As this week marks the one-year anniversary of Barack Obama’s victory, pundits, journalists and the like are sure to share with the public assessments of the president’s political performance. Certainly, both sides of the isle will have much to say of his actions on health care reform, the war in
From the time he announced his candidacy, black leaders and scholars pondered the obvious: Does his nomination and subsequent election mean the end of racism in
CNN’s special entitled Black Men in the Age of Obama offered up insights and some potential answers to that question. The roundtable, moderated by Don Lemon, featured black men from all isles- business, education, church and hip hop. They contemplated the affects of some of the president’s actions, each with differing opinions. Where they seemed to find common ground was in the president’s role as a symbol of possibility, potentially evidenced by a comment made by a young black student who Lemon interviewed for the program. When asked what kinds of change the president’s election has brought to his life, he said:
“My mom sends me text messages that read ‘Hey Mr. President.’ She believes that I will be president one day.”
It’s in statements like this where black leaders may find Barack Obama’s biggest contribution, as a voice, image and reference point of what could be. The power of that statement is immeasurable not because it’s deeply profound. Rather, its value is incalculable because the possibilities it suggests are now backed by reality. In his book, The Politics of Recognition, philosopher Charles Taylor wrote “a person or group of people can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves.” Ken Tsutumabayashi expounds on this in The Fusion of Horizons, explaining that this is especially the case in long suffering, exampled by black history in
The reverse of what
Whether it’s right or wrong, the reality is that Obama’s chosen brand of politics may never allow him to overtly dedicate himself to the kind of sweeping reform and legislation that some black leaders are looking for to improve Black America’s current state. But if statements like what Bishop Eddie Long said on CNN are true, that Obama’s election inspired more black men in his congregation to seek a college education, perhaps Obama’s ascendance to the oval office alone will serve as enough to unlock the potential, opening the possibilities. And if President Obama does nothing else, perhaps just being there is enough.