Where’s the Change?

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: Barack Obama in Chicago on Nov. 4, 2008.

President Barack Obama.

If you voted for him, do you still feel the same pride you felt as you watched him give his acceptance speech two years ago? Do you still feel the same joy you felt when you heard the announcement that he made history by being elected the first Black president of the United States?

I don’t think there is a Black person in America who wasn’t dancing to James Brown’s “Say it Loud!” at the celebration parties that November 4th night in 2008. Even Blacks from “the other side of the aisle” were moved by Obama’s achievement. In a sense, he was our hero … our champion. It kind of reminds me of the scene Maya Angelou described in her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, after Joe Louis became the Heavyweight Champion of the World: “Champion of the world. A Black boy … was the strongest man in the world.”

After Obama’s victory, I hugged people I didn’t even know. But no one was offended. We were all caught up in the moment, in the history of it all. We shared the same feelings: pride, joy, and, most of all, hope.

Nearly two years later, I wonder if people are feeling the same way. Personally, I don’t. I don’t feel that same pride and joy anymore. I don’t feel the same hope.

As I reflect on the first two years of Obama’s administration, I am becoming more convinced that many of us in the Black community have been guilty of living vicariously through the achievements of Obama to the extent that we have superimposed his individual victory on our race as a whole. Though he is making progress on many of his promises, we are not benefiting in the way we thought.

Don’t get me wrong; I understand that it took time to get America into this current state and getting us out won’t happen overnight. But how long will it take before that argument gets old? Has anyone considered the 1960s lingo of tokenism and how attaching a Black face to a system that doesn’t favor Black people is a method used to keep people passive when they would otherwise rebel? Think about it. Would those Black Americans who stand by President Obama so faithfully right now be waiting so patiently for change to come had John McCain won the election? No! We would be in the streets!

My point?

Too many of us are too focused on defending Obama. Let’s take our attention off of him and focus it on what’s best for the Black community — and for the nation. Sure, the color of the person in the White House is different, and there is a misguided assumption that the many White people who voted for him are evidence of some fundamental change in our nation’s attitude about race. But again: look at the masses — and if you see a change for the better, then perhaps our change has come.

But has anything really changed for us?

The statistics appear to be getting worse: Black-on-Black crime, Black youth-on-Black youth violence, academic underachievement, unemployment, foreclosures, incarceration, image slander, drug abuse, fatherlessness, powerlessness, hopelessness … Things are changing, but not for the better.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to put on that old Sam Cooke classic again and meditate on how I can be the change I expected to come from our president, Barack Obama. Not that he won’t make a change in the future, but I don’t know if we can afford to wait another two to six years to see that change. We must be the change we want to see. The change we were all looking for. The change we so desperately need.