The Obama Family
Cover Image © Everett Collection

My Black Perspective #15: The Obamas

Today is President’s Day, and it felt appropriate to kick off this week (with its theme of Black achievement and influence) by talking briefly about the only Black President the U.S. has ever had. I know I’ve mentioned Barack Obama a lot so far, but hey – if you want me to talk about a different person, vote for a new one 😉

I don’t have much to say about Barack, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha besides what they mean to me on a personal level, because there isn’t much I can write about them that hasn’t already been covered in all forms of media all over the world.

They were… are… the literal “First Black Family” of the United states (in this sense), and they did us proud.

Who Were The Obamas?

(Get ready for some nostalgia)

They were cool…

They were genuine and relatable…

They were fun…

They had sincerity, heart, and empathy…

And they totally gave us HOPE…

What The Obamas Meant to Me

I have already spoken on this site a bit about what Barack meant to me as a young Black male. Here’s a snippet from that post

“As a young Black man in America, I got to see Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States and represent my country, and my culture, with dignity on the global stage. In the years to come, I’d see him face challenges (both blatant and subtle) related to his ‘state of being’, on a regular basis, with grace. I was able to witness his happiest moments and triumphs from afar – and take solace in knowing that he publicly and privately shared the outrage and pain I felt related to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 (a significant moment). I was able to see someone who looked like me finally achieve a singular position furthest away from a ‘less than’ (as far as American standards are concerned).

His unlikely presidency had a great deal more positive impact on my mind than I will probably ever fully be able to fully articulate.”

Some Guy with an Afro

And I still mean every word of that.

I didn’t cry when Barack was elected, but that’s probably only because I was at work or something – haha!

As a family unit, they were a point of pride. Here was a group of Black faces showing the world what Black America was capable of, each day, when given the freedom to just “be” in this country. They weren’t a fictional perfect family, and they definitely weren’t a real-life perfect family. They also didn’t pretend to be one. They weren’t perfect! (Go figure.)

But they were good people. I was so proud that they showed the WORLD you can look like them (Black) and be good people.

Michelle was the epitome of the successful Black mother who was able to do it all. Smart. Elegant. Powerful. Beautiful. Loving. Kind. Fun. Sassy. Proud. I felt her Black Mom energy every single time she stepped out in front of a camera and made the space her own. Being fully honest, I wanted her to run for the presidency once Barack’s term was up – but she’s (sadly) expressed that she doesn’t have any interest in doing so.

And Barack and Michelle’s involvement showed on their kids.

I won’t sit here and pretend to know a lot about Malia and Sasha – but I am very proud of their dignity as First Daughters. They didn’t shame their parents while they were in office, and haven’t done anything too outrageous (compared to what normal kids their age would do) since their parents’ time in roles related to U.S. Presidency has ended.

I know a lot of people focus on Barack because he was the only Black President (guilty), but when you pause and realize that he wouldn’t be the man he is without his amazing family backing him — that’s something to respect.

The Obamas (and their dogs)

The Gift & The Curse

While I love the Obamas (I’ve said this multiple times in writing and on video), I can’t help but feel a little anxiety about what they represent because it’s an impartial vision. I think a number of people felt that since Barack Obama had spent time as a U.S. President, we were in a Post-Racial America – but, as Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out in a 2015 article for The Atlantic, “There Is No Post-Racial America,” not yet, anyway.

The Obamas represented a sliver of Black America when compared to the whole. I love the example that they set and the potential that they put on display, but I feel like a great deal of people forgot that they WERE NOT the norm while being sucked into the fantasy. And I don’t mean that in terms of them being good people, or having potential, or being happy — I mean that most Black People in this country just don’t live lives anywhere near as grand as the Obamas.

As a 33-page write up on “The Economic State of Black America in 2020” from The U.S. Joint Economic Committee points out at the start of their document

“However, these very visible signs of improvement mask deep inequities that relegate tens of millions of Black Americans to second-class status, with far fewer opportunities to achieve good health, political influence, prosperity and security than other Americans. The majority of Americans fail to recognize the magnitude of these problems. For example, a 2019 study found that over 97% of respondents vastly underestimated the huge gap between the median wealth held by Black families ($17,000) and White families ($171,000)—a ratio of 10 to one.

“The Economic State of Black America in 2020”
(U.S. Joint Economic Committee)

I want to share the key points from the second page of that document here because I’m not convinced that people will click through to see this…

The Key Points page from "The Economic State of Black America in 2020" by the U.S. Joint Economic Committee.

I don’t point that as an excuse, or for sympathy points for Black America – but I post it because that’s official word from the U.S. Government (no filter). Every Black family IS NOT the Obamas, and most are nowhere near.

The “damage” (for lack of a better word) is that the Obama Presidency may have caused some in White America (potentially many who supported Former President Donald Trump) to believe that Black People have achieved the Obama status. We haven’t. Especially when compared to White America. That will literally take generations to address, especially since Black America got such a late start.

I still love their family, and I don’t blame them for that misinterpretation. I pray that the Obamas will keep shining.

I am so indescribably proud of them. They are right up there in my book with National Treasures and Negro Spirituals. I know that they didn’t ask for that, but that’s their significance in history for me. Probably for a lot of other people, too.

Peace, and thanks for reading.

 

The soundtrack for this post provided by…

Image Credits:
– Cover Image © Everett Collection (Shutterstock)
– Body Image 1 © Getty Images
– Body Image 2 © The U.S. Joint Economic Committee

Sharing is Caring
Resize Font
Contrast Mode
Created by Alex Volkov