If Barack Obama doesn’t represent the end of respectability politics, nothing does.
If the way that man dropped his middle name and lost all accent and did limbo—drinking in Irish pubs and eating sloppy joes and casseroles and killing Muslims and keeping the military industrial complex’s wars and not taking Billy John’s guns; toning down his own swag and terrorist fist bumps, no longer brushing off his shoulder—did nothing to make whyte America feel safe, there’s no argument to be made for appeasing the boogey men in the minds of whyte folks. There’s no PhD that can match the degree of servitude Our Shining Black Hope expressed over eight years in the face of the fears of ignorant, pre-logical, post-factual whyte folks.
The only thing that matches his kowtowing at their runaway imaginations is the utter contempt they showed by coming out of their Middle American caves to the polls two months ago. The only thing that matches the amount of way he gave them is the amount of power rich whyte men wielded to make sure that his crowning achievement would be passing the baton to the least worthy of them as if to say, “A monkey could do this job; an abject failure—more of a failure than the buffon who came before Obama can do this job.”
No, America: This replacement is not of equal or greater value. Maybe the Russian prostitutes are not a fact, but the way you’ve urinated on the legacy of Hope is all too true.
Barack Obama—President 44 of the United States of America Barack Obama—was a Good Negro. So good that some of us in the field saw him go into the House every night while the slave patrols murdered us in the streets for snuff films and left our bodies out in the street like Willie Lynch letters and we still meme’d him and loved him and wanted him to win and are praying to this day and every other of his life that he dies the natural death of a man, not that of a King on a balcony.
President Barack Obama pulled his pants up so high we couldn’t see his eyes; just his smile. He crossed his T’s and dotted his I’s and spoke the Queen’s English so well that his words smelled like tea and crumpets and tasted like Marmite. Love it or hate it, he spread his obsequiousness all over their daily bread, knowing where his was buttered.
Barack Hussein Obama II, 44th President of the United States spoke the Lie of Progress in the only way a whyte folks will hear it; in the way that says, “We will be patient and submerge our desire—our right—to be treated as men and women and human children to your comfort. We will not ask anything of you that disturbs your predilection for treating our cultures and religions like fashion accessories and glurges.”
He spoke the Lie of Progress in living rooms and in schools, at farms and on factory floors, at diners and on distant military outposts, wearing bullet-proof suits that covered the whipping scars on his back, his pants up to his eyes so that no one would see him cry.
He spoke the Great Lie to those who asked for his birth certificate, to those who asked what he did for a living and how he earned that car he was riding in and marveled at how articulate he was while telling his wife to go back to Africa to dance with simians because they were her family.
Through it all, 44—the Man, the Legend, the living history and culmination of so much Hope—smiled, rarely giving glimpse to the enervation borne of submission. In that way, he was like us, and we saw ourselves in him.
So, now what do we see? What do we see as he walks into the pages of history, retreating to the relative protection of his legacy and status and opportunity while the worst of our lifetimes is about to happen? How well-dressed and smart must we be? Is it possible to be well-dressed and smart and articulate enough to assuage the fears of whyte folk who think that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is prediction while thinking that 1984 is not?
We’re not that good.
In spite of his flaws, and because of the way he carried them, Barack Obama was twice as good as at the best of us and he got half the respect of the worst of us. He got half the respect and is being replaced by a guy who would not be the smartest man in the room were he the only man in the room.
When they believe that the top pick of the Talented Tenth is equal to a man who is one-tenth of his predecessor; that a man who sits on a gold throne in a gold tower at the bottom percentile of emotional intelligence can occupy the same seat as Barack Hussein Obama II, 44th President of the United States—how good must we be to gain their respect?
Why would we even want to?