American history has a way of revisiting the times that we live in. During the close of the 2008 Presidential campaign, Senator John McCain, in his concession speech, mentioned that it had been 106 years since a black man was first officially invited to the White House. And that footnote slipped quietly under the collective radar of the network talking heads with no explanation of whom Senator McCain was referring to. After a few clicks with the mouse here and a Google query there, you soon come to find out that he was referring to and that was Booker T. Washington being invited to dinner by Theodore Roosevelt, one of Senator McCain’s heroes.
So, how does this relate to President Obama’s work ethic? Well, in doing the research on the first invite of an American black into the White House, I decided to write a stage play on that dinner invitation between Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt and his family that I have since completed. The research required reading on as much source material that you can find on the topic. One of those pieces of source material was Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery. It was interesting to read what went on in American history with the state of slavery before and the state of slavery afterwards with the newly freed American blacks from Booker’s point of reference.
From his writings, he was ingrained to prove himself to his slave masters and as a free man, to his white contemporaries. It was his believe and his edict and writings to tell all freed men that in order to prove their worth in the eyes of the white man that the new American blacks had to work twice as hard in his deeds and actions in society to show that they were not a burden on this society. Although a lot of Booker’s black contemporaries, such as W.E.B. DuBois, did not agree with Booker T. on many contemporary issues when it came to equality of the races and what approach to take, Booker was more of a passive nature while DuBois was more assertive, they held to the notion that they had to work twice as hard to prove themselves to the whites.
As a child, I have always heard about this philosophy from my elders. I never questioned it but the belief continued, as I got older and more conscious of my surroundings. The branding of being a “first” carries more than just your pride into a workforce but the generations that preceded you. And this cultural belief became a subconscious way of life amongst my generation of friends. This belief system of subconsciously working twice as hard to prove yourself was germinated from the ideals of Booker T. Washington. I don’t know if this should be considered a remnant of the old Jim Crow system or just a slave mentality condition that the newly minted freed American black could not separate themselves from? Either way, you can sense it in this new President. And perhaps he doesn’t realize that he is doing it?
The debate raging in America is, “Why is Barack Obama working so hard?” Perhaps he too was subconsciously conditioned to prove his worth in the office by working twice as hard. His literal education taught him many things but his societal awareness in this American life said that there are two Americas, one that the whites have lived in and refuses to part from narrow conventions and one for the collective rest to scramble for the leftover portions.
This President has a deficits problem, he has two wars, he has health care, he has bank failures, he has car failures, he has home mortgage failures, he has tyrant third world leaders, he has environmental problems, he has half of Congress refusing to go along just out of spite. And his plate has spilled over on to the table at least eight times while he uses an eighth of a teaspoon to pick it up.
He has to prove himself with the people out there who are wearing blinders and are listening to the Palinsanites, the Hannitians, the Limbaughcutioners, and the Becksillies that instruct them to follow their every move and treat this man as if he’s aligned with some of the most ruthless dictators and despots from the last century. They tell them to ignore history and the last eight years and consider this President as a Hitler disciple and a socialist. They protest health care and fear him speaking to their children as if he’s some cult leader asking them to drink the poison laden punch while speaking in tongues.
So in order for him to dispel the many false and inciting hate speeches even from some GOP politicians, he spends long hours putting out fires of banal rhetoric that any kid from are you smarter than a fifth grader can easily decipher as false. Do we wonder why we are losing the rankings in world education when this health care debate rallies results in showcasing the utter stupidity of its citizens including those who pack weapons to these sideshow carnivals? This President will work hard, take little vacation time and what little vacation time that he has taken so far have become working vacations. He was elected by a majority of the people to serve all of America but there exist a reality that he is working twice as hard to prove himself to a small constituent of people who see all of his effort in trying to right the last eight years as nothing more than political grandstanding and wanting to punish the Bush administration. Punishing the Bush administration is not on the agenda, saving this country from itself is.
For some of you, maybe this is a foreign concept to you but when you have grown up on societies other side of the track, these things are real. Many of the downside of America’s woes has been lived by the children of this nation. It is always difficult and challenging to enter a new area as the “first” and not having to feel that you must prove yourself as being worthy enough to be there. I’m sure the new Supreme Court Justice feels that way.