Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

soon you’ll understand: three reasons why we need to give president obama a break

barack_obama2

although president obama’s approval rating has steadied in the past couple of months, between between the beer summit, his seemingly passive role in the health care debate, and his unsuccessful trip to copenhagen, his overwhelmingly strong support in the black community seems to be wavering a bit. while this sentiment won’t be found in any surveys or polls, visit any barbershop, beauty salon, or blog and you’ll see a subtle change from “yes we can” to “i mean, i still think we might, but…”, a feeling which can potentially be the beginning of a slippery slide to “f*ck that n*gga”.

i understand where this is coming from. when you’re part of a group of people who’ve been the returned orphan to america’s anita tedaldi over and over again, its almost impossible to return the skepticism and doubt that comes with that package.

still, i think that we need to put ourselves aside for a minute and give president obama a break, and here’s three reasons why.

1. we’ve never seen him before

for most of us (i’m 30 years old, and i’m assuming that the majority of the people who frequent this site are somewhere between 21 and 35) the black politicians we’ve seen in our lifetimes can easily be split into three catagories

a) “neighborhood”-centric civil rights and injustice hounds with staunch ties to black social networks and zealous support from the black church

b) “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” bon vivants insisting on an eschewing of urban culture and a return to traditional family values

c) kwame kilpatrick

like contemporaries such as newark mayor cory booker, president obama doesn’t fit any of these categories, and the uniqueness of his person and his position has been a tough pill for many of us to swallow.

we’ve been conditioned to expect representatives who’d salivate at the opportunity to rain fire and brimstone on a white cop (from boston!) who publicly disrespected an esteemed black academic, neglecting to remember that such divisive tactics would blatantly contradict the presidents gameplan. we wonder how he could fly to denmark to lobby about some games seven summers away for a city where 36 city students were murdered in one year, not realizing that being awarded that honor would have been a substantial boon for the entire country, not just the city of chicago.

we’re used to seeing the micro acts of a community activist or state representative instead of the excessively macro dance of a black leader of a predominately white country, forgetting that while the president may be one of us…he doesn’t belong to us.

basically, he’s chocolate milk from a community titty, and we need to learn to share the titty.

2. we’ve never been here before, either

i have a friend who just “discovered” the NBA in may of 2008. although he’s a native nigerian whose sports tastes are definitely more pele than chris paul, he became so enthralled with the lakers and kobe bryant last spring that he started writing “deuce cuatro” on the back of his adidas and begin referring to himself as the mamba in the third person. (trust me, you haven’t lived until a 5’7 nigerian tells you that the mamba got on some tight, tight ass” after you ask him what he did friday night.)

anyway, i remember how frustrated he’d get last year if the lakers seemed disinterested or lost two games in row. at least once every couple of weeks he’d send me some 1000 word nigerian curse filled email cursing phil jackson, luke walton, and luke waltons fro, and i’d calm him, reminding him that the lakers would be fine.

you see, he had never paid attention to the regular season before, and it took him a while to realize that you can’t hem and haw over every minor misstep in an 82 game season unless you wanted to drive yourself crazy.

i’m bringing this up because the situation with my nigerian buddy is parallel to that of much of black america today. before 2008, i suspect that most of you were similar to me: an “appropriate” interest in the country and world affairs mixed with an aggressive apathy towards the day-to-day minutiae of american politics.

basically, we knew just enough to answer any of the potential “so, how do you feel about iraq?” first date vetting questions that are never, ever asked by anyone, anywhere, ever.

now, because we feel more of an emotional tie with washington, more of us are switching between fox, cnn, cspan, and msnbc eight hours a day, peering the president’s every move, minding every mundane bill, and paying attention to every pundit. while an increased interest with and awareness of politics definitely isn’t a bad thing, it would be in everyone’s best to chill with the monday morning quarterbacking. try to remember that barring disaster, obama is going to be in office for eight freakin years, and a mistake or two in the first eight months isn’t going to end the world or repeal our upcoming reparations checks.

