One day, one day relevantly quite soon, the administration under President Barack Hussein Obama will come to an end and enter the realm of American history. Eight years will have passed, true, but it will pass with a swiftness that is difficult to articulate. Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan goatherder, and unsuccessful civil servant – this most unlikely of candidates will yield his place to another, And while history will have certainly been made – the stuff of books, museums, and presidential trivia, another kind of history, a quieter kind, will also have been made.
The history of black America, written more in song than on paper, will record not the best of times, but far too often, the worst of times. Unemployment, dropout rates, foreclosures, mass incarceration levels – each and all of these will show significant gains, and paradoxically, the worsening state of the national Black community. Eight years will have passed, and by every measure Black life will have become more unsteady, more challenging, more raucous, and more brutal. Some will say that the concerns of Black America shouldn’t be his, for he is president of all America. But before all others, Black Americans have been his most loyal constituency. Of all constituencies, why should those who are the most supportive get the least of everything else? What kind of political logic is that? Moreover, what other consituency would accept it?
Africans in America have had a long and tortured history of loyalty to institutions that do not return those loyalties. Colonial governments, political parties, the Army, state governments, and yes, presidents. Yes – even Black ones. Symbols are powerful things, but when they are empty of substance, they become hollow – like now.