Barely a week goes by without me getting a request to do an interview with mainstream media about something regarding President Barack Obama. It began during the 2008 presidential election and peaked not long after the Big Chief won and the country was entranced with the idea of a post-racial America. This was the concept that since the country elected an African-American president, we had gotten past the issue of racism, that we were somehow all colorblind–“Kumbaya,” “We are the World,” “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and all that stuff. Well, that didn’t last too long.
As the president’s tenure in the White House progressed, we saw some unprecedented displays of bad behavior, including him being heckled with a “You lie!” at his State of the Union Address by Rep. Joe Wilson and being called the d-word by Time magazine political analyst Mark Halperin on a morning political TV show.
There’s a clear double standard when it comes to the coverage of the president and the expectations of Black voters. One of the most prevalent questions in the current election is whether or not we are voting for the president because he is black. I think a better question is why so many people will NOT be voting for him because he is black.
But when the question about black voters is asked, it’s practically inferred that if you are supporting him because he is black, you’re racist. That is ridiculous. The man IS black, and there’s no shame in showing pride in our race. But it is not the only reason he gets the black vote. That would imply that he had nothing else going for him. Nevermind the fact he’s smart, he’s savvy, he’s confident, he’s a great leader, he’s a good husband and a good father too. Nevermind that he rid the world of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists or is looking out for the middle class and the poor, in terms of providing affordable health and doubling the investment in Pell grants so more people can pay for college.
By the way, at our Live Facebook Debate Party Tuesday night, more than 190,000 people said the currently or at some point had a Pell Grant.
Sure, our love and pride for this black man, who was elected leader of the free world, plays a part in why we support him. But if skin color were his biggest asset, then why are so many white people voting for him?
This is more than a black and white issue. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a black perspective, and I’m glad to be able to provide it right here. That’s why I do and will continue to use my forum, the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” and BlackAmericaWeb.com, to speak to our audience, not just about this president, but any issues that have an impact on Black America.
Most people I hear from realize that even though African-Americans overwhelmingly voted for the Big Chief in 2008 and will again in November, he is the president of all the people. Many of the rabble-rousers that yell about him not having the interests of Black America at heart are people who are upset that he hasn’t catered to then personally. They are clearly getting more media attention by publicly criticizing him at every turn.
As popular as candidate Barack Obama was with Black America, I don’t think he could have ever fathomed just how much he would mean to the people. He is a role model, a hero, almost a deity to some of us. While most God-fearing Christians would never admit to worshipping a mortal man, their actions tell another story. They will fight almost to the death to protect him from critics. He represents so many things to us–for soldiers of the civil rights movement who fought merely for the right to vote, he is a symbol of victory; to younger people, he’s the personification of hope. So, yeah, it’s personal. The tears shed by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Rep, John Lewis and others on Election Night 2008 were real. They stemmed from a combination of happiness, pride and even fear that an ugly side of our country wouldn’t allow this president to lead the nation.
I don’t know of any other Black American that has the love of black people that the president has, and that love also extends to his wife and children. That’s a lot for man–and a family–to deal with.
Even though Dr. King is hailed as a larger than life civil rights hero, it didn’t happen during his lifetime. Not so with the Big Chief. He and his family are watching as the whole thing unfolds. When people expect so much from you, it’s so easy to disappoint. And in spite of all that, they’re doing a great job.
Even though this wasn’t what he was elected to do, President Obama, his wife and his daughters have set a remarkable example for families. Their real-life experiences and struggles they’ve shared make them even more relatable to African-Americans. Both he and Michelle had humble beginnings, but worked hard to achieve success. They know exactly what the middle class and poor are going through. They’re able to speak first-hand about scrimping for gas money and filling out financial aid forms for college.
From movies to music videos to reality shows, the world often sees a version of Black America that makes us shake our heads. The First Family shows a different picture. And that’s good look for America.
My message to every registered voter is that loving the president isn’t enough. This race is going to be close, and he needs every vote. No one can afford to sit this one out. You may not see me in church on Sunday, but I do know that faith and action go hand-in-hand. If you want Barack Obama for four more years, you have to do what you need to do to make that happen. We have to use our emotions as fuel to get us motivated, but don’t sleep on the facts either. This country is making a turn for the better, and we want it to keep going in a direction that’s best for our future.
Now that we know what we can do collectively, it would be a crime not to vote in big numbers in every election, beginning with Nov. 6th.