3. he’s earned it

admittedly, i’ve had my doubts. in fact, the last entry on my old blog was a 1,000 word tome in 2007 expressing why i thought obama shouldn’t run for president. convinced that he had no chance to beat hilary clinton, i wrote about how quickly and suddenly other high profile presidential losers in my lifetime, from mike dukasis to john kerry, fell off the political map (except for al gore, who merely just turned into a lesbian) and i didn’t want to see him suffer that same fate.

as he’s prone to do, he proved me and millions of other people wrong, and i think he’s done more than enough to earn the benefit of the doubtfor now

hmmm. this was alot, lol.

i’m curious, people of vsb.com.

how do think the pres is doing so far, has he surpassed or fell short of your expectations, and do you think we’re too hypersensitive (or not sensitive enough) to his plight?

—the champ

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • Lili

    eight freakin years

    I like your enthusiasm!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Lili,

      Lol, you don’t agree?

      • http://ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

        @The Champ,
        I figure he should win another term, but it would be interesting if he just said “eff it” after four years. Just said he had enough.

        But, this is good post. Pretty much sums up everything I feel. I have stopped watching cable news because it’s not good for my mental health.

        • Me fail english?

          @Big Man,

          Yeah it raises my blood pressure.

          And interestingly, a study was done that suggests whether you watch the ppl who lean your way or not, cable news has more of a polarizing effect than educational or enlightening.

          • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

            @Me fail english?,

            And interestingly, a study was done that suggests whether you watch the ppl who lean your way or not, cable news has more of a polarizing effect than educational or enlightening.

            did you know that study was actually done during a vsb happy hour last year?

          • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

            @Me fail english?,

            And interestingly, a study was done that suggests whether you watch the ppl who lean your way or not, cable news has more of a polarizing effect than educational or enlightening.

            did you know that study was actually done during a vsb happy hour last year?

        • Me fail english?

          @Big Man,

          Yeah it raises my blood pressure.

          And interestingly, a study was done that suggests whether you watch the ppl who lean your way or not, cable news has more of a polarizing effect than educational or enlightening.

      • http://ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

        @The Champ,
        I figure he should win another term, but it would be interesting if he just said “eff it” after four years. Just said he had enough.

        But, this is good post. Pretty much sums up everything I feel. I have stopped watching cable news because it’s not good for my mental health.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Lili,

      Lol, you don’t agree?

  • Lili

    eight freakin years

    I like your enthusiasm!

  • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com/ Selah

    I would have to agree on all accounts. For some reason people seem to think that he is Superman and he should have fixed all that is wrong with this country as soon as he stepped into office. Uhmmm.. NO. It took 8 years for us to get this low, it’s gonna take a while to get better.

    But I think we also have to remember that, black or not, he’s a politician. And when is the last time any politician has ever made everyone 100% happy? That’s just not the way it works.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Selah,

      ray nagin made me 1000 percent happy when I realized how much he looks like drew gooden. that alone provided at least three months of new jokes for me.

      • http://toselahwithlove.blogspot.com/ Selah

        @The Champ,

        I had to go google that… LOL!

      • http://toselahwithlove.blogspot.com/ Selah

        @The Champ,

        I had to go google that… LOL!

      • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

        @The Champ, Speaking of Nagin, what’s with all these lite brite chromedome mayors? Nagin, Adrian Fenty, Corey Booker…is that the look you need to get elected in a chocolate city?

        • miss t-lee

          @Stuff Ghetto People Like,
          Don’t forget Deval Patrick…oh yeah, but you were talking about mayors, not governors.

        • miss t-lee

          @Stuff Ghetto People Like,
          Don’t forget Deval Patrick…oh yeah, but you were talking about mayors, not governors.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

          Speaking of Nagin, what’s with all these lite brite chromedome mayors? Nagin, Adrian Fenty, Corey Booker…is that the look you need to get elected in a chocolate city?

          do get elected? no. to get elected and have a documentary made about you? yes

          • arieswym

            @The Champ,

            Then what about The Nine Lives of Marion Barry? HBO showed the documentary recently. Barry is definitely not a lite brite mayor

          • arieswym

            @The Champ,

            Then what about The Nine Lives of Marion Barry? HBO showed the documentary recently. Barry is definitely not a lite brite mayor

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

          Speaking of Nagin, what’s with all these lite brite chromedome mayors? Nagin, Adrian Fenty, Corey Booker…is that the look you need to get elected in a chocolate city?

          do get elected? no. to get elected and have a documentary made about you? yes

      • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

        @The Champ, Speaking of Nagin, what’s with all these lite brite chromedome mayors? Nagin, Adrian Fenty, Corey Booker…is that the look you need to get elected in a chocolate city?

