Fleecy locks and black complexion
Cannot forfeit nature’s claim.
Skin may differ, but affection
Dwells in black and white the same.
Were I so tall as to reach the pole
Or to grasp at the ocean at a span,
I must be measured by my soul
The mind is the standard of the man.
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Speech at the Great March on Detroit (referencing William Cowper’s, The Negro’s Complaint)
I am proud to be a black man. No apologies. No equivocations.
This does not mean that I hate white people or disrespect women. No. . . I am proud to be a black man in America. This is not a zero-sum game. My gain does not have to come at your expense . . . your comfort does not have to come at the expense of mine. I am a proud black man.
And my pride gets a little bigger each and every time I see President Barack Obama on the television. . . every time I read “President Barack Obama” in the news or hear it on the radio.
Let’s get one thing straight. I do not rest the fate of all black men on President Obama’s shoulders. He is his own person and, as most of us, presumably has his own flaws as a human being. I do not know him personally.
Still, I can’t help but be thrilled at the prospect of what his presence can do for black men in America. It’s not a question of whether success is possible. I, as well as many other black men, continue to break barriers and thrive in spite of the obstacles before us. However, there’s much to be said about this one fact . . .
The leader of the free world . . . is a BLACK MAN!
The most powerful person in the world . . . is a BLACK MAN!
The most influential, arguably most inspirational figure in the world today . . . is a BLACK MAN!
Some may dismiss this as symbolic politics, but I see things differently. For though the work remains with us to better ourselves and our communities, one should never underestimate the power of cultural self-affirmation. . . the manner in which young black boys are trained to see themselves and their place in the world. It’s priceless. (more after the jump)
Centuries after setting shackled foot on American soil, black men still search for the definition of “black masculinity.” There have been ups and downs, twists and turns. Many setbacks have come our way . . . some external and beyond our control. . . still too many of our own making. Yet, with all that has beset the black man in America . . . from the legally sanctioned and systemic emasculation of black men through domestic terrorism and slave codes to the self-indulgent, self-inflicted scars too many black men have left on themselves, their loved ones and families . . .
Despite all of this . . .
The PRESIDENT is a BLACK MAN!
This bit of historic symbolism should not be underestimated. The effect this can have on black children, especially young black boys, should not be dismissed. Who am I kidding? The effect this might have on adult black men should not be dismissed. The smiles on their faces. Corn-rows in the White House (I absolutely LOVE that picture!). The sight of 10 and 11 year old black boys dressed in crisp, starch-pressed button-up shirts and ties waiting eagerly to shake the President’s hand. . . it’s beyond beautiful!
More importantly, it’s BALANCE. Some try to dismiss the power of positive imagery, but few can deny the impact of negative images of black men broadcast on our tv screens everyday. So . . . for every time I see a brotha handcuffed on the six o’clock news. . . for every time I see a brotha lying dead in the street on the eleven o’clock news . . . for every time I see a deadbeat dad on morning court shows or a two-timing boyfriend on the afternoon talk shows . . . one thing will not change for the next four to eight years . . . .
The PRESIDENT is a BLACK MAN!
Again, it’s about balance. I’m not one to dog a rap artist or shun a comedian. I abhor censorship and am comfortable enough in my own skin to admit that I am not as perfect as the zero-tolerance standards we try to apply to popular culture whenever a new controversy arises. I understand that brothas and sistas need time every now and then to exhale (lol). While I don’t waste my time defending certain rappers, I’ll defend Hip Hop with every breath I have.
But think of the impact President Obama might have on the prevailing (many times, misguided) presumptions of black masculinity.
You might be the hottest rapper out there, but I guarantee you that . . .
Your crib ain’t as big as the President’s . . .
Your car ain’t as fly as the President’s . . .
Sure, you might have a posse to roll with you to the club. But, the President’s got the secret service. And for those of you who mistakenly try to match your masculinity with the size of a gun? Well, just remember that we call the President our Commander in Chief, which means he’s got the U.S. Armed Forces just one phone call away.
