One of the most defining moments for Barack Obama came during his exchange with a man who was later coined as Joe the Plumber. The exchange happened out on the campaign trail for candidate Obama back in 2008, and there was one phrase that was mentioned by Obama as he tried to explain to Joe the Plumber that people making over $250,000 a year would see their taxes go up from 36% to 39%, which would be a return to former President Bill Clinton’s tax scale. Obama uttered the phrase: “Spread the wealth around.” And with that, the conservative war machine seized upon what it believed was its smoking gun of Barack Obama socialism at its finest.
And even today, the ‘spread the wealth around’ albatross hangs soundly around the neck of President Obama; courtesy of the Republicans and the Tea Party. In fact, one could make the argument that it is the most defining criticism of the president, and it has stuck to his presidency like a political leech seeking parasitic revenge on fresh blood that once eluded it. As ugly and distasteful as it is to experience these claims of roguish, Robin Hood socialism from the standpoint of a progressive, politically it was a very savvy move by the conservative brand, and it is that quality that makes them so difficult to defend against in the political arena. The Tea Party and the Republicans have figured out the value of perception pitching, as perception becomes reality to those who are willing to buy into it. And through perception, things don’t necessarily have to be provable. They just have to be somewhat believable, and the rest is political history, as the bogeyman has been created, and what better bogeyman to scare honest, hardworking White America than the socialist, Obama Grinch who has come to steal the White Christmas from White America.
Now in light of the many criticisms from minority communities that are being launched at President Obama currently, especially from a select few in the Black community, the question that should be asked just as easily as it should be answered is the question of: who is the Obama Grinch going to play Robin Hood for once he has stolen from the lighter, Whiter more affluent echelons of society? If there are any African-Americans in the room who cannot figure this one out, then shame on you my brothers and sisters, because the perceived recipients of Obama’s Santa sack of socialistic goodies are you all my brothers and sisters, and no one should be stunned by that. Who else would you expect it to be—the Irish?
So here lies the dichotomy that will doggedly face President Obama as long as he is president, and will more than likely haunt his presidential legacy all throughout the history books. While he is a thuggish, Robin Hood to many in Joe the Plumber’s ideological camp, he might as well be a cross between a Black Benedict Arnold and an ethnic Ebenezer Scrooge based on the criticisms being hurled from prominent African-American figures like Dr. Cornel West, Rep. John Conyers, Rep. Maxine Waters, Tavis Smiley, Danny Glover, the new Black Panther Party, and Rep. Allen West.
As the Obama administration is perceived as and accused of turning its back on Black issues that specifically affect the Black community, it’s only fair to ask what is it that the Obama administration can do to help the Black community, which has historically had the highest unemployment rate in the country–a statistic that still holds true today? What do leaders of the Black community expect from the Obama administration that they obviously have not been receiving from the previous, White presidents; judging by the historical and continuing impoverished conditions of the Black community? Outside of fighting to preserve the equity and even the existence of traditionally ingrained, social programs that so many minority communities continue to depend on, it’s unclear what could be done to spite poverty in the Black community or any poor community besides having Obama show up in some of these areas and just start handing out money. If that happened, one of three things would probably follow. He would get impeached, it would lead to the next American Civil War, or he could find himself precariously faced with the same vitriol that went after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
As Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West embarked on their poverty tour of America, especially Black America, it’s evidently understandable that this poverty tour could have just as easily been taken at any time between right now and slavery; arriving at the same conclusion then that West and Smiley will find on today’s tour. The message that seems to emerge from all of this appears to suggest that when White presidents or White America minimalizes the impoverished Black community, it’s to be expected and tolerated; therefore holding them to a lesser standard of responsibility. But when the first Black president sits down in the Oval Office, it’s time to make up for lost time and lost resources. This plays straight into the narrative of the socialist Robin Hood who can’t wait to pillage the country through some presidential reparation move that would only be asked of or expected from a Black president.
Yes, there is epidemic poverty in the Black community, but Black expectations of Obama should not be unrealistically elevated just because he’s who he is or because of where he is. The Black community should ask itself this question. Before President Obama showed up with the undoable vision of becoming the first Black president, the overwhelming understood reality was that there might one day be or there may never be a Black President of the United States. Either way, around 99% of African-Americans in this country and possibly 100% of Whites had all relegated their beliefs to the accepted understanding that it would not happen in their lifetime and that included my lifetime.
Yes, it was that much resistance against it ever happening, and with the quantity of the resistance being that strong and the quality of the resistance being that strong, it should not be unfathomable that any and all progress made beyond that point would be tumultuously treacherous at best, because the ideological walls that were built against such change would expectedly do everything in its power to desecrate it to the point where future changes such as any non-traditional presidencies would not happen again. Why else would dissenting segments of our society demand two birth certificate forms of identification from a sitting U.S. president? It even took the possibility of a U.S. default and an eventual credit downgrade for the resistance to finally relinquish the debt ceiling raise. So why would anyone expect that same resistance to hand over the reins of a big government, covered-wagon driven by a Black president specifically destined for the Black community? Whenever someone goes around shattering glass ceilings, there’s always a price to be paid for it, and the severity of that price depends heavily on the ethnicity of the ones who benefit from it the most.
So hold your Black community criticisms of President Obama, and cool your Black expectations for him. Take a step back and decide on whether or not you want to support the president in his re-election bid with your vote in 2012. If your answer is yes, go to the voting booth, and do your part, because if Obama is going to have any chance whatsoever of doing more for the Black community or poverty in general, the second term of his presidency will be his best chance to do it, but he won’t have a chance unless he’s re-elected. Sometimes the best criticisms and the best declarations come from the casting of a ballot and not the casting of rhetorical doubt, so make a choice. If President Obama wins a second term and goes through it without at least visibly trying to address Black poverty and poverty overall through the lens of American responsibility, then all of us will reserve the right to treat him and his presidency accordingly, but be prepared to accept the reality that he still might not be successful at it.
Obama can put forth jobs initiatives, but he can’t force employers to hire African-Americans, and based on the historically high, Black unemployment, I’d say employers will continue to hire no more than they have to, because Obama’s Black debt to the Black community is more about the solidification of his Blackness to Blackness than it is about the institutionalized struggles of the Black plight, and that ethnic institutionalization of the Black struggle belongs to America as a whole, not America as the first Black president. It’s not the ideology of America that is at fault here. That honor belongs to the pseudo-righteous impostors who falsely represent that ideology in order to build their capitalistic monopolies on the disadvantaged backs of the less fortunate, who just happen to be disproportionately Black. Just because the resistance has taken off its Jim Crow hood, it doesn’t mean that it’s any less powerful or any less determined. Also be prepared in case the only Black expectation to be realized is the one expectation that no one thought would ever become a possibility at all; the election of the first Black president over the grabbing, pulling down hands of Jim Crow history. In the end, that’s all that any of us might walk away with, and that could be all that was ever available to begin with!
If that’s the way that it ends, it’s still a monumental, celebratory success worthy of a heroes’ welcome for President Obama from the Black community when he leaves office, because putting the well-deserved, death nail in the historic, stereotypical, Jim Crow conspiracy of genetic, Black inadequacy at the feet of baseless White supremacy is priceless, and there is no debt ceiling, no Kenyan birth certificate or any Tea Party that can ever undo it. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I have a dream!
Author of the book The Fear of Being Challenged: I Am the Realacrat