misplaced hope: a black man’s retrospective of the first black president

While we saw President Obama as the first black President, I suppose that he saw himself as the first non-white President. There’s a difference.

Let me explain.

President Obama had a more than successful presidency when compared to the 43 that came before him. I believe he made some good-willed decisions that positively impacted the greater good. However, I don’t think he made lasting positive impacts on the black community. As a black man surviving middle class America, his 8 years made my life harder. When I voted for him in 2008, I anticipated that my life would be better after his first 4 years. But that wasn’t the case. His administration didn’t yield any policies that specifically eased the burden of the black experience. But homosexuals can get married, illegal immigrants can get an education, and the conditions of other subgroups of America improved. (For the record, I am neither homophobic nor xenophobic. I’m simply stating facts.)

For a while, I was embittered by these realities. Then I realized, he never once said “I’ve come to save black men.” Specifically impacting one subgroup of this melting pot was never his intentions. The hope he was peddling was different than the hope that I was looking to buy. His hope was one-size-fits-all. The barriers he broke down weren’t just for black men or black people as a whole. They were for everybody who didn’t look like his predecessors. I just wish I figured that out in 2008, before I got my hopes up.

But he couldn’t make laws just for black people.

You are absolutely right. And I’ve been vocal about the need not being for new laws, but for more good-willed people carrying out and interpreting laws at the local level. At 24, I was naive enough to believe one man, even holding the highest office in the land, would solve all “our” problems. And I know that I wasn’t alone in that thinking. This is a microcosm of the political ignorance that plagues the black community and most of America.

I was one of those folks that slipped into dormancy once he was elected. I patiently waited to receive that letter that would detail where I could pick up my 2008 version of 40 acres and a mule. I was even willing to settle for some form of student loan forgiveness. But, it took about 4 years before I peeped game. The problem was that I didn’t know what I was seeing or what to do with it. I know now that there is a lack of accountability between constituents and elected officials. We are either so enamored by their skin color or lenient because of their political leanings that we forget that we pay their salaries and they work for us.

A vote without accountability is a wasted vote. In the black community, voting is a spiritual act. (Which is another issue in itself, but I digress for the moment.) The linkages between religion and political participation is more prevalent in the black community than any other subgroup. When we cast a vote, it is a tangible act of faith. It’s as if we’re literally casting all our burdens unto the candidate. Once our ballots are cast, we no longer have to worry about the burdens we carried to the booth. But, where’s the accountability, where’s the work, where’s the co-laboring?

Faith without works is dead.

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