What Happens to “Us” When Obama Is No Longer President?

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Black history may soon find that it is defined by one line of demarcation:  BB (Before Obama) and AB (After Obama).   There might even be some historical reference to the volatile period called DB (During Obama), where an archive will contain images of black people going to blows over where our community should be positioned on the Obama issue.

The Obama presidency, unfortunately, has done more to divide black leadership than any event in the last 100 years.   There are those who’ve chosen to side with the winning team, refusing to critique the Obama Administration on even the tiniest issues.  Such criticism is readily interpreted as an assault on the absolute dictatorial authority that the Obama Administration seeks to maintain over African American political activity; they give us their agenda, not the other way around.  The seemingly silly idea of “free Democratic thought” is as dead as the 8-track tape.

Then, there are those who challenge Obama to varying degrees.  Some provide reasonable and justifiable concerns, while there are some who criticize the president without trying to even observe the pragmatic limitations of running the most powerful (and racist) nation on earth.    One can’t help but notice how factions of black leadership have formed as a result of the Obama presidency, with pro-Obama leaders on one side, and “Not-so-pro Obama” leaders on the other.  Mind you, they all voted for Obama; but it’s the depth of your love and loyalty for the administration that determines if you are considered to be a “hater” or not.  For the record, asking the wrong questions or requesting any degree of accountability whatsoever defines you to be a hater.

One of the questions that attorney Karen Wallace posed to me the other day was “What happens after Barack Obama is no longer President of the United States?”  Sadly enough for those who love Barack Obama like a husband, best friend, boyfriend or baby daddy, the truth is that he can only be in the White House for another four years.   As President Obama retires to Martha’s Vineyard with the other Harvard alums, many of the most honest advocates for black America may no longer be empowered to fight for our causes.  I doubt that President Obama will be volunteering to take their place.

To some extent, the black community is going through a period that can be compared to high school, where the issues we face over a four year period seem as if they will matter for the rest of our lives.  Once high school was over, some realized that attempting suicide over a broken relationship or telling your parents that you hate them might have been an immature way to deal with a transitory situation.

In correlation, undermining the credibility of black public figures who’ve served the community for decades (i.e. Jeremiah Wright) might not be the best way to defend a man who will be out of office by the year 2016.  We must learn how to love President Obama while simultaneously supporting advocates for our community, and honestly realize that one is not a substitute for the other.  It is possible to take advantage of the present without mortgaging the future.  Integration into the White House is not the same as building an independently prosperous community that doesn’t need white American validation in order to be strong.

My point is not to say that the Obama presidency should not be respected or supported.  Instead, it is to say that the divides in black leadership that have been caused by the Obama presidency must heal quickly in order for us to move forward as a collective.  Also, no group of politicians should be allowed to play black public figures against one another by rewarding some for their loyalty and blocking others from having access to the negotiating table.  Divide and conquer is a common political tactic, and it ultimately leads us to waste our votes by providing political support without having a clear agenda.   The bottom line is that Obama is not going to be president forever, and we’ve got to have a Plan B.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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