“We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history,” John C. Hayes III, a South Carolina Circuit Judge said in expunging the 30 days hard labor sentence handed out by his uncle, a lawyer and part-time municipal judge in 1961 to 14 Black civil rights activists for “[…] sitting at an all-white lunch counter…” They became known as “the Friendship Nine.”
So begins a recent Internet article vis-à-vis the incremental change taking place in America. Yes, it’s slow, but contextually important. After all, it’s hundreds of years of a historical solid wall of oppression and exclusion to chip away at.
When Sen. Barack Obama was campaigning to become the first Black President of the United States of America his primary campaign mantra was “Yes We Can,” “Change…” was second. On November 4, 2008 it got him an 8-year residency in the White House.
His election was music to the ears of a large segment of the American electorate, many of whom had tired of the nation’s domestic issues and international (geopolitical) morass, much of it orchestrated by the previous administration’s (and war-mongering) militaristic cronies lust for war.
But of those who were in the throes of extended euphoria, given the historic election of America’s first Black president, some ultimately learned to temper their expectations while others became disenchanted with their version of what constituted “Change.” In fact, many of them eventually saw the President’s administration as nothing more than a status quo leader continuing the “Bush [ideological and geopolitical] agenda.”
But, bearing in mind that President Barack Obama was entering unfamiliar, and unfathomable political waters, coupled with a promise by his political adversaries “to make him fail,” nothing much could be expected of him. His Republican political rivals—even some of his own Democrat flag bearers—did all they could to stymie him, tripping him each time they had an opportunity.
So, as the president nears the end of his second term in office he’s been flexing his political muscle, threatening to use his presidential veto to accomplish some of the things he wanted to get done as president.
Sure his hands were tied, politically speaking, but while he wasn’t a “Black president, but the president of all Americans,” his two terms in office allowed Barack Obama’s the president of allowed him ample opportunities to see America for what it is, especially from a racial/racist standpoint and how that (granite-like) institutional cancer has impacted and continues to negatively impact Afro-Americans, especially Black males.
He was provided ample evidence of what had become one of America’s pastimes, the killings, seemingly with impunity, of scores of Black men by white police, always with that standard trite explanation: “he did this or that…my life was in danger….” And ultimately their release back into the jungle… the urban battlefield to hunt…
It’s no surprise, then, that one of President Obama’s major moves was the appointment of Eric Holder as the first African-American Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2009, a position he held until September of last year when he announced that he would be stepping down from his position.
In short order, and to ensure continuity, the president found Holder’s replacement, Loretta Lynch. She was sworn in as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States earlier this year.
Perusing the professional lives of these two Black A.Gs, eminently qualified legal minds who would never have occupied the highest legal office in the land were it not for the first Black President of the USA, he was signaling an example of the change (in this case a fairer dispensation of U.S. justice for Black people) he wanted to see instituted before he left office.
The evidence is already obvious; Eric Holder’s dispatching federal legal officials to investigate a spate of fatal shootings of Black males like Trayvon Martin (killed by a wanna-be-policeman), Michael Brown, Tamir Rice (12), Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Eric Harris, (the severed-spine death while in police custody of) Freddy Gray, Tyrone West, Sandra Bland… The list of Black men (and yes, there are also many women who are seldom profiled in the media) killed by police is exhaustive.
In exercising his Presidential powers, on Monday, July 13 President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 federal prisoners locked up for nonviolent drug offenses… A decision that came 15 months after former Attorney General Eric Holder announced the president’s request to prioritize clemency applications from “nonviolent, well-behaved, over-sentenced drug offenders….” Then on Thursday, July 16, he did something no sitting president has ever done, when he toured a federal prison in Oklahoma. He later said, “The nation needs to reconsider policies that contribute to a huge spike in the number of people behind bars… The trip was part of a week-long push by the White House to focus attention on his call for criminal justice reform.”
True, being a lawyer, the President is keenly aware of the lengthy historically ‘racialized’ prison sentences sometimes meted out to Black males for nonviolent crimes.
Being a lawyer, the President is keenly aware of the historically lengthy, disproportionate, racialized prison sentences being meted out to Black males. No doubt his visit was also intended to highlight the disproportionate number of Black men, penitentiary slaves, being housed in America’s “prison industrial complex.”
Speaking to at an NAACP conference in Philadelphia recently, the president noted that, “the U.S. prison population has quadrupled since 1980. Keeping more than 2 million Americans behind bars costs taxpayers some $80 billion a year…”
No doubt, there’s more news to come as President Barack Obama’s political timer ticks…
Appearing on the Tuesday, July 21 edition of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, President Barack Obama discussed some of his accomplishments… Affordable healthcare for millions of Americans, the Iran [nuclear bomb] issue, etc. He said those are seeds that he planted when he moved into the White House. And he anticipated the opposition to just about everything progressive that he had in mind. But he said, certain things have “come to fruition.”
He didn’t comment on the positive impact of having two Black A.Gs at the helm of the federal justice system, and the impact—the increased scrutiny, accountability and gradual changing police behaviour.
His second campaign mantra, change, is slowly penetrating the psyche of a still racialized America, but African-Americans are chipping away.
That’s President Barack’s [Black] America. So how are we Black people living in Canada going to begin to make substantial tangible change in Canada? When will the powers-that-be give us the facebook treatment, not take us for granted?