I have what I feel is a healthy emotional (rather than a political) attachment to our 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama. He dropped his summer playlist on Friday and I acted like it was an old school mix tape with “Just the Two of Us” by Chubb Rock. The POTUS mix tape signals what “the real” America actually is. It’s hella brown. Soulful. Brave. Unexpected. With a lil white in it for good measure. Like Obama.
When Obama won the Presidency in 2008 a crowd of us—black, brown, white—went yelling, sobbing, cheering into the middle of Pike Street.
First love is like that. Blackness is definitely one of my first loves.
Black love matters to me because black lives matter to me. The first black President still matters to me, and I love him and what he often symbolizes, especially during his incredibly hard eight years with a treacherously racist Congress.
America’s song makes her great. Black people gave America her song. This cannot necessarily be said of Turtle Island, which is immemorial and will surely outlast America, as Idle No More and other Native American environmental activists leading from the example of Presidential Medal of Honor winner Billy Frank shows.
Can’t you see our very affable white Vice President Joe Biden bopping his head to “Tightrope” by Janelle Monáe? Biden is effortlessly cool because he does not act like a bigot. Joe Biden and Barack Obama’s bromance looks as though it would go with ribs, slaw, brews. It’s basically the opposite of Obama’s “racial” beer summit with legendary scholar Skip Gates after those cloddish white cops arrested him for opening his own front door.
Obama’s list has “Me Gustas Tu” by Manu Chao. Yet, I don’t think that all the undocumented families that Obama has deported feel like he likes them. As one article from early this year read, “The families came to the U.S. looking for a hand, but they got the boot.” A black foot was shod therein. Nonetheless, Obama’s mix also includes “Espera” by Afro Latinx Esperanza Spaulding. Somehow it feels like a reminder that Obama’s behavior towards our immigrant communities is as problematic as Zoe Saldana’s blackface when she played Nina Simone.
My projections onto the President and his family were perhaps at their most dazzling and illusory when he won office the first time. When Hillary eventually wins in 2016, I might feel like I did when my engagement ended. I’ll probably sink to the floor and murmur, “Wow, it’s finally over.”
After all, we cannot pretend that equal opportunity neoliberalism is good for us any more.
Obama’s call for optimism has conflicted with his drone strikes, keeping Guantanamo open, and bragging about killing Osama Bin Laden at the State of the Union though he also holds the Nobel Peace Prize.
Black majesty moves me to tears. So does black complacency, unfortunately.
I grew up being led and loved by amazing black leaders who remind me of Obama. Black love has flashed up brilliantly during his Presidency. The slide deck that goes with the Obama playlist includes the President’s touching video in response to a grandmother whose adorable young granddaughter was inconsolable once she learned Barack’s term will end.
Black leadership is edifying. Like Colt .45, it works every time. Think of Bree Newsome bravely taking down that wretched Confederate flag down. Barack’s Malcolm X-like baritone soothing our souls at the eulogy of the Charleston Nine at Mother Emanuel church. Michelle Obama at the Democratic Convention explaining how she is raising carefree black girls in the house that black slaves built.
America is usually trapped ,as James Baldwin so eloquently wrote, “somewhere between the Statue of Liberty and the pillar of salt.”
White supremacy cannot fix our communities and our schools. The First Lady’s visits with brilliant little students is a path to healing that white supremacy can’t countenance. The same goes for when Michelle went to a Native American high school graduation and told our new leaders to-be: “The [Native] traditions that this [former boarding] school was designed to destroy are now expressed in every square foot of this place. Look at you now.”
Yes, look at us. See our brilliance. Obama’s playlist has the old school cut “So Very Hard to Go” by Tower of Power. It’s very apropos. There are parts of this era I never want to end, much like a great song.