Monday, June 23, 2008

What Would Obama Do?

So, as is my habit, I'm sitting in a church pew Sunday morning.

It's after service and one of the associate ministers is talking with the men about our plans for fifth Sunday and the male chorus. He's just finished explaining to us what our uniform will be and is encouraging us to take pride in our singing so that we can outshine the female chorus.

Then it happens.

Just as the minister is explaining exactly why we all need to dress the same, he drops a comment that I've heard in a plethora of places. It's always delivered as if it's the most sensible comment in the world, but it's not. It's actually kinda of crazy. The minister says:

"Now that Obama has won this thing, we've really got step things up. With him in office we've got to do better."

Welcome to the Obama Effect.

I'm sure some of you have had your own experiences with the Obama Effect. It typically comes into play around older black people, usually when they are complaining about some failure of the younger generation, or trying to convince someone to do something they think is necessary.

The comment may follow an exhortation for some young cat to pull up his pants, or a plea that a young lady pull down her shirt. It might be tossed out as a commentary on the trifling folks who scam the welfare system, or just an aside added on to a rambling rant about traffic in the hood. No matter the situation, the comment always seems to stem from the same core belief.

With a black president, we've got to do better y'all.

When I first encountered the Obama Effect it gave me a bit of a shock. While I've been an Obama supporter since the brother declared just because of general black solidarity, I don't see big homie as my moral North Star. He seems like a cool cat, and I like how he handles himself, but homeboy is quite clearly not The Chosen One. He's a politician in a suit who I think would do a good job. Period.

But, somewhere along the line, maybe when he vanquished Hillary Clinton or raised $300 million, Obama became much more than just another politician for a lot of black folks. This is particularly true for older black people who I believe really cannot fully comprehend a reality where a black person has a decent shot to be president. His transfiguration grants him a ludicrous amount a leeway, a fervent following and, most importantly, WWOD status.

What Would Obama Do?

Y'all know the last black person to get to that level was Martin Luther King Jr., right? Now, I would never compare Obama to Martin, that would be stupid, but I'm just noting that the last time black folks placed one of their own on that sort of pedestal was when Dr. King walked the Earth. No matter how many speeches and marches Jesse and Al participate in, they will never get to that level, it's just not happening. (Sidenote: That's probably why they always salty with Obama.)

Now, I'm of a mixed mind about the Obama Effect. On one hand, I can see how this ends horribly for black folks. Remember how big of a deal it was when Ralph Abernathy and Taylor Branch revealed that like many other preachers Dr. King was a special favorite of church ladies? Shoot, some black folks are still trying to recover from the betrayal of Bill and Hillary and they weren't even black! When we build folks up, we tend to take it pretty hard when they inevitably fail to live up to our impossible expectations.

Then again, I can see the potential of WWOD. Think about all the good Obama could do in the hood as a sort of mythical ideal. Can't get your son to do his homework? Whip out WWOD. Daughter think it's cool to hang around when the neighborhood knucklehead? WWOD to the rescue. (Actually, I would probably whip out "What Would Michelle Do?" in that situation, but that's not important.)

Got an urge to curse out your ignorant boss and steal some supplies? WWOD would help you control that urge and keep the job that pays your bills. Seriously, there is no ceiling for how often you could use WWOD and get yourself and others to shape up. In fact, you might even be able to use WWAWOD on your white friends to get them to act right. (That's "What Would a White Obama Do?" for all of y'all who missed it.)

Anyway, I might not totally understand the Obama Effect, but I must admit that I'm both intrigued and excited by its potential. Obama ain't even close to perfect, (Have y'all seen homie dance?) but he is clearly a pretty good role model for many of us.

After all, it's better than WWRKD.

That's "What Would Robert Kelly Do?" and I shudder at that thought.

14 comments:

WNG said...

I know what you mean, Big Man, people don't seem to realize that he is a politician and that means he will let us down, probably sooner than later.
BUT
I do think that one of the greatest things about him is the inspiration he brings to people to stand up straighter and walk a little taller and have some hope for their lives and their futures. Hopefully our communities will turn that into action...

Truthiz said...

“When I first encountered the Obama Effect it gave me a bit of a shock. While I've been an Obama supporter since the brother declared just because of general black solidarity, I don't see big homie as my moral North Star. He seems like a cool cat, and I like how he handles himself, but homeboy is quite clearly not The Chosen One. He's a politician in a suit who I think would do a good job. Period.”

From your lips_uhhh, typing fingers_to Black folks ears, Big Man!

“But, somewhere along the line, maybe when he vanquished Hillary Clinton or raised $300 million, Obama became much more than just another politician for a lot of black folks.”

And the truth is, from what I’ve observed over the past few weeks (and multiple polls are beginning to bare it out)_the “Obama Effect” is now being felt by a lot of White folks (including Hispanics) too!

His “dethroning” and utter “smack-down” of the Clintons seems to have elevated Obama into that Stratospheric “pedestal” you referred to.

It’s mind-boggling to see how FAST many "hard-working White people" who voted for Hillary are now throwing their support solidly behind Barack?! Did I suspect they would? Yes, eventually. Afterall, the majority of them are Democrats NOT Hillarycrats.

