Just read "My President Was Black," Ta-Nehisi Coates' spectacular article in The Atlantic about Obama's legacy as America's first Black president. It's a lengthy read, it took me about an hour to fully digest. However, it is incredibly detailed and profound. When I finished it, I literally clapped at my laptop screen. Coates analyses Obama's legacy within the context of American history and within the context of Trump's win. He offers a thoughtful critique of Obama's "brand" of blackness and interrogates Obama's interactions with Black America. I am grateful that Ta-Nehisi Coates labored to create this masterful work. Here are the most poignant quotes. They are long:
"There are no clean victories for black people, nor, perhaps, for any people. The presidency of Barack Obama is no different. One can now say that an African American individual can rise to the same level as a white individual, and yet also say that the number of black individuals who actually qualify for that status will be small. One thinks of Serena Williams, whose dominance and stunning achievements can’t, in and of themselves, ensure equal access to tennis facilities for young black girls. The gate is open and yet so very far away."
"The election of Donald Trump confirmed everything I knew of my country and none of what I could accept. The idea that America would follow its first black president with Donald Trump accorded with its history. I was shocked at my own shock. I had wanted Obama to be right."
"For 8 years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell."
Coates also said Obama became black with "minimal trauma." I struggled to accept that argument. There's an air of dismissal in this article - one that undermines Obama's "blackness" by virtue of his unique upbringing. There is no way that one grows up black with minimal trauma. However, while Coates is questioning Obama's blackness, I guess it is more accurate to say that he is more so interrogating it through a historical lens. Obama may be "black" but he is not Black American. Although we desperately want him to, he does not actually represent our legacy as the descendants of enslaved people. This is one of the best long-form articles of 2016.