The past seven days have been big for Barack Obama.

Time Magazine cover.
Today on NBC.
Larry King Live.

Given the buzz and the hype and the wild extent to which white people seem to love them some Obama, my (black) friend asked, “What does it say if he’s our first black president?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well the fact that he’s mixed and has immigrant origins and white people will feel their work is finished.”


And I’ll add another two “Ohs” right now.

The First Oh.
Our first black president would technically be our first half-black president. Is this a problem, an issue, interesting?

Not much to me. Most of us “native” black Americans have been diluted by hundreds of years of mixing, even if the vast majority of it was involuntary.

In addition, he looks black. Sure he’s mixed and embraces the totality of his ethnic background, but like Tiger Woods, Obama’s black. Here’s a rule: if you can’t get a cab, and Kerry Healey thinks you’re going to rape her, you’re black.

The Second Oh.
Our first black president is not really a black American. He’s African. What’s up with that?

Although it isn’t discussed often publicly, there is a great deal of tension between native black Americans and our immigrant brothers and sisters. Native black Americans still suffer from centuries of white supremacist mis-education which teaches that “Africans” are backward, dirty, cannibalistic, starving and overall inferior. We also tend to be jealous of the “model minority” status afforded the black immigrant.

Meanwhile immigrant blacks get the exported pop culture version of American blacks which paints us as lazy, drug-dealing, ho-pimpin, good for nothing consumers of bling. They tell their children not to associate with those black Americans. On top of that, many immigrant blacks don’t appreciate the civil rights struggles that native blacks went through which makes their very immigration possible.

If you want to see something revealing, check the black enrollment at top tier American universities, then dig deeper and see how many of those blacks are first or second generation immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean.

As for Obama, I doubt his foreign-blackness will mean much to the native black establishment, but it will be interesting to watch.

The Third and Final Oh.
Once we have a black president, white people will announce the official end of racism and cease any existing limited efforts at true reconciliation and social change. Basically, “we gave you the White House. Now quit your bitchin.”

Interesting, but nothing ground-breaking. White folks are always itching to break out the Mission Accomplished banner and proclaim the end of major racist activities. I’m sure the first declaration was when blacks were allowed to read edited versions of the Bible and has continued through emancipation, Reconstruction, Brown v. Board, the Voting Rights Act, and various flavors of Affirmative Action.

If white people’s declaration of the end of racism were our guide, then the first day they let a Negro clean the White House toilets would be “National Freedom Day,” marked by a day off of work, used car sales and parades featuring black face characters marching down the street with plungers.

No, the fact of President Obama will do nothing to change the facts of unjustly imprisoned JoVaun or redlined Natasha or former Ninth Ward dwelling Rayshaun. It won’t repair a commercial culture which monetizes a parody of black materialistic behavior. It won’t give Appalachia an economy or Hector a living wage.

And now, finally, have I arrived at my point.

It will be nice (yes, nice) to have a president who can speak the national language and, it’s fair to assume, doesn’t let the voice of Jesus dictate his policies. It will be nice to have a president who looks different from all previous office-holders. A President Obama would be very nice.

But he will not save us, no matter how you define “save” or “us,” because the entire social, political and economic system in this country needs work, and that’s beyond the reach of any single man.

Let’s all try to remember that.

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