*Like the rest of America, I found myself impressed by President Obama’s rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay together,” last week. The man is extremely talented in nearly every capacity, and now we can add singing to his list of capabilities.
One thing about the Obamas is that they are likely the singing-est, dancing-est president and First Lady to ever enter into the White House. Just last week, Michelle Obama was seen dancing on the show ICarly and was also spotted doing the Monkey and the Jerk at a high school appearance. Of course there’s a part of me that wonders why being black means we must sing and dance to make people happy, but I’m not here to lose track of the point.
Given that we’ve gotten into the habit of singing to our political leaders and having them sing to us, I thought I would lay out a few songs that the black community could sing right along with President Barack Obama. After all, a good song isn’t just about the music – it’s also about making a point:
1) Secret Lovers – Atlantic Star: This classic song features a couple that is deeply in love, but afraid to show their love in public. The Obama Administration’s long-standing decision to cave in to the demands of a racist society only piles onto black American political subjugation. Like the slave who falls into a forbibben love with massa, we find ourselves desperately looking for “Negro code language” (the way he walks, talks, sings, etc.) to show that this president really does care about us and that he is “one of us.” But the sad reality is that in the last three years, we’ve rarely heard or seen President Obama say the words “black man” or “black woman” in public. We are the political mistresses of President Obama – maybe he cares about us, maybe not. But a husband can’t show too much affection to his mistress in public, and a good mistress forgives her man for putting her on the backburner
2) Whip Appeal – BabyFace: This song starts off with the words “Whatever you want, it’s alright with me,” expressing a kind of unconditional, never-ending loyalty that comes from falling in love with someone because they’ve simply got you “whipped.” The Obama family has had black America whipped from day one, to the point where black unemployment has continued to worsen without significantly impacting the Obamas’ popularity within the black community. Black kids are dying en masse in Chicago, LA and other urban areas, yet the White House conversation on bullying hasn’t extended beyond gay kids in the suburbs. Black family wealth is the worst that it’s been since Dougie Fresh was a teenager, and nobody seems to care. All that matters is that the Obamas look cute together.
3) Wakeup Everybody – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: This song reminds us that our collective decision to sleep as a society has led to out of control poverty, dysfunctional educational systems and a bunch of other things that Washington bureaucrats care almost nothing about. Last year, President Obama had the dubious distinction of being the first Democratic President since Harry S. Truman not to mention poverty during his State of the Union address. Let’s pray he doesn’t make that horrible mistake again.
4) 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton: This song is about working 9 to 5, which is something that too many black Americans are unable to do. Three years ago, the Obama administration made it clear that they plan to use their resources to deal with the broader unemployment problem, but that economic inequality (which was created and sustained by the very government Obama leads) would not be a priority. As a result, black unemployment has continued to worsen while white unemployment has steadily improved. That’s what happens when you pay attention to one thing and completely neglect another.
5) Respect- Aretha Franklin: As we all know, this song is about respect. While listening to President Obama sing Al Green songs is certainly entertaining, I’d much rather hear him singing about how he’s going to deal with mass incarceration (maybe the song “Locked Up” by Akon will do the trick). Michelle Obama can certainly dance the monkey on TV, but she and her husband should not stand by idly while the rest of us are being treated like monkeys. Also, part of making the Obama family respect us is showing respect for ourselves. As long as the president’s advisors know that we can be satisfied with renditions of Al Green or cute pictures on the cover of Essence Magazine, that’s all we’re going to get. If you ask your president for nothing, he will give you nothing – that’s the way American politics works.
If the Obamas and the black community both wake up and take their partnership more seriously, then perhaps we can come together and collectively sing the beautiful song “At Last” by the late Etta James. My hope and dream is not for us to have a president who sings, dances and entertains us. Instead, we need a president who works with us to shape relevant policy and maintain his popularity through substantive action, not by squashing dissenting opinions or engaging in silly distractions. Our president is better than that, and so are we. Let’s get real about our politics or our community will never stop singing the blues.