Barack Obama Is Allowed To Not Talk About Politics
In fact, sometimes I wish he wouldn't
In my story, Dear 2021, Please Take Notes, I mentioned the fact that when Barack Obama was first elected as president of the United States, I was in the fifth grade. As a ten year old, I didn't know much about his political stances. All I knew was that he was the first African American man who had been elected to the highest position in the land and to me, that was enough. As a 22-year-old, I know better.
Twelve years ago, it was easy to idolize Obama based on what we, as a nation, had experienced before. Rich, white, and mostly racist men had occupied the position beforehand. Almost anything was a step up from that. This paved the road for eight years of largely identical politics from Obama as we had seen with his predecessors. Just like presidents before him, he committed war crimes by launching attacks against Middle Eastern civilians. Just like presidents before him, he did little to help a major humanitarian crisis (the lack of clean water in Flint, MI). Just like presidents before him, his hands were not squeaky clean. But unlike presidents before him, he was a Black man.
Whether you believe that him being biracial qualifies him as a Black man, there is no denying that in the eyes of white America, he is Black. And they made sure to treat him as such.
The "Birtherism" Myth
When Obama was running for president, a certain future 45th president, launched a campaign against him that centered around Obama's place of birth. As the son of a Kenyan man, white conservatives attacked Obama to prove that he was also born in Kenya (which would disqualify him from being able to run for president), despite his mother being a white woman from Kansas. As we all know now (and any sane person knew back then) Obama was born in Hawaii and it's no coincidence that no other presidential candidate has experienced this in modern history.
A term was coined for this specific phenomenon: "birtherism." But this word took away from what was really taking place, which was racism and xenophobia.
There have been plenty of presidential candidates who were born to foreign parents. For example, Bernie Sanders was born to a Polish father, but unlike Obama, during his run for president he was not asked to prove that he wasn't born in Poland.
The only difference was that Obama was Black. And this incident was not isolated. Over the years, there have been many other cases of racism against Obama, such as when there were dummies made of him with a noose around its neck that were paraded through the streets by his opposers. And he even experienced cases of islamaphobia based on his Arabic middle name, Hussein.
For more than eight years, Obama has received just as many personal attacks as political ones.
Obama's Four Year and Counting Vacation
After Obama left office in 2017, he did what any normal person would do: he took a vacation. Since then, he has largely checked out of politics, only making statements when he feels it absolutely necessary, such as with the 2020 election and his endorsement of Joe Biden. And many people have taken notice.
This year, Obama shifted his focus from politics to writing, part of which has included blogging. He has gained a large following on Medium, in which he has released things like his favorite music playlists. And for some who already feel as though he didn't do enough as president, it has caused a lot of criticism.
Why It Matters
White people are not expected to constantly be active in political and social issues the way that Black people are typically. Despite presidents like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter all still being alive, they don't receive the same kind of backlash for maintaining regular lives outside of politics the way that Obama does.
And this is an issue that is reflected throughout society. For example, when Brandon Bernard was executed in early December, despite not being the person who actually committed the murders he was charged with, it deeply affected many Black people. Some took to social media to condemn Trump for signing off on the execution and condemning the death penalty in general, while others continued to tweet the same as usual. Many non-Black people took offense to it and spoke about how they shouldn't be tweeting as if nothing happened.
Obama was mistreated by the world throughout his entire presidency. While some of the criticism was well deserved, the racism, xenophobia, and islamaphobia he experienced were not. So now that he is out of office, if he chooses to not engage with a system that was responsible for so much of the hate he received for so long, as a Black man and just as a human being, he has the right to do so.
Obama may be far more right-leaning than many would like to admit. In an age where people like myself are fighting to abolish the prison system and the death penalty, Obama's centrist politics no longer inspire us. But that doesn't change the deeper issues that are connected to many people's criticisms of him.
Whether we agree with his politics or not, the fact remains that even he can not escape the racism and anti-Blackness that is so deeply embedded into this country. But just like the rest of Black America, he should be allowed to.
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