean? And where do we go from here?
I know Americans, especially African Americans have not had any good news for a while. In college, I learned that if a major socioeconomic or political event did not occur in the next 14 years, African Americans would remain an underclass in America forever. Many of us have given money, time and prayers to see this day. For the first time in my short life, Americans became so invested in the political process, from the heart. It was unreal. President Obama revolutionized electoral politics.
However, my fear is that we will take our eyes off the ball. The battle is over, but the war has just begun. The work is really just beginning. We are entering a global recession, the markets have yet to stabilize, we are still in the midst of a housing and regulatory crisis, we are still in a senseless war, and the middle class is under siege. There is still work to do. What is more, there is evidence that America is more racially divided than ever. And the deeply partisan sentiment fostered by this past administration has not helped. President Obama stated as much in his acceptance speech (sidenote: the acceptance speech was quite on point, and it made me feel confident for the first time in years regarding a politician).
In order to make this moment in history more than a footnote and President Obama more than a figurehead, we must continue to demand better leadership, push our agenda and become citizens in the form of the ancient Athenians. We must do our part at the local levels (shout out to Garlin and Brandon) and open the door to more dialogue and begin to rebuild, reclaim and restore what was destroyed over the last eight years. We cannot afford to allow this milestone to make us complacent.
We are now in the honeymoon period. Let us be gracious in victory and not lose track of what is important. There is a lot of healing that needs to done. Right now it is a symbol, it is up to us to continue to make it significant. Obama was the catalyst for a movement, and it is up to us to sustain it. When the honeymoon is over, President Obama will need us to work and walk with dignity. Support him on the good times and for bad. We owe it to our forebears and to ourselves.
So tonight, swig that Champagne, dance, sing, cry. But tomorrow and for the next four years, we need to do work. There are still a lot of bitter people in the country we have to live with. This may drive the country further apart-which we do not need at this point. The absolute worse thing that could happen is that we wake up tomorrow and everything is exactly the way it was the day before. President Obama now has all the tools at his disposal to effect real change. We need to use this event as an opportunity to capitalize on and display the very best and brightest in ourselves. We need to use President Obama’s example to be better men, women and Americans, because he cannot do it by himself. Let’s not put President Obama on such a pedestal that we do not do anything and that we do not allow him to make mistakes. Even Jesus had twelve disciples.
Right now, I am elated, but my pride is tempered with deep and pertinent questions. Yet, for the first time, after years of being ignored, mistreated, and abused, the eyes of the world are on the Black Community, and we cannot and will not disappoint.
For the first time in my life, “I too sing America…”
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas