An Open Letter to Obama

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Dear Barack Obama,

Thank you. Thank you for boldly going to a place where no one in the black community has gone before. You held the highest position in our country, arguably, the world, and you did it humbly. Amidst all the criticism, you never lost your poise and continued to lead with stride.

Back in 2008 when you were running for office, I thought your chances of securing enough votes to was very low. I was too young to vote in that election, but I still was a spectator. I’m sure you’re aware of the underlying predisposition a lot of people have that causes them to think that black people aren’t good enough, educated enough, hard-working enough or skilled enough to take on big roles. To a degree I even believed it growing up. That’s why I thought America wouldn’t choose you, but they did and I’m so glad they did.

As I think about you leaving the White House I’m saddened. I’m sad because I know I took you for granted. Here, I had a President who looked like me, who faced similar struggles and obstacles that I had, who made much of education, and respected people from all different backgrounds, and rarely did I take the time to appreciate that. I guess part of it had to do with my conservative background. Honestly, Mr. Obama, I doubted you many times because a lot of my friends stood against you. They proclaimed negative rhetoric that dug its way into my brain and into my conscience.

“How can you be a Christian and vote for Obama? If you’re a Christian you should vote Republican!”

I let that cast a shadow on something else that was happening outside of politics. You lived in a really hard place, the south-side of Chicago. You overcame adversity, got educated, ran for Senate, ran for President, and you did it without hating the world around you. I think a lot of my friends missed that. They diminished your person due to the fact that you were a Democrat and the only reason you won was because you were a a novelty (first black President). By doing that, they overlooked the context of you as an individual. They overlooked the context of black people in this country, and they overlooked how loud of a statement it was to see our people come from a place of slavery to having one of our own be President. Maybe if they understood the narrative and truly cared they would have celebrated with us when you won knowing how impossible this all seemed and how much hope it brought to the black community.

Dr. Seuss has that famous quote — “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I want to embody that. I want adopt the posture of a person who just returned from intermission and is eager to see how the rest of this story pans out, because we know it doesn’t end with you. In fact, it continues with all of us. In no way will I declare this an easy journey, but if we’re willing to rise up to the task I don’t see how we can’t move closer toward a country that values diversity, not just for looks and accolades, but in a healthy way where people understand that the full picture comes together with different pieces like a puzzle.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for serving as our President not without setbacks and imperfections, but strong-heartedly (I think that’s a word). Obama was my President. You were my President, and I’m damn proud of you! Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can.