Friday, February 17, 2012

The Legacy of Black Greatness and Endurance

Photo Description: President Obama is walking down the halls of a government building wearing a suit and tie and his right hand is in his pants pocket. He is accompanied by two black male professionals who are also wearing suits. To his left, there is a balustrade. In front of the balustrade, there's a black man wearing a janitor's uniform and latex gloves as he empties and replaces the trash bags in the building. President Obama has taken a couple of steps toward the janitor and his left hand is extended as he shares a fist-bump with the janitors' gloved right hand, before he moves along. The janitor is smiling at the President. Obama's lips are slightly pursed into a serious-looking (but respectful) facial expression.

This picture affected me to my core. I'm not even sure I can articulate why that is, really.

Seeing this black man, who is now the President of one of the most powerful nations in the world, take the time to acknowledge and show this man respect in such an identifiably black manner makes my heart burst with pride. It reminds me of the pictures from the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics.

It brings tears to my eyes as I think about all of the generations of black people who have worked, doing hard labor and menial jobs for little or no pay. They endured centuries of inhumane treatment in order for us to finally have the opportunity to see black exceptionalism, black excellence, black intelligentsia on display for the world to see and be forced to recognize, even in the upper echelons of this white-dominated country.

For me, the aleatory moment captured in this photo symbolizes Obama's unabashed connectedness to the entire community of American people of color and shows an appreciation for the oft-ignored working class black people that made it possible for him to be where he is now. This photo gives me a really visceral feeling of pride in what our community has produced, despite centuries of marginalization, oppression, and--dare I say it--slavery.

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