For five years I have tried to decipher the meaning of Barack Obama as President. His 2008 election was a conundrum of pride and confusion because it appeared to destroy all apparent barriers to black success.
Despite this, I was ambivalent over notions that there were no more “black friends,” prejudice or discrimination. I was constrained. Not even Obama’s re-election in 2012 allayed my fears of the illusion. To the contrary, I felt sure that the other problem remained.
Here, in the fifth year of his presidency, the reasons for my reservation are clear. America has a “peculiar” problem: what to do with the black president and his potential legacy. I know this because of the growing tension among whites who cannot accept his color, a point not limited to the fringe.
The veil of civility has been drawn back and there are many who publicly try to reduce the president to an incompetent politician, a weak leader and a poor manager of resources. He also has been called a Communist, a dictator and a despot. These are latent, well-worn fears projected as stereotypes of the black male and meant to diminish him. MLK endured similar accusations.
America has a problem. I know this because reason has abandoned white Christian pastors who never challenge their congregations to forsake racism as sin.
I know this because the House of Representatives opposes any legislation associated with the Negro President. I know this because this former editor of the Law Review at Harvard University is regularly referred to as “unintelligent” and because governors refuse to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act because it is associated with the Negro President.
He is treated as the Negro Commander in Chief by some members of the military who post their thoughts online. Every time the power structure opposes Obama for reasons of color, it reminds blacks that we have not arrived for “as much as America has done it to the greatest of these, it has also done it to the least.”
America must know that 38 million of its citizens have noticed the slights, the questioning of his executive power and the attempts to reduce the sway of his office.
Isn’t it peculiar that George W. Bush initiated an unjust war and expanded his presidential powers while Obama seeks to help the poor and his reach is shortened day by day? How can a good father, loving husband, constitutional scholar and Nobel laureate be the “worst president ever?” His record belies that claim.
America’s Negro problem is its schizophrenia with blackness.
America does not accept its president as the equal of his 43 predecessors. Americans recall Ronald Reagan as the standard-bearer of modern presidential excellence, while forgetting that the War on Drugs which Richard Nixon launched and which he embraced tripled the number of blacks in prison and Reagan’s foreign policy laid waste to Nicaragua.
Americans nostalgically hail William Jefferson Clinton’s political achievements while neglecting his policies that increased black poverty and ignore his salacious tryst with the intern in a blue dress.
America still has a problem — and America will have that problem — until Obama is not the Negro President to any American. America is not yet America if it cannot tolerate the idea the Barack Obama saved our economy, expanded healthcare for million, and ended an unjust war.
*Dr. Jeffrey Dean Swain is an administrator/instructor of law at Florida Memorial University, author and minister and vice-president of the International Black Doctorates Association Inc.