Eight years ago, families across the country watched with shock as the first black President of the United States was sworn into the most important job in the country.
All over the country, black families, including grandparents and great-grandparents who had suffered through the era of Jim Crow and segregation, wept as they witnessed this historical moment.
An instance many never imagined they would live to see.
Though a significant historical marker for the entire country, President Obama’s election was of particular importance to black families.
With portraits of the first family destined to be found somewhere in the house, it is safe to say that almost immediately they became a part of the family in black homes everywhere.
President Obama exemplified an idea black parents have been telling their kids for years: “You could be the president one day, too.”
What makes President Obama so significant for so many is what he represents — a vision of hope, specifically for those who grew up in single-parent households, those with families who struggled financially, those who have grown up to believe that success would never be more than just a dream and ultimately for black people across the country who struggle with the horrific recent past that still pervades every aspect of present-day life.
These are the reasons black people cared for President Obama, despite what can be seen as unequal dedication on his part, specifically when it came to alleviating woes in the black community.
Sure, he has said Black Lives Matter, but has he enforced laws and policies dedicated to ending police violence in poor black communities? Has he used his enormous platform to hold police accountable?
This is not to suggest that it is solely the black president’s responsibility to “fix” problems in the black community. However, a president willing to tackle the issues that plague the black community has been long overdue, and the expectation was that a black man with a black family would make that a priority.
Despite these shortcomings, including an unemployment rate of 14.1 percent for black people in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics report, black people proportionately outvoted white people in 2012 for the first time since 1968, with 93 percent supporting President Obama.
Black people have been amongst President Obama’s most loyal supporters.
Overall, the first family’s eight-year presence in a house built by slaves is not only a deep blow to 400 years of black enslavement, but an important symbol for generations to come.
Regardless of politics and party lines, President Obama will be dearly missed.