The Mandelas, Obama, Tavis and Black Expectations
Winnie Mandela's complaints about the South African icon sound a lot like some criticisms of the U.S. president.
Still, Whitaker's promotion, like Mandela's and Obama's elections, is progress, and when they are criticized by people who would be expected to love them most, it is not necessarily being two-faced. So when Madikizela-Mandela criticized her ex a month after praising him at the 20th anniversary of his release from prison, she wasn't talking from both sides of her mouth. Critiquing his presidency while recognizing that he is loved and recognized around the world for his fearlessness and commitment to the revolution is just dealing with reality when it comes to race.
I remember sitting with Mrs. Mandela in the Cape Town city hall on the day Nelson was released from prison and asking her how she felt about having her husband back after 27 years. Her answer surprised me. "I am overjoyed for Nelson," she said. "But it is going to be difficult to be a proper African wife again and walk two paces behind my husband."
In many ways, it is just as difficult for black Americans to have one of their own in the White House and feel that they are being kept at arm's length, that they are, in effect, walking two paces behind their president. But like it or not, such are the realities of race in America. President Obama cannot be seen as pushing a black racial agenda or his days in the White House would surely be numbered. That's why it is up to the Jesse Jacksons, Louis Farrakhans and other African-American leaders to keep pushing that agenda. They have to keep pushing this agenda, even if President Obama cannot--just as Winnie Mandela is doing in South Africa. Because her ex-husband could not.
Sylvester Monroe is a Chicago-based journalist and author. He is a former White House correspondent for Newsweek.