a president for black america

The Article

Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post wrote a wonderfully engaging opinion article on 02/20/13 by creating a simple supposition in reaction to something President Obama said during an interview with Black Enterprise magazine.  The question posed to the President was this: “How do you respond to the criticism that your administration hasn’t done enough to support black business?”  The President responded, “I’m not the president of black America.”  Emphasis on the unspoken “only” may have been tactful on the President’s part, but while the statement is realistic and just there is something amiss—an opportunity blown, a reservation when an assertion ought to have been made.  Milloy sees this, and so appropriately dons the mask of President Obama to give a revised and more complete reply to an underlying question, “How do you respond to the criticism that your administration hasn’t done enough to support black life?”

Milloy slams the reader with statistics that drip blood and tears.  And these statistics linger because his writing flows, metaphors dropped are immediately picked up and used again in escalation.  My favorite, which seems a shame to say given what it means, is this:

Our “school to prison pipeline” is so huge that it would make the Keystone XL pipeline look like a soda straw.
It’s surreal: Big Oil getting its black gold out of the ground while we bury ours.

I can only recall front page of the Local section and the countless portraits of murdered black men and women, of their weeping and wailing families.

Milloy, as faux president, continues with a turn of apology, a list of quotes that illustrate the President as being well aware of the deplorable state of black America yet perhaps never naming it as starkly as it truly exists.  What he can name starkly, however, is his own future:

Let me be frank. Less than two months into this new term, I’m already having trouble getting a secretary of defense confirmed—and a Republican one at that. Two years from now, I’ll be a lame duck for sure. So I’m asking you to think long term.

The last sentence is no longer a Milloy-as-the-President;  it’s a worried Milloy—worried by the all-too-human tendency to lose hope quickly, to disengage, and to become self-destructive.  Facing that threat, Milloy musters the strength to put on the mask again and offer a plug for the President’s web page that seeks to build a collaborative relationship with the black community, and then to set expectations high:

Get involved. Take advantage of every opportunity available. Then help create more opportunities for others.
This is your president speaking. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

The Content

I shared this article for two reasons—first because it’s rare that an opinion article is so creative.  Opinion writers often speak on a personal level—as themselves—and if they do deviate, it’s to an absurd and comical degree, masquerading as ideologues.  But this was different; it was sedate and honest; it was a writer sharing himself through something he cared about rather than through a personal narrative or expert opinion.

The second reason is that I’m pleased it was brought up.  I’m displeased it needs to be “brought up.”  But surely my having written that illustrates my location, describes my awareness, and cuts my attentiveness down to the size of just who I am.  I then am left wondering if this article was otherwise effective.  How many more hits did the White House website get that day?  How did you receive the article?  What should that mean to me?

what do you think?

Thank you for reading.
Thank you for writing.

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