By James Clingman
The experiment that featured a Black man in the White house is on the downside now. Folks in the Obama administration are busy looking for their next job and jumping ship faster than rats. But you can’t blame them; that’s the way it is in politics. You ride your horse as long as you can and then you find a new horse. That’s just what folks in presidential administrations do. The question is: What horse will Black folks ride now?
With Barack, came new line-dances at the clubs, new phrases, and new “hope” that would finally move Black people to the front of the line for a “change.” We were large and in charge, big-ballers and shot-callers, cool and stylish, but we soon found that we were not really running anything. Having bet the farm on our horse, we now look on in agony as he comes down the home stretch. We want to move the finish line a bit farther down the track because we don’t yet have the victory, and it looks like we’re not going to get it. All we can hope for now is just a little more euphoria before November 2016.
Black folks are now between Barack and hard place. We don’t know if we are pitching or catching. As that Richard Pryor movie asked, “Which way is up?” We invested nearly 100 percent of our political capital in our current president, thinking we would get a decent Return on Investment (ROI). Unless there is a drastic uptick in the next few months, our investment will be lost forever, because we know this experiment will not be done again for a long time.
Between Barack and a hard place means that Black people, collectively, are now without a comfortable place to turn, without someone we can look to for hope and change, and without what we considered to be a foothold in politics. Being between Barack and a hard place is causing anxiety, doubt, and even fear among some of our people.
Being between Barack and a hard place will make many of us revert to our political ways by staying on the Democrat’s wagon because the Republicans ignore us and don’t like us, anyway. We will rationalize our allegiance to the same party that takes us for granted, however. And some of us will opt out of the system altogether because we are so frustrated and angry at how the previous two terms went down.
It’s very uncomfortable being between Barack and a hard place. To whom will we turn? Will Hillary help us? Will one of the Republican candidates help us? Maybe Dr. Ben (Carson) will win and come to our rescue. What are Black folks to do in 2016 as we now find ourselves wedged between Barack and a hard place with no wiggle room? Maybe we could “apologize” to Hillary for abandoning her in 2008. Maybe we could do a public mea culpa to the Republicans. After all, we need someone to turn to now, right?
Well, here are a few thoughts. Maybe we can now turn to ourselves. Maybe now we will fully understand the error of our ways and make appropriate change. Maybe we will finally work together as a solid bloc to leverage our precious votes against the 2016 candidates. Maybe we will understand that no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Black folks still have to be vigilant about our political and economic position in this country. And maybe, as we struggle to remove ourselves from between Barack and a hard place, at least a small percentage of us will organize around economic and political empowerment.
The Barack experiment was cool. He sings like Al Green, dances like the steppers in Chicago, shoots three-pointers on the basketball court, plays golf with Alonzo Mourning, and even gets his preach on when speaking to Black audiences. In other words, Barack could make us feel real good, so much so that we kicked back, relaxed, and waited for him to fix our problems, to speak on our behalf, and to give us the same deference he gives to other groups. Now, we find ourselves between Barack and a hard place – no turning room, very little breathing room, and much uncertainty about our future in the political arena.
There will be a new sheriff in town in January 2017, and our guy will stand there with him or her to give congrats and well wishes right before he rides off into the sunset, back to Chicago, Hawaii, or wherever, to enjoy the fruit of his labor, and I do mean fruit. He and his family will be well taken care of, but most of our families will be in the same or worse condition, having been stuck between Barack and a hard place for eight years.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com.