Criticize Him Tomorrow

We can go back to criticizing the Republican-lite policies of the Obama administration tomorrow. Today, Inauguration Day/MLK Day, let’s just think about history.

When I was a child growing up in the 1960s and 70s it was the stuff of science fiction to imagine a Black President.  The Civil Rights Act, finally establishing that legal segregation was prohibited throughout the entire nation, wasn’t even passed until two years after I was born.

Obama, for all his flaws (and they are real flaws), embodies Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote:  “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  Thus, it is supremely apt that Obama’s Second Inauguration is being held on the long fought over MLK National Holiday.

Let’s not delude ourselves that our Black President signifies the end of racism.  As scholars like Melissa Harris-Perry, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Tim Wise, Patricia Williams, and many others so rightly point out, racial injustice is a thriving and toxic force in 2013.  As Cornel West argued years ago, yes, race still matters when it comes to resource allocation, opportunities, justice, health, etc., etc.

But let’s also not turn our eyes away from the historical significance that the (dis)United States of America elected a mixed-race man with the foreign-sounding name of Barack Obama to the highest office in the land, not once, but twice.

“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  MLK would surely be a fierce critic of many of Obama’s policies.  But, for just a moment, imagine the repressed tears of centuries that he would be weeping today.