President Obama Owes You Nothing. Yes, You.

So you’re just sitting around being black, right? And you see that black guy who’s president running for reelection and you think hey, I’m black too. I support this guy, I like what he says, I’m down with his policies, and best of all he’s like, black, right? Got himself a black wife, couple black kids, it’s all black up in the White House. And then you snort. Because you are so very smart and that was funny. But then, you start to think. Say, bruh, I’m still out of work. I’m still behind on my bills. I still have no girlfriend and I’m back in my mama’s basement but my mama makes the best pancakes so, um, win. But. I can’t bring the ladies into my mama’s basement because that’s rude. I need my own place. I need a job and some cash and a car because classy ladies don’t like Metro (or 7-11 big bites for dinner (I should reevaluate these ladies, though, because COME ON BIG BITES IS THE BIZZOMB, YO.)) My point is, I voted for you. I am the reason you get to stay in that there house and now I want my due.

You know. You owe me. You owe all of us. The black people. The black people rallied (OK yeah a couple white people and some Hispanics — oh, my bad, Mama, Latinos — might’ve shown up to the polls but everyone knows it was us) and you’re back in there, man. What’re you gonna give us for this gift? As it stands right now, it doesn’t seem like you’ve done much specifically for us and as everybody knows, your first priority is to us. Because you’re black. We’re black. Let’s do the handshake. Sure, you talk a good game about inclusion and equality but come on. Us. What about us? You wouldn’t be where you are without us, you know that. You have to know that.

* * * * * *

If you get something else out of this open letter besides our president has been “camouflag[ing] his blackness”, please let me know. The letter is from Keith Harriston and apparently comes from Black America. I happen to be a part of this esteemed group but I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Harriston’s assessment of dues to black people. People vote because it is their right. Some would submit that it is a person’s duty to vote. Regardless of whether one has voted for President Obama based on policy or based on race, to expect a reward for his win is preposterous. Is his win not enough? Is his win not enough for all of us? Wasn’t his platform against divisiveness? Didn’t he talk about coming together rather than separating ourselves further? Then why, now, after we put him back in office, are we asking for a present for exercising our right? Do the people, black or white, who didn’t vote also deserve a gift? Or are they gift exempt because they didn’t help with the win? It’s not enough to just be black? If we’re asking for favors, why not help all of us?

Professor Reginald Miles is quoted in the letter as saying, “We need to decide what we want.” I’m trying not to be flippant, but, I don’t know how best to respond to this demand. I want dinner. I want all of the things that I have and I want better health care, more hospitals in Southeast where I live. I want my credit score to be better than -46 but I don’t see how my desires differ from any middle class (am I still middle class? I don’t know anymore!) white or Latino person. The president’s policies have awarded all of us better opportunities. But that doesn’t mean that our work for ourselves has stopped. His job is to open doors, create avenues, pave them, let us know they are there. Our job is to get off our asses and stop asking for handouts (only 47% of us do that, mind you) based on race or anything else. My take on “decide what we want” is having an ongoing dialogue with him, letting him know what issues are most important to us as a society, not us as a race or us as individuals.

There is still a recession. There still aren’t enough jobs available. I believe the president’s administration is working on these things. But the key is he is working on them for all of us. We have to be willing to work alongside him. We have to be willing to not expect anything but be grateful for what we are given, what we earn, what we work toward. We have to be willing to understand that he is making a better world for us, for our children, and he is not thinking about their skin color. We just need better. We don’t need better because we are black.

I have a job. I am grateful to have it. I have a house with heat and water and electricity. I have enough food. I have healthy children. I am paying too much for all of it. I need relief. But I don’t need it because I’m black; I need it because I am. There is an old saying: if she knew better, she’d do better. Well, that’s not always the case. I know better but I have to force myself do better. I also need to have access to better. Knowing isn’t always enough. I know better jobs exist; there is an avenue I have to take to get to the job I desire. I know better education exists, but if I’m only given sub-par facilities and stressed, underpaid teachers, how will I get to that road? Correcting the economic situation we find ourselves in will take all of us, from our government to employers to employees, regardless of race, regardless of political affiliation, sex, and every other box on all the forms we fill out.

