On January 20th, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 1st black president of the United States, thus starting a new numbering system for presidents designed to ensure that there is no mistaking the skin color any given president had at the time of his (or for “24” fans, her) inauguration.
Like Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier for professional sports, or the Tuskegee Airmen, who broke the color barrier for mid-90s films about all-black squadrons of fighter-pilots in World War II, Barack Hussein Obama will go down in history for breaking the color barrier into American politics. Despite Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson’s warnings that it could never be done because all white people are racist, Obama overcame.
But sadly, there are some people who don’t view Obama as the 1st black president, but rather, they see him as the 44th president, as if his skin color doesn’t matter. Granted, Martin Luther King, Jr. may have said that people should be judged “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” but that doesn’t mean Obama shouldn’t be judged by the color of his skin as opposed to the content of his character; his political success combined with practices such as affirmative action prove that black people, even those who are half-white, are free to pursue any career and minority scholarship they want. After all, at this time last year, Obama was just some Senator with far too little experience battling for the Democratic nomination against a woman who couldn’t keep her husband off an intern for 5 seconds. And now look at him- he’s black AND the president.
What’s so great about being known as the first black president is that it makes it sound like it’s some kind of a surprise that a black person could become president. Since black people compose nearly 13% of the population in the United States, Obama didn’t even need a white person to vote for him in order to secure the win, but the current speculation is that a few white people, and even a couple of Asians voted for Obama, although they admit it was only because he’s black.
Of course, Americans could take a huge step forward in curtailing racism by ignoring Obama’s skin color, but then race wouldn’t be a factor in everything and Al Sharpton wouldn’t get to keep his radio show, without which he would be unable to remind black people how racist white people are for arresting black guys just because they shot at a cop.
The fact remains, however, that America is divided. Sure, maybe not its water fountains, or schools, or jobs (the NBA excluded), or parks, or neighborhoods, or hip-hop charts, or golf courses- but it is most definitely divided.