OP-ED: In the Wake of COVID-19, and Police Killings, Obama’s Legacy Outshines Trump’s Presidency

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Millions of Americans with varying political beliefs may wonder if Obama's election in 2008 was not the beginning of an era, but the end of a sense of optimism they may never experience again.

By the Nashville Voice Editorial Board

It’s been more than three years since Americans last witnessed a man of integrity occupying the White House. One thousand two hundred twenty-six days, to be exact. And in all that time, America has lacked directional leadership, and descended rapidly from the contemporary high point we call the Obama Era.

As you may imagine, the nation itself has suffered in many ways, as a result of the transfer of power from a dignified and upstanding man to a misogynistic crook. However, this descent from the Obama era has been especially painful for Black people, and for those who truly want justice and equity, and believed Obama could help elevate the nation to that level. For generations, we’ve told our children that they can be anything. But when Barack Obama was in the White House, we could believe our own words just a little more, and at the very least, point to him as an example for our own children so maybe, they’d believe it too.

When Obama was president, our sons and daughters were reminded daily that becoming a lawyer, a Senator, or the leader of the Free World, was not out of reach. An elegant example of the excellence that is mature Black love, was put on display for the world to see. Black fatherhood and genuine family values seemed to define the First Family. Michelle Obama, the classiest, and most highly-educated First Lady our country has ever seen, dedicated her time beyond child-rearing, to pursuing healthier standards for all of America’s children.When America lost Obama as President, we didn’t just lose a highly-educated leader of high moral character. We also lost things that now feel painfully intangible. We had lived through eight years of an era our ancestors wouldn’t have dared to dream about, and now those days had slipped between our fingers, taking with it the most significant, living, breathing contradiction to America’s Original Sin that we had ever seen.

Although his eight years in office were completely scandal-free, there was not one day of Obama’s presidency on which he wasn’t criticized, his words not picked a part, his citizenship left unchallenged.

What we got in exchange, is half the man President Obama is. Donald Trump’s past is marred by infidelity, criminal activity, sexism, racism, dishonesty, ignorance, and stupidity. He is everything Obama was not, and his character contradicts all things “presidential.” Yet he is constantly praised and defended by those who continue to assert that Donald Trump, a White man of the lowest moral character, is more “religious” than a Black man of the highest moral character. And just as our Black sons and daughters watched and were inspired by Obama’s leadership, they are watching now too. Even a child can see the racial double standard exposed by Trump, who has personally expressed that he believes he could get away with anything. The double standard isn’t just an attack on Obama. For us, it is an attack on all of those who look like Obama. Just imagine sensationalism that would have arisen if the world found out Obama had slept with a pornstar, or groped young women?

The double standards and disparities Black Americans face everyday have only been further exposed by the pandemic, the impending financial crisis, and violent cross- country protests in response to police killings of unarmed Black men. And during these tough times, Americans have largely turned away from Trump’s anger-fueled Twitter rampages, and towards Obama’s calm and sturdy guidance.

When the coronavirus robbed millions of high school students of a proper graduation ceremony, Obama stepped up, partnered with Lebron James, (who also stands on the front lines of the battle for justice and equity), and delivered an empowering address to the Class of 2020. Forbes Magazine estimates that the commencement ceremony has now been viewed more than 60 million times. He also partnered with the United Negro College Fund to deliver and address tailored specifically to 2020 graduates of HBCUs, calling on the younger generation to band together and use their talents to change the world.

Again, as the nation reeled from the trauma of the back-to-back killings of unarmed Black men Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, Obama spoke directly to the American people, and to American families, Black and White alike. He demanded law enforcement be held accountable to “do their jobs correctly,” and encouraged all Americans to reject police brutality as a “new normal.” In the meantime, Trump took to Twitter to threaten the use of military force against protesters. Trump clearly feels the heat brought on by Obama’s continued popularity, and it shows: He’s defying a two-century-old tradition by refusing to unveil the former president’s White House Portrait.

As millions of Americans seek the restoration of Obama era values, and aim to snuff out the reignited racial tensions resulting at least partially from Trump’s rhetoric, Obama’s close ties to Joe Biden make continue to establish the Candidate as the best shot we have at uplifting Obama’s legacy. Obama’s legacy has not only outshined Trump’s presidency at a time when America needed a leader the most, but it may also cut his time in the White House short.

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