steven ivory

Steven Ivory

*I didn’t need it confirmed by media pundits: two minutes into the  October 3rd  2012 presidential debate, I knew Mitt Romney was going to rock President Obama’s world.

From the beginning,  Romney was in control.  He was bullish and glib and condescending, and from the onset he owned the stage.  Obama, on the other hand,  appeared disinterested, caught by surprise, and  on occasion,  a little timid.

Okay, so Romney aced Obama during the first act in the Theater of Appearances. One debate performance doesn’t define what it takes to be  Commander in Chief.   Anyone can have  a  day like Obama  had–off-target and seemingly not “present.” Granted, most of us usually don’t have that day in front of  all of America and much of the world.

But then, it’s always something, isn’t it?  Ever  since February 10th, 2007,  the day he announced his  candidacy for President of the United States,  Barack Obama  has  faced  land mines and brick walls and forks in roads that appeared to lead to dead ends or  oblivion.  For many Americans, that’s simply politics as usual.  However,  in the case of the black Obama supporter–or anyone else for whom Obama represents a formidable cultural, political evolution–this ride is a new experience.

It’s been one worry after another.  First, we fretted that he couldn’t actually win. Then he won, and on cue a country already on the financial skids  appeared to begin to crumble.

Then there were/are those ornery members of Congress, determined to derail any progress initiated by the president. And then, international terrorists weighed in.  And then the Left began talking shit about him. Meanwhile, the Right has never STOPPED  talking shit.  And then…and then….

As a black friend of mine, expressing his  anxiety for the coming election in light of Obama’s debate  performance, half-joked: “Having a black president  sho’nuff  is exhausting.”

Indeed. I sometimes hark back to the “good ol’ days” (wink), when black  Americans of  my generation and older thought the best this country could do on our behalf  was a Kennedy.

And when all the Kennedys ready for prime time were gone–and after Lyndon Johnson and later, Bill Clinton, whom we lovingly dubbed “America’s First Black President” — we returned to casting our  ballot for “the lesser of two evils.”

Generally, we’d been only marginally concerned about who the President was, because no matter how friendly he seemed to the black community, at the end of the day,  the comradeship ran only so deep.

However, today, “The Man” happens to be a black man.  Black Americans haven’t had this personal and emotional an interest in American politics since the days of Abraham Lincoln,  JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., Clinton.  So THIS, exclaim  black citizens across this great country, is what it feels like to have a president who physically resembles…us.  And this is what white folk with a vested interest in power have casually experienced and/or enjoyed all this time.

Wow wee! It’s exciting! But nerve-racking.  Nerve-racking, because, no matter what he does, there are those who judge Obama not as a man, but a black man; nerve-racking and exhausting because WE want him to do well, because he is a  black man.  It never ends.

Founded in 1854 by antislavery activists, the modern Republican party never offered much to people of color, the poor or women. And today’s Party doesn’t even pretend to care. In the media,  the GOP  salivates over America’s Hispanic population not as human beings,  but as one big check mark on a ballot.

They believe black people would follow Obama, no matter his stance or decree, simply because he is black.    Somehow, they can’t grasp that most black Americans, like other Americans, vote with the interests of their communities and the nation at heart.  We work to educate them otherwise.  However, the business of enlightenment can be exhausting.

Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love  (Simon & Schuster),  has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected].