The Hillary Clinton campaign recently posted a tear-jerking ad of President Barack Obama urging people to vote not just for Hillary, but also for his legacy. In the ad, the Clinton campaign used excerpts from a speech President Obama speech gave to the Congressional Black Caucus, urging people to vote for Hillary so she could continue the legacy of hope, change, optimism and “Yes, we can.”
This ad admittedly brought a tear or two to my eyes. It took me back to the 2008 election night, when west coast polls closed and President Obama was declared President Elect, making a junior senator with a “year-round tan” leader of the free world. President Obama completed, in the eyes of many black millennials, an implausible task by being elected as the United States' first African American President.
Other than his beautiful family, President Obama brought “Hope” into the Oval Office. He ran on this idea, believing that Americans needed to implement a simple doctrine of hope during troubling times caused by complex banking and financial indiscretions. This message proved effective and ultimately successful, as he galvanized a nation, including myself. The reason I include myself among the people galvanized and inspired by an individual whom I have never met was because his words, coupled with his complexion, taught me, along with many others like me who share this “year-round tan,” to strive and long for the endless immensity of the sea.
President Obama’s audacious political accession is similar to that of President John F. Kennedy, who tapped into inner curiosity and youthfulness to not just settle for what is in front of us but to strive for something more, something greater than ourselves and to not be set in our ways but to evolve as a nation. The emergence of President Obama and the concept of “Hope” inspired a generation of young African Americans to embrace public service on all levels, which includes mentoring, volunteering, being a community organizer or the president of the United States.
Fast-forward to present day America and the current state of the black millennial. American nationalistic buzzwords like “hope,” “optimism” or “Yes, we can” are no longer patriotically shouted from sea to shining sea. These words have been replaced with “Black Lives Matter,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “I can’t breathe.” The characteristics of hope and optimism within the black millennial will arguably come to an end on Jan. 20, 2017. The black millennial has grown “sick and tired of being sick and tired” of government-sanctioned policing, mass incarceration (Please go to Netflix and watch “13th”), and law making and law-enforcement policy being used as a tool of systemic racism for white supremacy. Summarily, the black millennial delegation has spoken, and it wants change.
The rush for change, coupled with a lack of optimism and hope, is the product of not President Obama himself or his administration (Even though the average black millennial contends Obama could’ve done more, at times), but America’s reaction to the election of President Obama. Once President Obama was elected, white America used the 2008 election as Exhibit A for their case of post racialism, pointing out that we now reside in a post-racial utopia, filled with equal opportunity, equity and prosperity for all.
With the development of the camera phone, the failed drug war that has left millions of minorities incarcerated, national anthem protests and post-Obama election racism, the black millennial seems to be all out of hope, hugs, optimism and “Yes, we cans.” Admittedly, if one were to couple the factors listed above with the emergence of Donald J. Trump, the black millennial and white America don’t seem to be getting along too well, right now.
The black millennial views the accession of Trump as a direct correlation to the election of President Obama and the post-Obama election racism mentioned above. White America, well, the deplorable ones, look at President Obama as a symbol of them losing their country, their way of life and their privilege. The black millennial views Trump as the ultimate white-privilege candidate. He has voiced rhetoric throughout his campaign that would make any reasonable person view him as xenophobic, racist and misogynistic. The white privilege really comes to light when Trump attempts to articulate the policy concerns of white and, unfortunately, black America with a firestorm of ignorant, non-factual statements. The inferno of ignorance Trump displays during his rallies and debates fully highlight his lack of policy knowledge while also showing no attempt to learn about policy. When black millennials witness such blatant ignorance parade its orange head on the national stage, we always ask ourselves, “Could Obama get away with this?”
I contend that the average black millennial would respond to that question with a resounding, “Hell nah.”
Leslie McLemore II, a Jackson native, is now in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Jackson State University, North Carolina Central University School of Law and American University Washington College of Law.