Reflections on the Day After Our Black Superhero-Land Inauguration

My husband missed most of the Inauguration festivities because he was working, so after he arrived home last night, he asked me, "What did you think? Was it as good as Obama's first one?"

I told him it was basically one day spent in Black Superhero-land, so how could I not appreciate it? We had slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams—who is amazing in her own right—giving the invocation. And of course, I just had to ask my sons, “Have you ever heard about Medgar Evers in school?” Nope.

President Obama looked both super happy and like he’s ready to pull the gloves off and get to work. Then there was Mrs. Obama, looking like a stone cold FOX all day long and giving the same look I give John Boehner every time he opens his mouth:
Sasha and Malia were adorable and proved why they’ll one day be my future daughters in law. Jigga looked like he wanted to grab the mic and say YUUP, and Beyonce—who did not show up wearing a onesie, thank gawd—had her lacefront flowing, ripped out her earpiece, and SANG LIPSYNCHED. Sigh.

And it was all on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Day—which, as I pointed out to my sons, was not a holiday when I was their age, and many folks still don't believe it should be one.

"But what about Obama, was his speech good?" my husband wanted to know.

I suppose that depends on what you believe in and what you expected. I doubt Cornel West and Tavis Smiley cheered. And folks who are still longing for Mitt Romney to be the POTUS, well, I'm sure some of them probably spent yesterday either at the gun shop buying more ammo for the revolution they believe is coming...or drafting conspiracy theory emails to send around to their friends. Can't you see them—Notice how they kept saying Barack H. Obama instead of saying "Hussein. And Beyonce lipsynched. I bet Obama didn't really say the Oath of Office, either."

As for me, much of what Obama said touched on themes dear to my heart: perseverance, coming together in pursuit of a common cause, and justice. While I don’t get all into the philosophical nobility of the Founding Fathers—I’m too aware that they didn’t mean “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for the black folks in my family tree—these particular lines really resonated with me: 
"Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth."
Indeed, that whole line about "self-evident" doesn't mean "self-executing" had me testifying to the television. And then towards the end when Obama said...
"You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals."
…I wholeheartedly believe in that kind of call to action.

At the end of the day, a speech is a speech. Pretty words can inspire and touch your heart—and as Manti Te’o knows, make you fall in love. But it’s what you do after the speech that really counts.

We can talk a good game about all of the challenges and issues we're facing in our communities, but what are we each doing to ensure that we’re not just out to make our individual lives better, but are working to make society better?

As I watched Obama speak, I also found myself thinking—as I frequently do on days that hit that sweet spot of emotion, race, justice, and equality—about my black ancestors, particularly my maternal great grandmother, who was born in 1879 and died in 1979 when I was 7-years-old. That's me with her in the picture above when I was just a few months old.

Although she was born after slavery, her parents—and most black adults in her life—had been slaves. Of course I didn't think to ask about it when I was a child, but now I wonder what she experienced living in post Reconstruction-era South after the Civil War and whether she even dreamed of the amount of social change she saw in her lifetime. I wonder if the change she experienced gave her hope that we would actually get even closer to being a nation that recognizes the inherent nobility and unity of all people.

I wonder if she ever imagined a black man would ever get elected as President—not once, but twice. Back when Jesse Jackson used to run for President, I thought it was cool, but I never thought he’d actually win.

Thinking about my great-grandmother’s life is also a reminder to not get fooled into thinking racism has disappeared just because Obama got re-elected, or because a bunch of black folks were on my TV looking good during the Inauguration. After all, four years before my great-grandmother was born, Blanche Bruce was elected as a senator from Mississippi. That didn’t make her life any easier. So yep, Beyonce may have gorgeous emerald jewelry and all that, but the average black male in Los Angeles still only has a 40 percent chance of graduating from high school.

Which brings me back to how we live in such a “I gotta get mine, you gotta get yours” time, but what we really need to do is make deliberate choices that move us ever closer to unity, peace, and prosperity for everyone. Those solutions aren’t all rooted in politics or policy, either. True change is rooted in relationships—it’s rooted in the heart. When you truly love someone else and care deeply about what happens to them, then you’ll work for the things that will make this nation—and this world—whole again.


sippinwineman said…
I still believe that Bey sang. Here's some input
Michelle said…
Lovely, thank you for this post.

I stumbled across you on Twitter, and my Intuition says that you and China Brooks should meet!

This blog also brought to mind a heart-warming video I saw the other day - I love our mindful president!!!

Popular Posts