America's Chitlin' Era

Blacks are experts at turning nasty scraps into feasts. Enter President Obama.

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This weekend I finally opened the quarterly statements for my retirement accounts. After a few minutes of weeping and a few more spent calculating how many additional years I would now be forced to labor in the vineyard, I had a thought that cheered me.

Sure, the economy is staggering. Sure, we are five years into the devastating Iraq quagmire with no end in sight, while violence surges in Afghanistan and terrorism remains an ever-present threat. Sure, people are losing their homes; food and gas prices are soaring; banks are failing; bridges, roads and levies are crumbling at an alarming rate.

But look on the bright side: The worse things get for the country, the better the chances that Barack Obama will win in November. Not because Americans are sick to death of George W. Bush or because we've finally had enough of the Republican policies that have enriched the rich, endangered the poor and alienated us from the world community.

No, Obama will win because America is in the waning days of its glory—and black folks always get the tail end of things.

Think about it. Historically speaking, when is it that black people get stuff in America? Or, put it this way: When did we get O.J. back?

When the heels are down, when the dress is no longer in fashion, when the school books are scuffed and out-of-date, send them down to the colored people. (My mother, who grew up in Mississippi, can speak to these facts personally.) When the folks who had it first have taken all the good parts, it's time for us to move in. When the hams and loins and chops are gone and the only thing that remains are the slimy, waste-transferring guts. And so with our nation.

America has entered its Chitlin' Era. Obama is good to go.

There, I've named it. Americans always feel better when a people or an era or a generation has been named. The Roaring '20s, the "Greatest Generation," the Civil Rights Era, Yuppies, Buppies and BAPs. Naming helps us to get our arms around a concept, helps us to put things in their place. So, there you go.

The Chitlin' Era will be a time of diminishing American influence and power around the world. Our military, while still mighty, will no longer be unanswerable. The prosperity that has been our birthright will diminish. Our productivity and economic clout will continue to decline, along with the test scores of our kids compared to the rest of the world. China will keep nipping at our heels. Who better than a black man to cobble something together from these broken bits?

What does this mean for Americans in general, for black Americans in particular, for Obama himself?

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