3 things president obama taught me about the black male experience
yesterday, i stood among thousands of people who were actually in the room as president barack obama delivered his farewell address in chicago. while i've never been one to be "all into" politics beyond going out to cast my vote each election, i was still, nevertheless, encouraged and inspired as potus addressed the nation. while i was standing there, listening to him speak, i began to feel all types of ways...mainly sad and inspired. i was sad of course because the obamas are leaving the white house (still haven't completely processed that). but, i was inspired because of everything i've self consciously learned from him during his time in office. i was 18 when he first took office, and having him as my president during my transition from adolescence to adulthood is without a doubt, an indispensable experience. here's what i've learned because of him.
3). a man's vulnerability yields strength.
potus put himself out there when he took on the task of leading our nation. i watched on tv as people shunned him during his speeches. i saw the negative commentary on social media from naysayers trying to taint his name. but through it all, he remained unwavering. he didn't flinch. during a speech in 2010 at vermont baptist church, he said, "there are times when progress seems too slow. there are times when the words that are spoken about me hurt. there are times when the barbs sting. there are times when it feels like all these efforts are for naught and change is so painfully slow in coming and i have to confront my own doubts. but let me tell you, it’s faith that keeps me calm. it’s faith that gives me peace.” these words remained true of potus as he continued to serve as commander in chief. watching him deliver his farewell address yesterday got me to thinking, in what ways had i confronted my own doubts? what could i be doing better to service the communities around me? how could i give more of myself to a cause that was bigger than myself? to what magnitude had i allowed myself to be vulnerable? we (black men) have a history of shying away from vulnerability because that's a "woman's thing" that makes us less of a "real" man. but it's though our moments of vulnerability that residual strength remains and carries us through the toughest of times.
2). positive representations of black fatherhood are just as infectious as negative representations of black fatherhood.
public opinion states that having a black father in the household is about as common as a 3 dollar bill. i personally happen to know quite a few black men who defy these stereotypes. but as we all know, positive representations of black males is also something that is about as common as 3 dollar bill. but anyway, one thing that i've really admired about president obama's time in office is that he's always been extremely vocal about the importance of fatherhood and the influence that being present has on your children. i read an interview that potus did in 2008 with ladies home journal where he said, "as somebody who didn't grow up with a father in the home, i like having men come up to me saying, 'you know, i'm really glad you're a good father.' i like that maybe some little boy somewhere who doesn't have a dad in his house sees michelle and the girls and me out somewhere and is going to carry that image in his head with him somewhere down the road." that's some powerful stuff. it takes a strong, determined [black] man to be able to craft an image of something he didn't see in order to yield an experience for his children that he didn't experience. watching last night as potus teared up at the very mention of his wife and daughters, i was reminded of how the obama family has helped reshape my perspective of the black family in general. in a world where the media promotes baby-mama drama and baby-daddies forced to pay child support, there is still hope for the sanctity of the black family. it's my job as a black man to not try and duplicate the first family, but to replicate the image they represented in my own life until it overshadows the images that don't adequately reflect us a whole because positive images can have just as much power as negative ones, if we let them.
1). once you choose hope, anything is possible.
president obama is attributed with saying, "hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” so basically, you can't be optimistic about change when you're unwilling to become a change agent. i mean, the man became the first african american president of the united states, which was a task that seemed impossible...until it happened, ya know? i'm sure the road wasn't easy and that there were times he wanted to give up. but, he looked past his current situation and kept his eyes on the established end. and because of that, look what has happened. both he and flotus have raised the bar among all children, but especially children of color, about what is undeniably, possible. last night, potus mentioned in his address how we need to get involved. if we see something that needs to be fixed, start organizing. if "you're disappointed by elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere." it's easier said than done, sure. yet, it's absolutely necessary. while i don't look at him as my savior, i am, nevertheless, thankful that president obama will forever be a beacon of hope for [black] men everywhere, reminding us that you when you choose hope, anything is possible, literally. now, it's time for me to go out and be a beacon for the next generation.