Needless to say, the United States of America has been quite unsettled as of late in the “political earthquake” (as I like to refer to it as) of the 2016 election. As in any election, clashing policies and ideologies have clashed, but rarely before have we seen a case which has nearly cleaved the entirety of the country not only in political institutions, but in all aspects of society diverging so deeply as within the family level.People are literally rioting in the streets with
People are literally rioting in the streets with anger of an electoral system which has stripped the people’s representation by electing a candidate who blatantly is not supported by the popular count. Further, while people are angered at the system, the division is also ever present between fellow countrymen. There is a sense of betrayal coming from the communities who President Trump has shown dispositions against, such as the LGBTQIAP+, Latin Americans, women, etc.; have we as a country forsaken them by electing a candidate who is so disrespectful towards them as a people?
While I certainly have much to say about these contemporary topics, this article is not about such trivial things. I believe it is important to remember that elections are a two-sided coin; one person is being hired while another is losing their job as well as passing their work to the next. While there is dissent about the former, we as a country seem to be sweeping the latter under the rug.
Former President Barack Obama (I can’t help but feel repugnance in giving him this new title), has been far too overlooked in his significance in American history. While we could simply look at his final approval rating of approximately 60% and easily come to a consensus that he was a good president for the American people, the role that this man plays in American society is much more than any policy that any president will ever establish.
In history books some years from now, Barack Obama will go down as the United States’ first African-American President. Oddly, I feel like this fact is overlooked and underappreciated in the U.S. despite its imminent significance for the country.
Briefly consider the timeline of the United States regarding Blacks. While Jamestown was founded in 1607, slaves were first brought to America in 1619, according to history.com. From then, slavery alone lasted for approximately 246 years as the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t come until 1865. Following nearly immediately, Jim Crow laws ensured that the little freedom that African-Americans had was greatly restricted. These laws didn’t exactly go away at a specific time, but they lead into the segregation of public facilities which, once again, ensured that the Black community was suppressed. These laws themselves did not end until events such as the Civil Rights Movement and Voting Rights Act in the late 1960’s.
When you add all of this together, in the near 400 years that African Americans have lived in North America, the people were not considered as full citizens for about 350 of them, meaning Blacks have not been legitimized as citizens for 88% of the nation’s history. Even further, it is absolutely not the case that racism ended when the Civil Rights Act was passed.
With these things in mind, it is truly remarkable that the United States has moved such that in only 50 years, a community has gone from being considered second class citizens to being represented by the leader of the “free world”. This achievement has not come smoothly at all, however.
Perhaps the most honorable aspect of former President Obama was his sense of unmoving composure. As it seems that liberals are having to remind conservatives lately, when Barack Obama was elected into office, people responded horrifically. They burned large, black dolls that said his name on them, they hung other black dolls from trees by a noose, and people wore KKK robes to his events.
Even further, once he was sworn in, there were many who had the audacity of insinuating that he was not a United States citizen and still swear as such to this day. As a reminder, one of the biggest advocates in this claim is now our President. Even when the appropriate records were found proving that Obama was, in fact, an American citizen, people of underlying racism still claim that he is illegitimate as a President.
In terms of American history, Barack Obama has completely turned society sideways. In only the course of 50 years, the U.S. has done what many generations lived and died thinking to be impossible; a person of a minority was elected as President of the United States. This is certainly not closure or even a glimpse of reprehension in regards to the hundreds of years of slavery and oppression, but the role of this man in the grand scheme of U.S. history is a great one that I dare say will be remembered as one of the greatest advancers for the African-American community ever. For this role, as well as being an inspiring contemporary character in the battle for liberty, I say thanks, Obama.
– Austin Falin