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Selah,

      ray nagin made me 1000 percent happy when I realized how much he looks like drew gooden. that alone provided at least three months of new jokes for me.

  • http://fromselahwithlove.blogspot.com/ Selah

    I would have to agree on all accounts. For some reason people seem to think that he is Superman and he should have fixed all that is wrong with this country as soon as he stepped into office. Uhmmm.. NO. It took 8 years for us to get this low, it’s gonna take a while to get better.

    But I think we also have to remember that, black or not, he’s a politician. And when is the last time any politician has ever made everyone 100% happy? That’s just not the way it works.

  • h3avensent08

    its sad, really… he hasn’t even in office for half a term & people(black & white) are complaining. this just goes to show how impatient Americans(& people) are. Rome was not built in a day & neither was it rebuilt in a day after barbarians took over. Bush made a mess of the US Gov’t rebuilding doesn’t come overnight it can take years!
    For example Clinton didn’t really accomplish much in his 1st term after Bush Sr & Reagan. His 2nd Term didn’t even seemed guaranteed..
    we as people just need to learn to be patient!
    but for some odd reason i feel like i’m talking to a wall.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @h3avensent08,

      that’s not a brick wall. its just the champs chest

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @h3avensent08,

      that’s not a brick wall. its just the champs chest

  • h3avensent08

    its sad, really… he hasn’t even in office for half a term & people(black & white) are complaining. this just goes to show how impatient Americans(& people) are. Rome was not built in a day & neither was it rebuilt in a day after barbarians took over. Bush made a mess of the US Gov’t rebuilding doesn’t come overnight it can take years!
    For example Clinton didn’t really accomplish much in his 1st term after Bush Sr & Reagan. His 2nd Term didn’t even seemed guaranteed..
    we as people just need to learn to be patient!
    but for some odd reason i feel like i’m talking to a wall.

  • YofromMN

    I agree with this post. I have a lot of respect for this man. Not only can’t he be everywhere at once he also has to clean up the mess that the other Pres made…(I won’t say any names….cough cough BUSH! oops lol) No but overall he is making improvements inch by inch and sometimes you have to go down before you come up.

    • h3avensent08

      @YofromMN,
      AGREE!!!

    • h3avensent08

      @YofromMN,
      AGREE!!!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @YofromMN,

      welcome and sh*t

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @YofromMN,

      welcome and sh*t

  • YofromMN

    I agree with this post. I have a lot of respect for this man. Not only can’t he be everywhere at once he also has to clean up the mess that the other Pres made…(I won’t say any names….cough cough BUSH! oops lol) No but overall he is making improvements inch by inch and sometimes you have to go down before you come up.

  • http://stickwithyocat.blogspot.com/ V.E.G.

    First, I think you are wrong by saying Obama is different than a:

    ““neighborhood”-centric civil rights and injustice hounds with staunch ties to black social networks and zealous support from the black church”

    What do you think Obama was before he became a US Senator? A community organizer that worked with black churches on the south side of Chicago. He was exactly what you are saying he is/was not.

    That said ,I think he deserves a break from the masses who were not familiar with him before his presidential run because he, as you say, does appear to be different from any black politician we have seen.

    But those who ARE familiar with him, pre-POTUS, don’t have to give him a break. I worked at an org. where Barry – pre US Senate – was on the Board. He was a very different man than he is today…on the surface. His interests and way of speaking about things changed once he decided to run. I could say, based on what I saw then and what I see now that he changed.

