I would not say with any degree of assurance that the air I was breathing became fresher ever since Obama became president of United States of America – president of a country that is not in any way mine. But I remember how the sense of possibility permeated the world when he came into office: that “Yes We Can“-ness. That moment that hope hovered the world like bright clouds. Hope that did not necessarily translate into anything for me. But having a black family in the White House, was a political statement that shook the world in obvious ways: it strengthened black hope and threatened white supremacy. Son of a Kenyan immigrant had become president of the world. Deal with it!
For the African American person, Obama is the walking dream of Martin Luther King Jr., the fulfillment of the prophesy in his “I have a dream” speech rendered during the march of Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. He, the black man, believes that through Obama, these words of the late renowned activist took on flesh:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” ….I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…. I have a dream that my…children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
For the blacks and other coloured people of America, it was their moment of arrival after years of inequality and sidelining. Perhaps, they thought that his ascension would bring about more fairness, more equity.
However, a president is much more than a poster boy. Much more than a great subject for an inspirational book or movie. Much more than a “dream” come true. He has come to work. And the reviews of POTUS’s performance are quite mixed. Some feel he was not firm enough, that the charisma and celebrity that got him into power was standing in his way of getting work done.
His biggest setback was failure to close illegal detention in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a move that left many Americans enraged towards him. Till this moment, no sanity was brought to gun control laws and the one I find quite confusing is how little intervention Obama has made towards the killings of black men and women and even children in America by the police department. If a black man is president, shouldn’t the black man walk freer since his “kinsman” is the Oga At The Top? Why are the cops even more viscous? Just last week another black man was killed by a female police officer because he would not obey her orders.
In my Nigerian mind I thought all he needed to do was bang the table, threaten the police with extinction and put some laws in place to protect the black man. But in America as I have come to observe, it is not as simple as that. Here in Nigeria, a man has his life threatened for naming his dog after the president, but in America, the president does not wield, or usurp that much power.
On Thursday 22nd September, The Guardian ran an interview of Kathy Miller, Donald Trump’s campaign chair of a prominent Ohio county, Mahoning, and she claimed there was “no racism” till Obama came into power.
“I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this … Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.”
Though she apologised and resigned after she was called out for her comments, I wonder to what degree does her statement hold water. Did Obama’s presidency cause a decadence in the black community or did it bring to light a hidden disease- racism- in the American society?
But order than these glitches in his path, POTUS did get some clean work done in his time. He has created affordable healthcare to average Americans, revived the nation’s dwindling economy from great recession, improved academic standards, improved the solar energy to a 30 fold and created a lot of jobs through the auto industry bailout.
And boy was his cool factor lit! Yearly, he released his summer playlist, (this year’s playlist had Jidenna’s ‘Classic man’ and Wale’s ‘Love hate thing’, in it), and his reading list to the public. He made (fake) cameo appearances in the movie Pitch Perfect 2, and remember that popular selfie with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, that almost got him into trouble.
Watching last night’s debate made me realise that the two candidates hold no candle to him but I can only wish America the best, for even in their worst of moments, their country still remains an idyll, an inspiration for floundering nations as mine.