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Opinion On Blackness and Calling Obama "My N---a"

Opinion On Blackness and Calling Obama "My N---a"

At last night's White House Correspondents' Dinner, Comedian Larry Wilmore concluded his monologue by referring to President Barack Obama as, “my nigga”. I felt a nation of white folks clutch their pearls, black folks exclaim “finally,” and then a quiet sadness pondering — will we ever have a Presidential personality like such in the White House again? But, I wonder, is Obama “my nigga”?

Credit: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

I wonder if he felt outed in a room full of white bodies, the only people of color were those he invited. I wonder if he recoiled, held Michelle’s hand tightly in his own. I wonder how many white folks will try to overtly call Barack Obama a “nigga” now. I can assure you many did behind closed doors.

Obama’s presidency was as much about proving his blackness as it was about bringing change. I wonder if being publicly claimed by black folk was the culmination of his legacy that he needed. Because that is what happens in our country. One person who happens to be of color calls the President “my nigga” and all the nation hears is “President Obama, our nigga.” From his television appearances on The Letterman Show, Between Two Ferns, or surviving with Bear Grylls. To when he said, “grrrrl,” Obama has consistently showcased his blackness for the nation, carefully teetering the line between black enough for black folks and white enough for white folks. He has been called attention craving and shamed for how often he has been on television. But I argue, something more terrifying, what if President Obama is a real person? What if he was navigating his sense of self as the leader of the “free” world and on top of that, defining blackness for a nation.

Truthfully, I’m not sure what Obama has necessarily done for brown and black bodies. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), in my experience as someone who received it, found it difficult to navigate, ineffectual, full of untrained staff, and put me in more debt than I was in before. Yes, I had healthcare but it wasn’t affordable. But if I didn’t have it, an even steeper fine would be imposed that I also couldn’t afford. Not to mention as a college student who needed the 1098 tax form to file for FAFSA, it took over two months after the FAFSA deadline to receive my tax form from the Health Insurance Marketplace which has put my education and livelihood at stake as I could lose funding because of this delay. Obama didn’t help my health, homeboy's program put me in deeper debt.

The scarier truth that we cannot avoid is that gun violence, specifically toward black bodies, has significantly risen since his election. Some would argue, in reaction, to his election and re-election. How much was Obama helping us and how much was he killing us? What is funny about electing presidents is that people actually think a president can roll up to that plantation house, make a decision, and it is final. That’s not true, nor is it the type of political system we have. There are checks and balances, a Congress, a Supreme Court, and state and local governmental bodies. Unfortunately for people of color, policing bodies are predominantly run by older, white, cisgender, and able-bodied men. The same men from states that are policing transgender bathroom use and letting white men get away with murdering black boys. The same people that probably call Obama “nigger” in the privacy of their homes. This isn’t new, has any media source ever counted the times that Obama has publicly cried in press conferences? It’s not new to him either.

President Obama is my nigga, not because he is the first African-American President. Not because him and his family have such magnanimous personalities. And especially not because he has particularly helped my black, transgender, low-income body. But because if any black person doubts whether he knows what it’s like to be Black in this country I can honestly say — imagine what it is like to be a black president of a nation that openly kills black people right in front you.

I am Black I know what it's like to have failed and question whether that is because I am under qualified or under skilled or often the realer truth, because I am black."

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