    But I am giving him a break anyway. Despite what I think are quasi-passive approaches to issues he ran on. Why?

    1) He was overly ambitious and naive and promising the ish he promised during his campaign
    2) He has a steep hill to climb in terms of fixing America’s mess
    3) All of America is not ready for some of the changes he wants to bring about

    I think we often forget that politicians have to work within a system. And if that system is full or red tape and foolishness, it’s hard as he!! to bring about change in a short amount of time.

    Though I do get annoyed at Barry sometimes, I am far more annoyed at the changes he has to go through to get positive ish done when GW was able to invade a country despite protests from the UN and the world.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @V.E.G.,

      although he made community connections in chicago, was a civil rights “hound” and eventually became aligned with a black church, he’s not the “typical” black politican who was raised in the church and grew up in the black community. he didn’t come from a political family, and, as far as I know, he doesn’t have any ties to any black greek organizations or hbcu’s. this is what I was referring to in regards to him not fitting the usual categories.

      question: for someone (like you) who was aware of him before 2004, what type of president were you expecting?

      • WestIndianArchie

        @The Champ,

        Basically. He’s light years away from being Sharpton, Jackson, or Farrakhan – all of which – had they gotten elected (lol) woulda really gone after the Republicans and Conservative policies.

        Dude rolls with University of Chicago economists.

      • WestIndianArchie

        @The Champ,

        Basically. He’s light years away from being Sharpton, Jackson, or Farrakhan – all of which – had they gotten elected (lol) woulda really gone after the Republicans and Conservative policies.

        Dude rolls with University of Chicago economists.

      • Ann G

        @The Champ,

        I’m sorry, are greek orgs and hbcu’s the only groups that count as black social networks these days? *confused*

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          @Ann G,

          “I’m sorry, are greek orgs and hbcu’s the only groups that count as black social networks these days? *confused*”

          no. just examples of the type of social networks that black politicians usually have some tie to.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          @Ann G,

          “I’m sorry, are greek orgs and hbcu’s the only groups that count as black social networks these days? *confused*”

          no. just examples of the type of social networks that black politicians usually have some tie to.

      • Ann G

        @The Champ,

        I’m sorry, are greek orgs and hbcu’s the only groups that count as black social networks these days? *confused*

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @V.E.G.,

      although he made community connections in chicago, was a civil rights “hound” and eventually became aligned with a black church, he’s not the “typical” black politican who was raised in the church and grew up in the black community. he didn’t come from a political family, and, as far as I know, he doesn’t have any ties to any black greek organizations or hbcu’s. this is what I was referring to in regards to him not fitting the usual categories.

      question: for someone (like you) who was aware of him before 2004, what type of president were you expecting?

  • http://stickwithyocat.blogspot.com/ V.E.G.

    First, I think you are wrong by saying Obama is different than a:

    ““neighborhood”-centric civil rights and injustice hounds with staunch ties to black social networks and zealous support from the black church”

    What do you think Obama was before he became a US Senator? A community organizer that worked with black churches on the south side of Chicago. He was exactly what you are saying he is/was not.

    That said ,I think he deserves a break from the masses who were not familiar with him before his presidential run because he, as you say, does appear to be different from any black politician we have seen.

    But those who ARE familiar with him, pre-POTUS, don’t have to give him a break. I worked at an org. where Barry – pre US Senate – was on the Board. He was a very different man than he is today…on the surface. His interests and way of speaking about things changed once he decided to run. I could say, based on what I saw then and what I see now that he changed.

    But I am giving him a break anyway. Despite what I think are quasi-passive approaches to issues he ran on. Why?

    1) He was overly ambitious and naive and promising the ish he promised during his campaign
    2) He has a steep hill to climb in terms of fixing America’s mess
    3) All of America is not ready for some of the changes he wants to bring about

    I think we often forget that politicians have to work within a system. And if that system is full or red tape and foolishness, it’s hard as he!! to bring about change in a short amount of time.

    Though I do get annoyed at Barry sometimes, I am far more annoyed at the changes he has to go through to get positive ish done when GW was able to invade a country despite protests from the UN and the world.

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