Hillarycrats (like Reagan Democrats) stopped voting for a "Democrat" AFTER Carter_so they were never going to vote for Obama anyway. And it appears their numbers are dwindling, significantly. But I digress.

I really expected most Hillary supporters to hold out just a little longer, forcing Barack to put in a little work to "earn" their votes.

Welp...looks like the majority of them are already ON BOARD without “the O man” having to hardly bust a sweat_?!

Final thoughts:

I do worry about the emotional and psychological effect an Obama “loss” in November would have on the majority of Black Americans, who support him whole-heartedly (especially the “senior” members of Our community who’ve waited “a lifetime” to see a Black man become President)_AND the millions of Young people who've always supported him.

Yet, I"d say, barring NO "new" and "earth-shattering" drama, Barack is going to win_and win in a landslide! Meanwhile, trying to keep folks from believing the man “walks on water” (including my own mother) is going to be quite a task_lol!

dp said...

Mr. Obama is just a politician and I agree that I do not think he is the chosen one. The Obama effect in my eyes is simply the fact he has the chance to do something remarkable. And this opportunity front and center as it is has enlightened many. I like the WWOD, but I love "man if he can do this... what can I do?"

He is inspiring to the young and old and you are right people need to be careful building him up to high he is only human.

P.S. I dont think Weezy likes Al Sharpton either. lol

Big Man said...

DP

Weezy dealt with Al Sharpton.

Also, I think it's cool when people say "If Obama can succeed so can I."

I think it becomes a problem when they say "Obama is in charge, it's time for black folks to get their house in order."

The latter statement just feels wrong for some reason.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Or better than what our current youth are using what would Jezzy, Weezy, or Birdman do?

I recently told my girls I asked WWMD? What would Michelle Do? *lol* It was joke in reference to all the many newcomers to Obama's sexiness.

But I totally get what you’re saying. Its both a blessing and curse, but I say lets see how far we can take its far better than the alternatives these days.

-OG

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Or better than what our current youth are using what would Jezzy, Weezy, or Birdman do?

I recently told my girls I asked WWMD? What would Michelle Do? *lol* It was joke in reference to all the many newcomers to Obama's sexiness.

But I totally get what you’re saying. Its both a blessing and curse, but I say lets see how far we can take its far better than the alternatives these days.

-OG

dp said...

I agree with that also that plays into the Christ-like parallel that could cause him to fall and not recover.

Also, yes Carter 3 number 16. Wayne let him have it.

By the way another great post!

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

not the r kelly query - wrong for that
is the effect like obamafication?

Big Man said...

I saw your Obamafication post and I think it relates to that.


R. Kelly is wrong for being an illiterate pedophile and black folks are wrong for supporting his music. I'm taking shots at R. Kelly until he dies.

the uppity negro said...

Big Man,

As a native of Chicago, I fully support you taking shots at R. Kelly until his death date.

But, um, for my own reasons which I've stated ad nauseum, and probably will until the day Obama gets elected, on not, or if he does, until the day he leaves office: he's just a regular politician who saw an opening, and has filled the gap where it needed to be filled...who happens to be black.

I think it's important for us to realize that, because as days go by I'm more and more convinced that's he merely "incidentally black" as Dyson says. There's nothing that he's done that intentionally has black implications. We surely have given him a pass on missing the State of the Black Union (although, this year sucked compared to last years), attending the NAACP conferences, and let's remember that John McCain stood in the pouring Memphis rain on April 4th, amidst boos from a mostly black cloud and Obama was somewhere random like New Mexico or something--and of course Hillary was there that time as well.

I mean, I'm now totally looking past race as far as voting for him. At first I was quite clear that 50% of my reasoning for voting for him was because he was a black MAN, but now, I'm just voting for him because he's saying the things I like hearing, and I'm voting with the hope that he'll deliver on his campaign promises.

Btw, don't shun Michelle like that, I'm more excited about a black woman being in the White House than ever before.

JLL

Anonymous said...

There's no need to ask "What would a white Obama do" of white people. Just use the original "What would Obama do."

Given that we (white people) are voting for him for president as well as donating to his campaign in large numbers, we obviously consider him to be a strong exemplar as is.

There is therefore no need to invoke hypothetical Obama equivalents of different skin complexions in order to make the identical points to different groups of people.

sdg1844 said...

Never underestimate the power of symbolism. If he inspires some to do better. Good. It will be interesting to see the "Obama Effect" when he falls off the pedestal on which some have placed him.

Big Man said...

Anonymous

The point of my post was that black folks see Obama's skin color and his accomplishments and many of have decided that he is the role model we've been wishing would come for generations. His skin color plays a major role in our decision to put him on a pedestal.

Now, maybe white folks don't relate to people based on skin color, but I seriously doubt that is true given the different receptions Michelle and Cindy have recieved from the public. I used the white Obama comment because I've found that when people choose role models that typically choose someone who looks like them. So, a white Obama would be a better role model than black Obama. Maybe I'm off base, but that's been my observation.

rikyrah said...

I found this to be a great column. I'm not going to front; I'm way more excited about Michelle and the WeeMichelles going to The White House.

Raving Black Lunatic