Take Me Back to 2008
By: Christina Bolden
I still remember that day in 2008. The facial expressions on my parents faces as they watched you walk towards the crowd that morning. That screaming crowd on television as you, your beautiful wife Michelle and your two daughters walked towards them. You, President Obama, became our first Black president.
Their faces showed signs of shock, dismal, surprise, but mostly pride. Pride after years of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow and institutionalized racism, we had a Black president. My mama, the matriarch of our family, plopped down in the chair at her desk as tears slowly rolled down her eyes. My mama, the young girl who at the age of 6 would make trips down to Louisiana with my grandmother to see our family, only to have to ride at the back of the bus. The back of the bus as toilets overflowed so my grandmother made sure not to put anything on the floor. Where it was so cold my grandmother would bring my mom extra blankets and pillows to keep warm. Never getting off the bus at any rest stops as to not draw more attention to yourself in the South. I can only imagine what was going through her mind as she saw this man walk down the stage and greet the crowd with his black family. My father sat on the edge of the bed in his security uniform, just coming home from work that morning. He hadn’t taken off his shoes yet, his eyes focused on the screen, his eyes focused on you. My father was the man, where at 16 he was bullied and abused by his white counterparts for being not only disabled, but also a football player in Lake Charles, Louisiana at a segregated high school. My parents pride made me cry that day because I saw what it meant to them. What it represented, the history and strides it made for the black community. For me, when you became president in 2008 and I saw Michelle on your arm, I saw a family that looked like mine and I thought to myself, I can do that. I can do this. I can do anything.
As I wind down from the romance of your presidency as it slowly comes to an end, I look back at and think about what I expected from you. I think about, how I truly felt about your presidency. The truth is I expected nothing. A lot of people will find that surprising, perplexed as to why I, a Black woman, did not expect anything from our first Black president. The truth of the matter is I didn’t expect for you to come save me, I didn’t expect for you to stick up for me, I didn’t expect anything as a Black American. A lot of the reason as to why I felt and still do feel that way is because you were our first Black president. There was no man before you and I’m not too sure if there will be another after you. You didn’t have anyone’s shoes to follow in or anyone’s path or legislation to build on. You had to build your own legacy from the ground up and I knew that legacy would not be built solely on you being black, but trying to be the most open or understanding president. Being the first Black president means you had to make this position your own. You had to figure out what was the right thing to say or do, how to handle certain situations, when to back down from certain issues, you had to figure it out as well as figuring it out while being black. So to put all of these pressures and expectations on a person who was trying to figure it out themselves would have been almost selfish to me.
When video footage of countless black men and women being gunned down and killed at the hands of our very police officers were put on display, I didn’t expect for you to shout racism or wrongdoing. As black trans* women are being killed at the same rate as black men, I didn’t expect for you to address while in office. As the #blacklivesmatter movement gained traction and protests sprang up in various major cities across the United States, I did not expect for you to stand with us in solidarity. As President of the United States, if you had made all of these statements that affected the Black community, white people would not only have shouted reverse racism at the top of their lungs, but you would have proved them right. As the first Black president, I’m sure they thought that’s what you were going to do anyways, stick up for us, advocate for us. I think you knew the implications, the expectations of being the first Black president and in a way you wanted people to know that, but not focus on that sole factor which I understand.
What I have said does not mean I can not see all the good you have done and the legislation you have passed that has helped countless people, including me. As a Black American, being able to turn on the television for a press conference and see you addressing millions of people and countries at the White House podium is an image I will never forget. It gave me more courage and pride then anything I can imagine. The Affordable Care Act, your statements regarding the gender wage gap, passing legislation that would help working class families get paid for overtime and helping people who have come here for a better way of life, these are all acts that have helped numerous people. I have seen all of the advancements in other areas of life and the change you have tried to institute on a national level.
President Barack Obama, as your presidency comes to an end, I am so happy that countless young people, including myself have been able to see and grow up for the last 8 years with a Black man as president. I’m happy you gave not only the United States, but every country around the world a different narrative of Black men and the Black family versus what people see in the media. When people think of black women and black families they are associated with broken homes and poverty. Your marriage and the love and devotion you showed towards Michelle Obama and your daughters gave people a different perception and a different image. You will always be the greatest president to me, Barack Obama and I thank you for everything you have done.
Christina Bolden is the writer of her own blog, The Awkward Activist. Read more from her on her website.