Let’s have a politically incorrect moment, shall we?
There are many Black voters who couldn’t have cared less about politics before President Barack Obama moved Mama Marian, Michelle, the girls and Bo into the White House.
From the 2004 to the 2008 presidential election, Black voter turnout rate increased 4.9 percentage points, from 60.3% in 2004 to 65.2% in 2008. Approximately 2,000,000 more Black people rocked the vote, and it was not — no matter how often and loudly the suddenly politically astute would say otherwise — because they took a sudden, passionate interest in debt reduction, or corporate tax loopholes, or “tweaks” to Social Security, or any of the other pivotal issues that have always existed. We, as a voting bloc, should have never been apathetic in the first place, but the emergence of a brother from the Chi, with not only a wicked jump shot, but the political and educational pedigree that allowed us to dare White America to find fault, electrified our communities in a way that hadn’t been seen since the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s okay, no one’s looking. Have an “I’m Black and I’m Proud” moment.
President Obama coverage appeared front page on Hip-Hop sites and in rap songs. Shirts with Obama, MLK and Malcolm popped up in swap meets in Every Hood, USA. Suddenly, barbershops and beauty salons were alive with spirited debates about racism and liberalism. From street corners to corporate buildings, there was, for a brief time, a sense of unity brokered by cultural identification and political affiliation in a way never seen before.
Then Wilie Lynch happened.
The less politically engaged couldn’t admit to the Beltway bourgeoisie that,*gasp*, they only became interested in the state of the union because a brother was at the wheel. These are the voters who not only have his back, but wish a sucker would criticize him. If they do, they must be Sambos and sellouts. Then we have the Black folks — I like to call them reverse band-wagon jumpers — who overly-criticize the president because it’s the fringe intelligentsia thing to do. If he said 2+2=4, they’d find a way to call him a liar. And we can’t forget about the smug “mis-educated” Negros who shook their heads at the passionate frustration of those overly-vested in the president, for better or worse. They’re the ones who pretend that his blackness was never a factor and only the politically naive actually thought he would address specific ills plaguing the Black community. Because, really, what can a sitting president do about weapons flooding low-income areas, police brutality and stifling unemployment, right?
And we can’t forget about the faction that became extremely angry at the president for continuing the imperialistic foreign policies of his predecessors, even circumventing congress to attack an African nation. Then there are those who really, honestly believe that he’s a moderate Democrat like any other, nothing to write home about. The Civil War amongst ourselves escalated as we battled such issues as racial loyalty and solidarity, civic power, socio-political ideology and autonomy — and the fight rages on.
But what happens when President Obama is no longer in office?
Will the happenings at the Democratic National Convention be a trending topic on Twitter, right next to the Video Music Awards? Will the Hip-Hop community endorse a candidate with the same fervor as they did ‘Barack’? Will artists discuss the importance of voting at the BET Awards?
Will Black evangelicals compromise on issues that were previously non-negotiable, according to their doctrines, to support a political candidate that doesn’t look like them?
The Obama presidency, thus far, has been a magnifying glass exposing how deep apathy runs within our communities. It has also created an opportunity. It has been Politics 101 for many Black Americans who would have honestly not given the ins and outs of the process much thought. Now they are paying attention. They want to know about the deficit. They want to know about Libya and Yemen and Syria, and where America stands. They want to know about environmental standards, and green energy. They’re paying attention to districting disparities that work against equality for people pf color. From 6- to 60-years old, more Black people are engaged in politics and are aware of their places in the scheme of it all than ever before.
For that alone, President Barack Obama will go down in history as the man who awakened a sleeping Black America.
What we do now is entirely up to us. It’s always been up to us — regardless of who lives in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.