It’s been several weeks since the general public decided that Oprah—following her amazing speech discussing #MeToo and #TimesUp at the Golden Globes—would be the perfect candidate to run against Donald Trump in 2020. Oprah undoubtedly is a legend, great orator and motivator, and billionaire, and essentially “qualified” to be president.
Now she has gone on record to say that she doesn’t plan on running for president. However, this continued desire to have another black face in the White House is something our community needs to reassess as we move closer to the midterm elections and the impending tokenization of the black vote.
To be clear: This country is not ready for, nor does it deserve, another black president.
Let’s look at the history. We have had one black president, and for all intents and purposes, Barack Obama did a decent job upholding the standards of the Oval Office. The problem is that these standards are oftentimes rooted in anti-blackness, and no matter the color of the person who adheres to those standards, he or she will inherently continue to hurt black and brown people, both domestic and global. Behind Obama’s charismatic charm, bright smile and Al Green vocals was a man in a position of power that required him to do some very inhumane things.
The protection of Obama’s legacy by the black community has already begun, with an attempt to turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings, which is eerily similar to the reverent school lessons about America’s forefathers, despite their complicity in slavery and racism. We can’t allow an omission of the facts simply because Obama is black.
In addition to the good, Obama will be remembered for the thousands killed in drone strikes he ordered and the largest deportation of undocumented immigrants by any president in our history. Again, this is part of the job of running a white, imperialist nation. Yet we are still eager to throw another black face into the White House because colonization has conditioned us to believe in symbolism as an ideology of progress, rather than realize that tokenism of black people within white systems has only been used as a litmus test for what is an acceptable standard of blackness.
Hari Ziyad touches on this idea in his piece, “Why I Don’t Want Another Black President,” when he states: “But while giving black folks the fleeting empowerment of representation, Barack Obama did very little to challenge white society—at least much less than he did to support it. His final acts as president, for example, will not be to pardon black freedom fighters-turned-political prisoners and fugitives like Nehanda Abiodun, but to ensure the smooth transition of power to his virulently anti-black successor.”
We fail ourselves every time we place the burden of our freedom in elected officials—especially those who are black and required to serve the white majority. Once in office, they continue to enforce laws that are inherently anti-black, which is in direct conflict with why many of us voted for them in the first place.
Our failure is that we continue to try to work within a system that was created without the intention of ensuring equity or equality among races. Hundreds of years of evidence to the contrary, we continue to place our hopes in those like Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who will eventually succumb to the pressures of the system that uses them as pawns of “progress” to dehumanize those who aren’t able or willing to assimilate into whiteness as they have.
The two-party system from which they operate has never served black communities well. Having the option of Democrat or Republican is often about choosing the lesser of two evils, despite the color of the person running for office. The pandering for our vote over the last 50 years has given us nothing but empty promises, mass incarceration, health care discrimination and a median family wealth that could drop to zero for African Americans in 2053.
Despite all of this, hope is not lost for those willing to invest in politics when it really matters. That means, as black folks, we can’t wait every four years to be interested in what is going on in our country. We also shouldn’t be waiting every two years for the midterm elections to get involved.
First we must begin supporting local grassroots organizations that are on the ground attempting to make changes that will have national implication, while also divesting from systems of oppression in an effort to dismantle them; we need to begin anew with systems not built on anti-blackness.
Black folks have to become more than the swing vote that decides which evil gets to run the white imperialist empire.
This country is not built for, nor does it deserve to have, a black man, woman or gender-nonconforming person as president. Nearly 400 years of history have taught us that this system will not bring about freedom.
The time is now that we demand a change, starting with ourselves and how we do politics. We can no longer allow the symbolism of black progress at the expense our freedom.