Saturday, November 10, 2012


Like many of my friends, colleagues and clients, I am relieved, even joyful, that Obama has been re-elected.  Some of us were not so sure he would be.  Others were certain, deep in faith.  Among both, many prayed.   I did not contribute to his campaign, as before, my way of expressing my disappointment at his first term.  In particular, his downplaying of his African-American identity and issues of race, and the ways he seemed to be a politician ordinaire, more concerned with his re-electability than the integrity of taking a position, unpopular as it may have been.

In The Fear of a Black President, (Atlantic magazine, September, 2012) Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to the pressure on Obama to be "twice as good and half as Black."  We can be sure we are not living in a post-racial, post-class or post-anything society as long as entry and advancing in the club require that certain identities be downplayed or covered, along with the injustices associated with them.  Cautious has often been used in the liberal media to describe Obama.  Bill Maher, who supported Obama's campaign, lamented repeatedly that Obama gave way or accommodated as opposed to playing hardball or taking a firm position.  I found myself thinking of how African descendants were taught to be careful, cautious, in order to survive, and above all else, to avoid making the empowered feel nervous about keeping their power, or the righteousness of it.  I had hoped that Obama's leadership would include a challenge to this continuing demand, and that he would use his Harvard education, biracial, and Presidency credentials to help this nation go further in facing the legacy of race. 

But my disappointment does not muddy the many things I admire about Obama.   They are inspiring, poignant and offer redress.  
  • He had the vision and the boldness to run for President.
  • He spent time doing community organizing in Chicago.
  • His initial speech on race following the brouhaha about his association with Rev. Wright.
  • He chose and was chosen by Michelle as a spouse.
  • He is able to speak about mistakes he's made.
  • He has been willing to acknowledge in certain contexts that the U.S. has supported dictators.
  • He instituted for a period of time a reduced cost for COBRA benefits for the unemployed.
  • He appointed two women to the Supreme Court.
  • The way he holds Michelle's hand and puts his arm around her.
  • He brought his family to Ghana and visited Elmina Castle, the first site of imprisonment of enslaved Africans.
  • Obamacare - preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions, making health insurance possible for all.
  • The love he shows his daughters, the way he speaks of them
  • His writing in Dreams of my Father
  • His allowing tears to stream down his face
  • His intellect
  • The way he uses humor at times to deal with the madness of others
  • His 2008 campaign was so well organized and strategic that he won, allowing my mom, who grew up in the segregated South, to witness this country elect a Black President before she died


  1. The world of politics is a vicious arena. President Obama's ability to win election in 2008 and re-election in 2012 can only be described as brillant. That brillance is what makes his detractors so very angry. The fact that a Black man outsmarted them not once but twice is simply unbearable for many. To them "smart Black man" is an oxymoron. I was born and live in this country's reddest state. For many years I have supported and followed the work of the Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC identifies, tracks and challenges racist groups, hate groups and extremist groups in general. SPLC identified 602 hate groups in 2000, 1,002 in 2010 and 1018 in 2011. There was a 755% rise in the antigovernment Patriot groups during the first three years of the Obama administration. It takes a very strong and determined Black man to endure, survive and succeed in this environment.
    In the 1970s I was on the faculty at Tuskegee Institute. During a faculty and study gathering there were students who stated that no Black people had done anything since Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. More recently, my brother's love child told me that he was 12 years old when he first saw a Black man reading.
    I hope that young Black men and boys see in President Obama success that bears no relationship to sports, entertainment or illegal activities. I hope that Black boys and girls see not just a Black man who reads books but also a Black man who has written books.
    I hope they see the awesome beauty of a Black man respecting and publically acknowledging his love for the women who brought him to this point and are daily his most valuable support as he deals with the problems of this nation. I hope they listen when he speaks of his relationship with his daughters and of his efforts to be an integral part of their lives everyday.
    Barack Obama is not just the President of the United States, he is to many, I hope, an example of a succesful Black man who regularly demonstrates desirous characteristics of a loving and caring husband and father. Every Black boy, girl, man and woman is a witness to his actions. They can't say I've never seen such.

  2. Ase Bernadine. I can't add to what you've said.