Friday, November 30, 2012

First African American POTUS: What is Obama's legacy?


Probably NOT Mt. Rushmore

The reelection of President Obama proved one thing: his election in 2008 was not an historical anomaly. For a moment, the thought crossed my mind that President Obama’s election was due to a combination of new hotness, peer-pressure, black pride, and adolescent rebellion making replication near impossible. Especially when Obama’s opponent appeared to be hand crafted right out of the All American Boy mold. In reality, however, his reelection proved he wasn’t an anomaly, but a historical figure whose existence and life will play a crucial role for many Americans of color.


Some will of course debate this position. I believe, however, their disagreement is purely political. But I’m not speaking from a political legacy but an historical one. Regardless of the political bickering we are all currently a spectator too, President Obama’s historical significance cannot be denied. Regardless of how you feel about Obamacare or debt ceilings, President Obama will now and forever be the first President of the United States of America that was not a Caucasian male. PERIOD. Of course, you will have your detractors claiming that acknowledging Obama’s race is – in and of itself – racism and we should just accept him as a president… not the first “African American” President. Nah…contrary to the belief of many reverse racism zealots, race not only means something in this context, but it is exactly the point.

I’m not going to preach to you on the history of race relations in this country and how it’s shaped our present and future. Most of our readers already know that story far too well. But what I will say is that because of that history, overcoming it should be celebrated. And you can’t celebrate it without first acknowledging it.

I was never one of those folks who felt God was a “color-blind” God. Quite the contrary. God knew exactly what he was doing when he made the various races. And in this country, White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, etc., means something. For some, it means more than it does for others. But one thing is for certain, it means that being first, MEANS something. Breaking the mold, means something. Overcoming the greatest country’s greatest sin and rising up to lead said country, means…something….

Take Jackie Robinson for example. If we ignore the fact that Jackie Robinson was black, the central point to his ENTIRE LEGACY is lost. But, because he was black and had to overcome some of the worst treatment a person could withstand yet still succeeded means something. It meant so much to be the first person of color to play in the modern era MLB that his number is the only number retired in ALL of baseball. In addition, he not only opened the doors for other African American ball players, but all non-white players. Because he was the first, others were able to follow.

Thurgood Marshall, the first African American on the Supreme Court has received many honors. Marshall is honored by the state of Maryland; from an airport in Baltimore to a statue in the “Lawyers Mall” near the Maryland State House. National, Marshall is honored in several places: the primary office building for the federal court system is named after Marshall and there is a statue of him in the atrium. There are countless numbers of buildings, libraries, law schools, universities, middle schools, and academies all throughout the country carry his name. In a country whose history is rich with great attorneys, Marshall’s name stands above in many aspects simply because he was the first. The first African American Supreme Court Justice. It MEANS something.

So when Obama’s second term is done. And all the political pundits have moved on to 2016, what will history say about Obama, the Jackie Robinson of modern politics? Of course there are the obligatory libraries and renaming of airports. I’m sure Chicago will go all out: schools, street names, office buildings, etc. But should there be something … more? At least on the national level?

Should there be a memorial? What about currency? He could be the first non-white to be placed on any U.S. Currency. Other modern presidents have been given that honor. Of course we’d all be pissed if congress decided to put his silhouette on the penny….HA. But seriously, should this country, still healing from the wounds of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation, honor the first African American president. I realize that some legacies are realized posthumously. This isn’t one of them. Okay, maybe not Mt. Rushmore…but should there be something?

Should the country honor Obama for being the First POTUS of color?

Should it be based on his success of failures?

Would we still want to honor a Black Republican POTUS if they were the first?

Is it too soon, or do these honors only occur years after the POTUS' time in office?

If you believe he should be  honored, what should the country do? (i.e. holiday, currency, etc)
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