As for those girls in the videos???? Okay, I won’t lie. I’m not quick to turn the channel whenever I see one (I’m only human). But keep it real. You think you’re a “playa.” Well, all I know is that Obama’s married to the total package. A powerful, loving and supportive relationship with a woman like Michelle is what it’s all about. . . and Obama is married to her. Now, who got game? Michelle Obama is like, freakin’ Claire Huxtable times TWO!!!
That’s right . . . she got her own . . .
So who da man? I don’t know about you, but keep your material possessions. Sasha and Malia answer that question just by the way they look at their father. The pride and admiration shines through.
So . . . when it comes to black masculinity, President Obama’s got the biggest crib, flyest car, biggest posse, the total package for a wife and the admiration of his two daughters . . .
No one on the corner have swagger like us????
Let’s be real . . . .
No one in the world got swagger like President Barack Obama!!!!
So yes. The imagery of President Obama can not be underestimated. Young black boys and girls will see his face just as much (if not more) than any negative image that confronts them every day. It’s not the answer, but it’s a beginning. I’ve always said that do-gooders have poor advertising. Why wait for delayed gratification over here when I see money, power and respect over there? Why trust in tomorrow when I’m besieged with images of ice, women, money and fancy cars today? It’s hard to sell the right path as a mentor when you’re still paying your student loans. It’s hard to tell a young boy to ignore the drug dealer’s fancy car when you’re rockin’ a bus pass.
But President of the United States??? Oh yeah, I can sell that. And our youth will be willing and eager to hear that message.
So thank you, Mr. President. Regardless of how things pan out, you have already served as a force to quiet the doubters, haters and nay-sayers when it comes to how we perceive our black men. You have served as an inspiration for many. Even more important, you have served as a reminder for all that positive good black men absolutely do exist. In a popular culture that likes to spread the narrative that “black men ain’t sh*t” or “there are no good black men” your daily exercise in black brilliance stands as a strong rebuke against a culture that routinely depicts black men as hopeless. Thank you.
I also thank you for the love you show your wife. You and Michelle demonstrate the power and possibility of black love in a world that teaches young black men and women to hate each other. . . . in a world that tends to pit black men against black women (and vise versa) in some twisted zero-sum competition. You and Michelle have shown the world the power and possibility of what can happen when black men and women respect, appreciate and support each other. You and Michelle make a dynamic duo.
Thank you for giving voice to the concept that black men do have a voice. Too often, society convinces us that black men have nothing to say. In fact, it seems that the only time a black man is expected to speak is if he’s on the pulpit, in a rap video, in a sports locker-room or at a court arraignment. Well, not anymore! For the next four year’s this country will have a front-row seat to black intellect. And many Americans will sit in awe as they learn that a black man can, not only speak in full sentences, but can also speak (even better, lead) on matters of war and peace, foreign and domestic policy, the economy, health care, the law . . . the list goes on and on.
And finally, thank you, Mr. President for showing young black men another option in life. My hope is that they’ll learn to see that your excellence is not rare. My hope is that you’re historic victory sparks our young black men to seek out the black lawyers, doctors, teachers and community organizers in their own neighborhoods. . . that they might learn from the entrepreneurs in their neighborhood. . . . that they might learn from the hardworking, blue collar black men that are often overlooked by society, but still find a way to take care of and provide for their families. . . that they might go to their local library and learn of the great achievements of men who look just like they do; a history rich in intelligence and leadership. From Frederick Douglas to King to Obama, history shows us that the grounds of society shift when a black man speaks his mind.
Give them the options and our black children will make the right decisions. And they will do so, not through force or censorship, but in the truest form . . . by freewill. Familiarize our young black men with the responsibilities they have and teach them to wear it as a badge of honor, not a burden. Show them that they are needed and they will rise to the occasion. It starts now. So the next time they hear someone say “black men ain’t sh*t,” they can hold their heads up high, work hard to better their families and communities and say. . .
“I can be whatever I choose to be. Even PRESIDENT!“
“The mind is the standard of the man.”
Oh, the possibilities!
Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell
Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris
Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats