The Unfinished Business of the Black President

President Barack Obama
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
President Barack Obama
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a huge difference between having a president who’s black and having a Black President. With Barack Obama, we thought we hit the jackpot and we were finally gonna get both, but boy, were we wrong.

Almost eight years into the Obama era, and we’ve still not grappled with some of the vexing issues of negritude and resolved some of the more serious quandaries facing our community. I mean, yeah, President Obama’s done a lot, but has he really done enough to help solve black folks’ concerns?

Let’s take a moment and explore some of the most glaring failures of leadership from the Obama administration.


1. Which room can we sit in?

When Barack Obama took office, we were in the midst of a failing real estate market in which African Americans were disproportionately exposed to risk based on shady loans and exploding-rate mortgages. Through initiatives like the Home Affordable Refinance Program and an expanding economy, homeownership has once again been made an option for African-American families. And that’s all well and good, but yo …

Can we sit in that front room (pronounced: “frunchroom”) if we don’t have company? Can we lie on the good sofa, maybe lounge about on its fine plastic cover while we run our toes ever so gingerly across the carpet with its perfectly vacuumed lines? Can we admire the knickknacks and bric-a-brac collected over the past 50 years of domestic vacations and family reunions in peace, or do we have to take our “little friends” to the other room or, worse, down in the basement as if we’re some animals?

The Black President could have given us the opportunity not just to keep or own our homes but to truly enjoy our homes unencumbered by Big Momma’s rules.


2. What do we do with our copies of Gifted Hands now?

Upon his inauguration, Obama faced determined resistance from the Republican Party, which, in its haste to appear diverse and inclusive, embraced African Americans like Michael Steele, Herman Cain and Ben Carson. Lawd, lawd, lawd, Ben Carson …


When I was 15 or 16, someone got me the book Gifted Hands, the Carson autobiography. It was, at the time, an inspirational tale of a black man who came from beginnings like mine to become a world-renowned neurosurgeon. It let me know I could do or be anything. But now they got them s—ts on for damn near free—and turns out, Carson is a strange amalgam of medical genius, pathological personal-narrative fabricator and Droopy. So we need the Black President to let us know if and when it’s OK to dispose of these copies of this book (and the movie) and how we might be able to do so in the most environmentally friendly yet personally disrespectful way possible.

3. What are we gonna do about R. Kelly?

Having appointed the first African-American attorney general in Eric Holder, Obama made reforming the criminal-justice system a priority. From the disparity in sentencing between powder and crack cocaine to ending solitary confinement in federal prisons and even commuting sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, this president has made it his mission to begin rolling back the damage done by the war on drugs. That’s cool and all, but let’s be real for a sec …


Look, for all the clemencies and commutations of black folks in our prisons, there’s one black guy who clearly needs to be locked up: R. Kelly. Seriously. Yeah, we all enjoy his music, and making fun of his marginal literacy can be quite the hoot, but if we can get real about Bill Cosby, then we can be honest with Arruh.

He’s an alleged pedophile and a predator—we have it on tape—and if there’s one person who could be the impartial arbiter of justice here, it would be the Black President. No more talk about how he might have been framed, or victim-blaming or shifting the discussion to how dope was; nah. Just an edict from the Black President to finally clear up this mess, since we can’t seem to agree among ourselves.


4. What about these grits?

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (see Obamacare), many African Americans were able to access health care and health insurance that they may have been prevented from receiving because of excessive costs. One of the leading drivers of the high uninsured rate among black Americans was pre-existing conditions, especially chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes. Man, that’s really awesome. It is, howsoever …


How are we preparing these grits, man? Are we doing sugar and committing to diabetes, or are we doing salt and pepper and doubling down on that high blood pressure? We got coverage now, so we can go either way with this; we just gotta know. This is a dispute requiring an executive action that only the Black President can order. From the White House to the Waffle House, his word would be bond and we could end decades, if not centuries, of brunch disputes once and for all.

5. Are we allowed to actually hoop in Jordans?

Speaking of Obamacare, one of the hidden perks of the ACA is that it covers behavior that is considered preventive care, like yoga and gym memberships. That’s right—you can get a discount on your monthly fee at LA Fitness and then use all that dough you’re saving for a fresh pair of Jordans.


But does anyone outside of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or Jimmy Butler actually play ball in his J’s? I mean, $200 for some shoes I can’t hoop in—I might as well buy some peanut butter Timbs and use the rest on, like, three tanks of gas (thanks, Obama!). We need the Black President to make the call—Jordans, gym shoes or dress shoes?—once and for all.

6. How long are we supposed to keep this grease?

When it comes down to environmental policy, Obama has taken positive stands on affirming science-backed claims of climate change and taking steps to curb emissions and man-made activity that may contribute to the deterioration of the planet. Great, but hey …


We’ve been saving our cooking oil in a Chock Full O’Nuts can on top of the stove since, like, 1987. Tell us, Mr. Black President: Is keeping this old dusty-ass tin of grease good for the environment or what? How are we supposed to dispose of our collective canisters of aged cooking oils in a manner that won’t turn the back of Aunty Alfreda’s house into a Superfund site?

7. Can Puerto Ricans use the n-word or nah?

While often maligned for his inability to get cooperation from congressional Republicans, one piece of bipartisan legislation that Obama was able to pass was the Puerto Rican debt-relief bill. The bill, while imperfect, provided the island protectorate with the breathing room it needed to renegotiate its debt, restructure its finances and save itself from a future of economic doom. That’s good, but yo …


What’s up with out Borinquen cousins and the n-word, man? We’ve been wondering this for a while. We need to know if the Black President will exercise the Fat Joe Exception Clause and make it official outside of New York City or if those folks have been grandfathered in and we’re not accepting anymore n-word licenses.

8. Are we ever gonna get another Fugees album?

Obama brokered a historic deal to limit nuclear weapons with Iran, ensuring relative peace for the coming decades and abating one of our greatest Middle Eastern regional adversaries. And that’s cool and all, buuuuuut …


Can we get the Black President to get the Fugees back together? Hell, we’ll even settle for the Black President just getting Lauryn Hill to her show on time. We’ll let him ship Wyclef and Pras to Gitmo for a chance to live out that dream. If Obama can get Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to back down on the nukes, then the Black President can get Lauryn onstage before last call.

9. Is Scooter fitna pay me my money?

Unemployment on the day Obama was inaugurated was 8.3 percent. Today’s unemployment rate is 4.8 percent.


Word to the Black President: If Scooter ain’t payin’, it’s ’cause you weak, dawg.

10. Is Tupac still alive?

Obama killed Osama bin Laden and opened up Cuba—which means he knows how to find people who are supposed to be dead (and make them dead), and now he has unfettered access to the last bastion of Cold War isolation in the Western Hemisphere. I’m just sayin’ …


Corey Richardson, originally from Newport News, Va., is currently living in Chicago with his wife and daughter. Ad guy at work, dad guy in life and whiskey enthusiast, he spends his time crafting words, telling bedtime stories and working hard at becoming the legend he is in his own mind.

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