Obama, I see you!
By Erica Slutsky (Writer/Singer/Songwriter)
I’ve watched a ton of political documentaries over the last year and a half, and I keep coming back to Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond. Both tried to be the first Black President, and both failed due to similar factors outside of their control: Youthfulness, a lack of government experience, ties to specific cultural organizations, youth appeal, and the overall fear of putting a minority in charge. It’s strange to think that even fictional portrayals of Presidents were just as reticent to cast a Black actor in the role before President Barack Obama. It was downright revolutionary for director Mimi Leder to single out Morgan Freeman as her choice for the President in 1998’s Deep Impact. The film succeeded anyway, with little controversy. And it’s almost cliché to reference Freeman’s Deep Impact role now, as he would go on to play God (in multiple projects) and narrate Disney’s Hall of Presidents after Obama’s election (watch it be James Woods in 2018). My mom said that she was sure that we’d see a lot more of Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett during the Obama administration because of his reach on the culture. She was wrong.
Of course, satire like this was also taken at face value. But it was a different time…
Even with Obama’s successes, history seems to conveniently erase the anger, paranoia, and “Oh, God, this guy again” talk surrounding both men. While Jackson heartily stumped for Hillary in 2016, Bond, who later became President of the NAACP, received the biggest applause during the Montage of People Who Died™ at the last Democratic National Convention. It’s hard not to feel heartened at this one change Obama incurred, even remembering the near-universal acclaim and upheaval that Obama inspired during his recent years as a rising star in the Democratic Party. It seemed right: After hundreds of years of white men in the White House, which was built by slaves, Obama’s presidency wasn’t just desirable after a disastrous economy and an unpopular war; it was significant. It’s easy to forget that, at the recent DNC, inspiring Black men dominated the proceedings with a message of hope, love, and acceptance, from Lenny Kravitz singing “Let Love Rule,” to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the very first Cultural Ambassador. Maybe the post-Obama influence extended far more than we realized, even if it was all too brief.
Video: Chappelle's Show/Comedy Central