I still remember the feeling on campus when Obama was elected president. It was electric. There was the real feeling of victory, as if finally, the political process accomplished something worthwhile.
But I wonder if the honeymoon is over. Almost four years later, we can see clearly whether or not he is all he said he would be as a president. Some are shaking their heads in regret or disappointment. Many black Americans feel that Obama has forgotten black America.
In some ways, this reaction isn’t surprising. One of the things that I disliked about Obama’s campaign was the use of the buzzwords “hope” and “change.” These words reached down deep inside of the hearts and minds of many desperate people and took root. Some came to put Obama on something of a pedestal and truly expected his presidency to represent a turning point in their lives. If that hasn’t happened, then they feel betrayed.
This is dangerous. The idea that we put so much stock in one individual speaks volumes about the role government has come to play in our lives. These last years have been hard on a lot of families. Many were looking for hope anywhere they could find it, any ray of light at the end of the tunnel that didn’t turn out to be another train. But when you look to any human being as a messiah, as some sort of savior, you set both yourself and that person up for massive failure. Obama ain’t Jesus.
Black Americans are disappointed in Obama because they feel forgotten by him. He skipped the NAACP National convention. Dr. Boyce Watkins remarked that “The last three years have been a relative wasteland when it comes to political and economic progress for African Americans, and even the most ardent Obama supporters are growing tired.” But when Bill Cosby got in trouble for his [in]famous "Pound Cake" speech, he was mainly pointing out an elephant in the room. The lack of a culture of marriage and child rearing, education, and personal responsibility are the things that have crippled the black community, and no presidency is going to eradicate these problems.
True, there are problems over and above morality and community life, but these represent the core. Anthony Bradley hit the nail on the head::
“Government is neither designed nor equipped to create and sustain jobs. Thousands of years of experience show clearly: Only entrepreneurs have the gifts and expertise to create jobs. We need to encourage them because sustainable employment is the only long-term solution to poverty and unemployment… With respect to family, one important thing President Obama can do is to continue to provide an encouraging example. Even if you do not agree with Obama’s politics, the president is certainly a model of a man who is committed to his wife and children. If we want to make a better black history – and leave a better legacy for our youth -- we have to morally form black men so that they remain committed to loving women and children within the context of marriage.”
Whether or not Obama is elected again, the black community needs family men. It needs entrepreneurs, job creators. And it needs a government who will support these institutions.
Legacies are difficult things to predict. I don’t know what my kids or grandkids will say about Obama in the years to come. I hope they are fair to him. But I hope that the legacy I leave matters more.