President Obama was elected by an enthusiastic, optimistic, relieved majority. Like my emailing friend Ann, in Oregon, most of us cried tears of joy when the last vote was counted; some of us still choke up every time he appears. But most of us also receded back into our lives after the election, dabbing our eyes as we waited for him to work miracles. And we knew it would take miracles—not only because there was a mighty contingent appalled that a Black man was president—but because the deck he was handed was stacked high against him, and against us all.
When he proved to be a mere mortal... we went mute and let the liars, the haters, the extremists and opportunists take over. Do we blame him for that or do we blame ourselves?
President Obama is constantly criticized for the changes he promised that we don’t yet see. But his campaign for change clearly required that we all change; it required that we sacrifice and continue to stand with him once he was off the campaign trail and actually working to enact a new approach that he (and we) knew would be an uphill battle.
His change demanded that Americans maintain the optimism, interest, and level of engagement that led us to change ourselves enough to vote a Black man into the White House in the first place. But no sooner was he there than we changed back, tweeting our gripes, Facebooking our frustrations, bitching and moaning and doing almost nothing to help him move us forward.
As African Americans, once again, we have a vital role to play at a critical moment in history—and there’s not a moment to spare. In a twist on the president’s own line, this is not rocket science; it’s right. When it comes to opening the door to real change, he can turn the lock, but we hold the key.
I know many who read here are the very ones who have been doing all we can to "maintain the optimism, interest, and level of engagement" far beyond President Obama's election. But too often we've been doing that against a chorus of the "bitching and moaning" coming from the left as well as the right.
It was never "Yes He Can" now was it?