President Barack Obama’s Impact
on The African American Experience

Published: Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Barack Hussein Obama was elected Nov. 4, 2008 and sworn in on January 20, 2009 as the 44th president of the United States of America, becoming the first African American to ever claim the highest political position in the nation. He and his wife, Michelle, along with their two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, are the first bronzed skin folk to live in the prestigious White House. Even his mother-in-law was invited to reside within the complex. And to think that the building in which they now reside was built by enslaved and free African American laborers. The Obamas are developing "Bronzed Connections" with staff, political associates and neighbors who definitely had to adjust to the concept. The whole experience must be a bit mind-boggling for everyone.

The new "First Family" was quickly promoted as new role models … the most prominent and revered African American family … educated, intelligent, successful and stylish. Michelle Obama is being acknowledged by media for her fashion sense more so than for her common sense in spite of the fact she was an accomplished attorney at the Chicago firm, Sidley Austin, and was assigned to be Barack’s mentor when he became a summer associate at the firm, which was before they were married and even before dating. Yes, she mentored him. However, media attention has evolved from the fact that she’s put her own legal career on hold to support her husband as "First Lady" and be full-time mom to the girls. New role, new spotlight. An adventure many other African American women would love to experience … but never will. A fact that surely creates jealousy and sparks some of the negative comments about Michelle.

Not First African American to Run For President

To note that electing the first African American President of the United States is historical, is an understatement. Even though it was always possible, the probability of that happening appeared slim, given the fact that six (6) other African Americans had unsuccessfully attempted to claim the seat before him. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm ran for U.S. President in 1972, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. ran in 1984 and 1988, Dr. Lenora Fulani ran in 1988 and 1992, Alan keyes in 1996 and 2000, Carol Moseley Braun in 2004 and Rev. Al Sharpton in 2004.

So, how did Obama win the elcetion? He followed the tried and truest form of campaigning as did his successful predecessors. He threw his hat in the ring when he was at the right place (serving as U.S. Senator of Illinois) and at the right time (when voters were desperate for major changes); he was an excellent communicator and made all the right promises (improved education, affordable health care, increased job opportunities); he impressed and gained public support from the right folk (TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, former Senator Ted Kennedy, former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell); he applied the right kind of innovative marketing strategies (special public relations TV promotions, online social networking sites like Facebook), plus his inspirational speeches, similar to Dr. Martin Luther King‘s, sealed the deal. And there was one major difference between Obama and the previous six African American candidates … he is not a descendant of African slaves.

Before during and after the election, many controversies surrounded Obama’s actual ethnic background as well as questions posed regarding his citizenship because his birth certificate had not been presented for public scrutiny. It is reported that Barack was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. His father was an African from Kenya and his mother, a Caucasian American from Kansas. He was raised in a middle-class lifestyle by his grandparents (his mom‘s parents). Now, it would seem that this combination of African and American bloodline would deem him as the epitome of the "African American" classification, but many felt it was cause for concern. The citizenship issue is still being dropped into public discussions by some who oppose his current reform proposals as a means to discredit, disqualify and have him removed as President of the United States. So far, that issue has been treated as invalid and a mere distraction.

An Air of Self-Confidence

Obama became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review while attending law school. So, breaking the color barrier was not new for him. As a matter of fact, much of his self-confidence probably hinges on accomplishing that which others before him were unable to. It can be observed in his mannerisms, his orations and especially his posture and stride display how he feels about himself and his perceived capabilities.

But has President Obama become too cocky? Has he been moving too fast to present reform packages in order to be the "first" president to get his ideas acted on and passed quickly? Has being "first" become his priority? His running stance has earned him titles such as "Messiah" and "Theocrat," because his drive appears to be based on religious beliefs as noted in his referral to scriptural passages during his public speaking sessions. Maybe he should include the childhood story of the tortoise and the hare in his repertoire of adages. A very good life lesson that often proves valuable came from that humorous tale.

Campaign promises sometimes just have to be revamped. The negative consequences of making quick changes that will not produce intended results can push the economy into further disarray. Time needs to be taken to determine how any new plan will work, how it will benefit all American citizens, how it will affect existing plans, and how it can be implemented without raising taxes. For example … how will his government health care plan assure all citizens affordable coverage, including senior citizens, retired, unemployed and impoverished folk without increasing taxes and decreasing or eliminating existing plans? How will creating charter schools and paying teachers more money assure all students in the country a quality education, and how can this be done without increased taxes? Full disclosure of the plans when they are ready to be presented for public discussion will reduce the confusion so folks can decide whether they are for or against the proposed changes.

Can President Obama Help Bridge The Economic Gap
Between African Americans and Caucasian Americans?

What’s the real impact of his national position on the African American experience, in general? Some now say we no longer need civil rights activists such as the NAACP because we have elected an African American as U.S. President. To suggest that electing one man to one position implies that racism and discrimination no longer exists, is absurd. We have had bronzed skin men and women appointed to other positions within our nation for many years, and those elections did not stop racism, sexism, ageism or any other "ism" from existing. As a matter of fact, "tokenism" is alive, well and flourishing throughout the country and describes many of the appointments to positions in government as well as in private industry.

Judging from media reports, blog posts, reader’s comments, etc., it was expected that he would be focusing on the specific needs of the African American race, and folk have vented their disappointments publicly. However, to President Obama’s credit, he is not to blame for this misunderstanding, since he’s clearly stated to African Americans in public sessions that they needed to become more independent, self-reliant and learn to take better care of themselves and their families as a people rather than depend so much on government programs for their income. He specifically chastised African American men who are not taking financial responsibility for and not being fathers to their children.

Although he will openly acknowledge the ongoing struggles of African Americans, Obama always insisted that his objectives would be to serve all Americans. It should not have been a surprise to anyone for him to take such a stance since showing partiality would eventually hurt his chances of getting elected as did some of the previous African American presidential candidates who were prominent civil rights activists. To show special interest in one particular ethnic group could eventually hurt his chances of being re-elected for a second term. It is often more difficult to help from inside a system than outside of it.

So, President Barack Obama’s impact on the African American experience is yet to be determined, since there is no evidence that his presence will make a difference in bridging the economic gap or improving the status quo in any way. Folk want some meat on the bones of his rhetorical messages they‘ve heard many times over from others before him. In short, there are many who already have the right "mindset," but they need help creating their independent lifestyles. They need free mentoring resources to help direct their path and serve as life management coaches.

Online Resource For All Americans …

For all Americans, including those African Americans who are not looking backward, not waiting on the forty (40) acres and a mule or some equivalent that many feel is already owed as slavery reparations, this online resource is made available to encourage you to take the steps necessary to move forward. Mears Management has published this newsletter … Bronzed Connections … to help all who want to learn how to improve the quality of their lives, take control of their children‘s education and increase their own employment options, including becoming entrepreneurs.

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All commentaries on this website, unless otherwise noted, are written, edited and published by …
Ollie K. Mears, Owner/Founder of Mears Management and Bronzed Connections

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