For the past eight years, it has been normal for me see a president with darker skin, closer to the hue of my own. Not a mayor, not a musician or a professional athlete, but the President of the United States of America. My attendance at the inauguration changed me, but not necessarily in the way I might have expected. I did not expect our new president to become the moderator of black oppression and white supremacy; I did, however, expect him to be our champion, like many people my age. We wanted him to say more and do more. We wanted him to use words like “racism” or “white supremacy”. We wanted him to specifically articulate that black people in America have a different set of concerns and a different reality to live by, and that our policies must account for that, unapologetically.
Some may argue that while he has not done that, he has used his political clout to fight for victories that would specifically benefit African American people without the semantics (i.e., the Affordable Care Act, housing discrimination, My Brother’s Keeper, etc.). Still, though, we wanted more.
Despite all Obama’s failures and misgivings, I finally felt represented. As a teenager, struggling to find my own identity as a person—let alone a black person—I often felt that I did not want to be black. Not in the sense that I wanted to erase my black skin for that of white skin, but I did not want to feel beholden to standards that no one could possibly oblige. I was tired of being told, either directly or indirectly, that I was not black enough, or that my interests were not black, or my speech was not black.