Joe Biden is as much Barack Obama as Rob Pelinka is Kobe Bryant. No disrespect to either successful, melanin deficient man. Rob Pelinka has gone on to become one of the most influential men in professional basketball. He has received a lot of praise for the moves made this year to place the LA Lakers in this year's championship conversation. That’s sweet and imma let y'all finish, but the Black Mamba had one of the greatest careers of all time. No repeats, no hesitations.
Vice President Joe Biden, not to be mistaken for the old white guy in Gran Torino, has found a second career riding the coattails of the people’s president, Barack Hussein Obama. The eight-year partnership, which saw the end of the Great Recession, a dramatic increase in the amount of insured Americans and a signed nuclear peace treaty with Iran, is largely the reason Joe Biden instantly became a front runner when he declared his intention to run for office.
The last four years have been especially rough for the non-privileged. Since 2017, the policies instituted by the flaming hot cheeto administration resemble the policies that Martin, Malcolm and Fred gave their lives to abolish. Oh, so I’m dramatic now? Lest you remember the three executive orders Trump signed into action on February 9, 2017: “To fight crime, gangs, and drugs; restore law and order; and support the dedicated men and women of law enforcement.”
The stench of mass incarceration lingers from that sentence.
So, like all those who have lived through oppressive times, or like stans of Rihanna waiting for that damn album to drop, we patiently waited for tomorrow. Tomorrow being today, and today meaning 2020. To many in the Black diaspora, as Obama’s Robin, Joe Biden represents our golden era, the Black American dream we forged for ourselves because American exceptionalism did not have room for us. But Robin isn’t Batman. And with respect, Joe Biden certainly is not Obama.
I am not here to debate Joe Biden’s entire 40 plus year political record on a pro con scale. I will save that for the individuals not working two jobs to pay off the student loans VP Biden does not plan on expunging. I am sure that Joe Biden, and many around him, considers himself an ally of communities of color, and his Super Tuesday performance shows that many within our community view him as an ally as well. All I am saying is the thing about allies is how easily they can switch allegiances.
If you look at what puts Barack Obama on the Black Mount Rushmore, probably located in Atlanta if it existed, it’s not his policies or his rhetoric. Many of President Obama’s policies were more moderate than his peers and (with fear of being cancelled), you could make the argument that some of his policies were not exactly created to benefit Black Americans.
But I won't, for this reason — cultural capital. Western society ignores cultural capital as a protection for white privilege. The experiences, stories and traits, created and refined through 400 years of oppression, are what unite us as a community. Things like seasoning food well, not calling our parents by their first names, teaching our boys on their 10th birthdays how to react when they are stopped by the police and knowing that we will always have to work twice as hard to have half of what the white folks have are just some of the many things Joe Biden will never understand.
It’s important that we realize that Barack Obama was not perfect. He was a human being, flawed and with the literal whole world on his shoulders, but he was ours. He knew what it was like to wake up and be Black in America better than 100% of the presidents before him.
I remember being 16, logging onto Facebook and seeing all the Roseanne Barr wannabes circulating false birth certificates of the man I respected so dearly. As baffling as those allegations were, they were not surprising. Racism, ignorance and the internet do not mix.
What hurt the most, as a first generation African American (with a name so African that his first grade teacher shortened it to Obi to avoid having to learn it), was that it was another reminder that success coupled with blackness in America did not always mean acceptance. Barack knew this, probably better than I ever will, and still strove to break boundaries over his eight years. Whether it was stating how if he had a son he would look like Trayvon Martin, or being the first sitting President to visit a federal prison, he made us feel seen. And he wanted us to see him for who he was, us.
The road to November 4 is long and windy. Joe Biden may very well be our best option; I am not denying that. But like 44, he won’t be getting my endorsement just yet.