Do Black people have a friend indeed in Barack Obama? As far back as 2004, when I first wrote about then Illinois state senator, Barack Obama, I warned us to be careful how we dealt with what was becoming a movement to draft Obama as a candidate for president of the United States. Here’s an excerpt from that article, just in case you missed it.

“Barack Obama, the new fair-haired child, has recently been crowned as the probable first Black President. But Obama may turn out to be the Tiger Woods of politics. Some say Obama ‘transcends race’ because he is not the ‘stereotypical Black man.’  One commentator said, ‘…he is not black in the usual way.’ What in the world does that mean?  Does it mean that he is light-skinned and doesn’t seem too threatening? Obama is certainly an excellent candidate, but let’s not fall for the game, brothers and sisters. If he is deemed ‘safe’ then what label will be put on the rest of our Black politicians? Besides, even Obama will not set us free. That’s our job.”

Having written several other articles on the implications of having our first Black president, I am even more convinced that I was accurate in my assessment of how we Black people would react to it. In all my years of working, studying, teaching, speaking, advocating, and writing this column, I have come to know some very basic truisms, one of which is that Black folks must be our own best friends, especially when we are in need. It is dangerously naïve and just plain stupid to place our “hope” solely in a politician, as Jeremiah Wright observed in 2008.

We must move beyond our discussions of whether Barack Obama is a real friend or a symbolic figurehead from whom we can only derive emotional comfort. We had better change our conversations and start dealing with the realization that we are on our own, and we must act in accordance with that reality.

(Jim Clingman can be reached through his Web site,



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