| posted on 12.14.2016 at 06:38 PM
How Obama Changed The Definition Of ‘Hope’ For Me
....But not in the way you probably think.
Written By Hari Zayid
When America’s only Black president first announced his candidacy, I was still a year away from being old enough to vote. Like so many 17-year-olds, I
had yet to become too invested in politics. Like many Black folks of all ages, however, something seismic shifted within me the moment I realized
Barack Obama could actually win. His slogans of “hope” and “change” became more than just banal campaign rhetoric. He was the human manifestation of a
social awakening and would completely transform the way I related to a country I had known to dehumanize me and my community.
On the morning of November 5, 2008, I woke up to my hopes fulfilled. My president-elect was Black, and I was certain he would embrace his Blackness as
I had seen our Blackness embrace him. Within months, however, he was already distancing himself from his former pastor Jeremiah Wright for “racially
controversial” remarks, blaming Black communities for their own problems and continuously reiterating his commitment to colorblind governing. “I’m not
the president of Black America,” he reminded anyone who would listen, “I’m the president of the United States of America.” I would not listen. For how
can you be the president of the United States without being the president of Black America—unless Black people are not part of the country? The hope
Obama gave us was that America is finally Black America, too.
Yet by 2012, I did not know what hope meant anymore. I had lived with it for those four years, and when Obama was reelected I felt as if I could no
longer trust it. I skeptically cast my ballot for him anyway. Perhaps in his second term he would pay attention to our struggles as he wouldn’t be
looking toward another campaign, I thought, without really believing it myself.
Deep down, I knew it wasn’t that Obama didn’t pay attention to us. He had to in order to win. He saw us, used us for his gains and then reminded us he
couldn’t be our president and the president of the country at the same time. Because the country sees us too—it just sees in us the enemy. It saw the
powerless hope Obama gave us for these past eight years. It saw that this hope came alongside those of us always left behind, having our economic
conditions improve the least. It saw how that hope came alongside Black people murdered over and over again, day after day, and the birth of a
Movement for Black Lives in response. Obama’s country saw all of this, and turned around to elect a bigot all the same. And Obama turned around and
told the country to unify with that bigot. As if it needed telling.
I know now that even an awakened America will still choose to stand upon the backs of those it can get away with standing on. It was Black folks like
me who needed to wake up to the fact that this was always in front of us. But it’s always been so easy to pretend not to see it.
Eight years of Obama pushed me toward what many Black folks from poor communities like the one where I grew up have always known: Hope will get you
nowhere without healthy pessimism.
The old heads from the hood were the ones who always reminded me none of these candidates were looking out for me. We are conditioned to ignore them,
though. What do poor Black folks know, after all? I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard some iteration of the belief that if those fools would
just get educated and vote, they might fix their problems.
I believed this for a long time. Hope in liberalism will make you blame those it cannot save for its failures. It will get you nowhere, but it will
get you behind a Black—or woman—or queer—face, and insist that this face transplant helps, because it is all it can do. But nowhere is still nowhere.
Perhaps it is time to finally begin to listen to what Obama was always trying to say: the United States and Black America are different. Therefore,
our hope cannot be in this country.
This is not a call to give up hope entirely. It is a call for a new hope. A hope that we don’t need a country that has proven it will not support us.
A hope that we don’t need law enforcement who won’t protect us. A hope in reimagining policing, communities, and engaging with the state entirely. A
hope that we stop attacking Black folks who have divested from presidential politics and start supporting their efforts to find better solutions. This
is a hope tied to pessimism and a realistic assessment of the anti-Black ways of the world. One which recognizes that body cameras do not mean
convictions and convictions do not mean justice. A hope that demands more than reform. One which understands a Black president of an anti-Black
country does not lead to the elimination of its anti-Blackness.
Donald Trump is not a surprising anomaly in this country’s history, but a continuation of the ways it harms the least of us. We can disrupt that
history, but only once we recognize how Obama, too, was only a continuation. At some point, we have to stop continuing oppression in different ways
and calling that a fix.
| posted on 12.14.2016 at 06:46 PM
After all that navel gazing on Obama and 'hope', ole boy can't articulate what we should be doing instead of voting. It always comes down to "do
for self" when we have neither the means NOR the WILL to do for ourselves.
The answer to the conundrum stares us in the face. Unfortunately that elephant in the room is not pink; it's black. It's the only "black" that
actually DOES "do for self." It's called Black Nationalism.
But until African-Americans are ready to embrace nationalism and all that it entails, I'm voting. There's no other game in town and sitting on the
bench is NOT an option.
Btw, even without looking at the name, I can tell a black MALE wrote this piece:
To a black nationalist, the above is an oxymoronic statement: Half of all black Americans are female, ergo, black and woman are synonymous, one and
the same. This "dare not speak the name of my salvation" busta obviously equates the word "woman" with White.
pssst! Don't make me start quoting Sojourner Truth as in "Ain't I a woman.... muthafukka?"