As is usually the case in this city, this can be looked at in black and white terms. Black is one side of the Sousa bridge, white is the other, where the White House happens to be. My children deserve as good an education as any white child on the other side of the bridge. They deserve the education the president’s daughters are receiving. But, they don’t deserve this because they are black; that is irrelevant. Rather than look at the disparity between what others are offered compared to what is available to black people, it is my job for myself and my children to find opportunities. It is my job to enhance their education with options that are not available at their current school (but should be available at their current school.) It is my job to educate myself, to find loans and grants and scholarships (or, here’s a thought: be financially prepared prior to attending college or be fiscally conservative and smart with purchases.) It is my job to make sure my children know that it is their job to refuse to settle for the standard “It’s hard”.

Yet, it is hard. Life is hard, Mr. Harriston. Paying Pepco in full each month is hard. I don’t need to make it any harder on my president or myself by waiting around for some ill conceived, race-based, let me do it for you gift. Is that too hard for you?

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Comments

  1. So… um… yeah… I’m not black. I think maybe I’m missing something from the Harriston article? Because of that maybe? What exactly is it he wants Obama to do?

    I agree with you by the way. I want all of those same things that you do. For everyone. Not just for me.

  2. Standing up and giving a round of applause! You should have titled it Dear Tavis Smiley and Cornel West!

  3. No one should be forced to carry the burden of being representative, not even Barack. Because if that were the case, then I could say that ALL bloggers are witty, intelligent, and articulate as hell, just judging from you. And alas alack weladay, that’s far far from the case.
    This post rocks.

  4. You have to send this in to HuffPost, Arnebya. No one should have to represent anyone. We are people, the color is just the evolutionary response to the physical environment. Less melanin, more melanin for what your climate needed.

    That’s all it is. The rest is just humanity.

  5. So many people with open hands (from every race) asking for help and not doing anything in return. They sit and wait. All of us need to grasp our hands around something and get things done. That is what will make this country unite.

  6. Very well said, well written. If every person would do what they could for themselves and work to improve their own lives, then turn and help their neighbor whenever possible, what a different world we would all live in.

  7. People used to say this about Oprah too. Like she owes black people, because we supported her. Newsflash, EVERYONE supports Oprah! People are crazy. Black, white, green with the one eye from outer space. Crazy, crazy, Cray-cray! Me too, clearly:)

  8. This is excellent Arneyba, so well said. I want exactly the same as you do, things just need to be equal and fair for everyone. Period.

  9. “So you’re just sitting around being black…”

    And then I died.

    But seriously, this is a REALLY great post. I agree with others who say it needs to be published to a broader audience. It’s perfect for the Huff post, girl.

  10. See what I mean about your being amazing?

    Yep.

    I love it when I’m right.

  11. If everyone in America- black, white, or otherwise – could speak their peace as eloquently and effectively as you just did, we’d all be better for it.

    Um, so what are *you* doing four years from now?

  12. I love this post– hilarious, witty, and well written. And I checked your blog today because I wanted to see what, if anything, you had written about the CT shootings. I loved the piece you read at the VOTY reception about Trayvon and I wanted to hear your words about this too. I hope it’s not too weird I told you that and of couse you don’t have to write about any damn thing just because I came looking for it, but I mean it as a compliment and hope you will take it as such. In the mean time, I got the pleasure of your words on an unrelated topic, which is probably just exactly what i really and truly needed. SO thank you.

  13. True story (now repeated as bad political joke/serious warning) from 18th century Balkans:
    A fellow was running for parliament. Estimating that people were naive and wanting more votes, he handed each prospective voter ONE left shoe. He followed it up with: “If I win, you will get the right shoe too!”

    That open letter has same scenario, just written from the other end. “Hey, I voted for you, now give me shoes! Because, well, you know, I have FEET!”

  14. Hoped over here thanks to Comment Luv… and I’m so glad I did!
    Your post is so eloquently written — and has such valid points. I hope you send it to a paper or somewhere to be published; more people need to read it.

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