After 4 years of President Obama being the first gay president, the first Chicago president, and the first Planned Parenthood president, is it finally OK for him to be the first Black president – and embrace that?
Before you get into the typical recants about Black Republican “haterade”, Black conservatives being puppets of the RNC, or the time-tested, go-to slur of “Uncle Tom”, let me just put it out there in a way that you probably would never expect.
I genuinely, deeply, and whole-heartedly wanted this president – yes, President Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States – to succeed during this first term. Granted, I wanted him to succeed as a centrist president, knowing full well that he would never quite lean consistently to the political right (although his extension of the Bush tax cuts served as an indication that this president could negotiate and be centrist after all.)
Yet, I got it – clearly.
If this president was to be truly successful in pulling this nation back on track after 4 years by fulfilling his promises – cutting the deficit and getting back to our pre-Recession levels employment levels (4.7% employment in November 2007, although we would all take the 6.8% of November 2008 at this point) – our nation would benefit. If this president was able to restore confidence and esteem back into the Office of the Presidency, our country could get a jolt of energy that it desperately needs.
If this president could succeed as the first Black president, Mr. Obama could have drawn the line for young Black Americans to start walking and living morally.
As a Republican, I would have still debated his methods to addressing the challenges and issues facing our nation. As an American, I always wanted to see our communities rebound as quickly as possible, knowing that if he were to get the credit for a tangible Reagan-like recovery, then so be it. As a Black Republican man – knowing that the best I would probably get from President Obama and a supermajority in Congress was a centrist mindset – I wanted to root for the first Black president to shake up Washington and shock the world (in the right way) with his leadership.
After looking back at the hopes and anticipation in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 election, I find myself still waiting to see what it would be like to have the first Black president in office, even if the president’s last name is Obama, not Rice or Powell. Perhaps that’s why I am a little disheartened with the Newsweek cover of President Obama as the first gay president last week.
It’s not out of hate against those within the LGBT lifestyle. The cover comes off as a sad symbol of recognition of what might have been for Black Americans. During the past 4 years, President Obama has watched his presidency branded as pro-gay, pro-choice and pro-Muslim. During these times, he has used his bully pulpit to court the support of Latino-Americans and unions workers as political friends.
Yet, during this same period of time, many Black people have been repeatedly told (and strangely often tell themselves in the media and barbershops around America) that President Obama cannot be the first Black president – that he must be the “president for all of America” – as if embracing a specific moniker befitting this historic achievement is to be met with political scorn.
Which, of course, makes the Newsweek title all the more ironic.
Again, it’s not because of anti-gay hatred. It’s because a married, African American, Harvard-educated father of two could be so easily fitted with the title of “first gay president” in many pockets of American society, much more than how Black America has aided (or, in some cases, forced) President Obama to reflect regularly on the only demarcating status that would have had him sitting in the back of an Alabama bus in 1950.
After this last week of controversies, when does Black America and President Obama get a chance to have a real, ongoing interaction without votes being up for grabs, a Black friend getting erroneously arrested, or a Black teenager’s death in a swing state? Is it now in the midst of a hard-fought re-election campaign? Will it be during a second, lame-duck term should President Obama win in November?
At this point, I know I will not vote for him. I will probably disagree with many of the political stances his party and he will take should he win another term. However, since I will always pull for the best of America – even under his watch – and since I will root that his presidency become successful for the sake of a stronger America (especially if he held more centrist views at the very least), it would be nice to express my hopes for our nation while rooting for the first Black president.
It might have been cool – even as a Black Republican and a proud American – to have been able to do that had he existed over the past 4 years. That was before he wore so many titles for so many others.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic365 that is regularly featured Wednesdays on CNN Newsroom at 12:30 PM Eastern and on CNN’s “Early Start” weekdays 5:00 AM – 7:00 AM Eastern. Hear “The McAllister Minute” on the American Urban Radio Network each week. Lenny will be a featured speaker at the Rally for Common Sense (headlined by Herman Cain) Saturday, May 19 in Holts Summit, Missouri.