With less than a month left in office, President Barack Obama is flexing his executive muscle, but it all feels a little too late. Recently he granted clemency to 231 prisoners, and now he's banning offshore drilling in areas of the Arctic and Atlantic indefinitely. I would have loved to see this flippant Obama in his first term, or even this cunning Obama during his second term, but instead we got a cool, poised, distinguished man of honor—all attributes that made him presidential but have failed in securing his position with his core base: black folks.
I wanted Obama to be the same gangster who found a 63-year-old law that not only will ban drilling in offshore areas but will also have Donald Trump face legal ramifications if he attempts to go against the order. I wanted Obama to go full Yandy and change the locks to the apartment and, if anyone objected, yell, "That's what presidents do!"
But that's a freedom of whiteness that Obama doesn't have. On deck to serve the next four years as president of the United States is undoubtedly one of the most racist, sexist, hate-filled idiots, and he won the presidency by being a full-on racist, sexist, hate-filled idiot. The best part about a Donald Trump presidency is that while we don't know the exact trouble he's going to get us in, we know we are in trouble. He hasn't hidden behind a distinguished demeanor. He hasn't acted cool or calm; in fact, he acts like a petulant toddler, and other racist, homophobic, hate-filled idiots have found their leader and voted him into office.
Unless Trump unzips his human-form bodysuit to reveal that he actually is Satan, he won't surprise us with the worst of his behavior, since we don't expect much from him. There won't be a letdown because he never put on airs. Obama, however, backed himself into a corner with his respectable, distinguished demeanor, and if there were ever a time for Obama to come out of a bag, it would be now.
Currently, white supremacy is poised to take over the White House, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting cable hooked up in the basement. We are on the verge of what feels like domestic terrorism in office, and Obama is coddling us with hope language and saying that the public has spoken.
I get that it's tricky being the first black anything, and surely a much harder position to be the first black president. There were tightropes and trip wires all around Obama's presidency, and he handled them effortlessly.
I imagine his entire presidency like this:
But many of us gave Obama a pass when he was silent, if not absent, on matters concerning black folk and, more specifically, the Movement for Black Lives. We winced collectively when he was quick to call young black men, rioting after the death of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, thugs. We watched, mouths agape, as he spoke harshly of those who killed police, but his voice didn't carry the same verve when he spoke about the unarmed black lives lost at the end of police guns. So although I like his latest moves, I would have liked to see this mastermind at full blackness.
But that's one of the challenges of being a black “first.” So much of your position is based on making sure you set the racial example so that others coming behind you still have a chance. Don't do anything too black so that you don't mess it up for those coming next. It's sad, really, to look at the contrast between Obama's legacy and Trump's impending doom.
Can you imagine if Obama had filled his Cabinet with unqualified black men and women as Trump has? Can you imagine if all of Obama's top positions were filled with his homeboys from Chicago? Of course not. But Trump has shown that the president isn't here to play nice with the people; he's here to lead, and he gets to lead at all costs. He gets to fill positions and spout foolishness and argue on Twitter because he's a leader.
And while it's nice that Obama has made some slick moves in his final full month, it's a little too late, and acting as if we aren't on the verge of a dangerous time isn't making us feel hopeful; it's making us feel disillusioned. In fact, one promise that Trump has made consistently since running for office is that he plans to undo Obama's legacy—and if that's not worth fighting for, then what has been the point?
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a senior editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.