America’s expectations for the first African-American President were unrealistically high coming from both whites and blacks. Many Americans believed that the election of Barack Obama would improve race relations in the country. He served as a symbol of a new era of hope and change to the American people. In “Barack X,” the author’s argument is that, Obama’s Presidency has validated our faith in America by electing a black man in office, but has also validated our fears with the criticism that Obama feels our pain, rather than effectively alleviating it.
Any President is required to serve as a figure ideologically, politically, and socially. As of November 4, 2008, a biracial senator from Chicago took on the challenge of becoming all of these things, with the addition of racially. Criticisms of President Obama state his reluctance to explicitly deal with race in fear of upsetting his white critics. Many white Americans believed in the false notion that a black President meant an end to racial drama. However, “the racial barrier had not fallen with Obama’s election; it had become a selectively permeable membrane.” America’s belief that, “an improvement of race relations” would result from Obama’s presidency, were true to a certain extent. Good race relations meant hundreds of thousands of diverse Americans huddling together in celebration of the inauguration of the first black President. However, racism is still evident in the fact that, “those black celebrants would disproportionately face police brutality, foreclosure, health disparities, and unemployment after the festivities were over.”
There is a distinct difference between a black leader, and a leader who is black. President Obama was faced with a dilemma upon entering his presidency. He serves not only as an elected official sent to Washington to address specific politics, but also “a figure of history and a representative of a centuries-long struggle to have our humanity recognized.” Studies show that eighty percent of blacks feel that President Obama has paid “about enough” attention to issues within the black community. In other words, we understand that Obama has “paid as much attention as he could as a black man leading a nation that is populated by two hundred million whites.” However, Obama’s relationship with the black community is described by critics as “a type of infidelity,” “married to America at large but conducting an affair with black people.” He is criticized for addressing issues concerning women, the gay community, and Jewish groups, but when faced with racial matters, “why do black voters have to take a back seat?”