My President

Fading Super Obama by Jonathan McIntosh via Flickr.

Barack Hussein Obama.

Let me start this off by an admission. The man is my hero. But, let me assure you that this has little to do with who he actually is. This isn’t about his foreign policy or about his commitment to his promises. It’s about how many of us see him as if we are holding a mirror in front of our faces.

Barack Hussein Obama.

He has a poise and a presence that he carries whenever he is called to address the world. He is one of the few black men in history to have an audience of this magnitude. His is a tone that with the sheer sound of the steadiness of his voice, brings me a sense of pride as if he somehow represents me. There is a sense of expectation when he speaks. The stream that often follows his announcements speaks directly to this. We want him to be more decisive. We want him to challenge the global economic structure. We expect him to be the voice of black consciousness in the White House. I know I’ve caught myself passively-actively drowning out the details of his positions; ones that I would not hesitate admonish a white man of his stature for uttering.

In fact, I am uncertain I am able to separate this man from what I want him to be; from what I hoped he would be. I keep my eyes closed when I look at him. Perhaps in fear that he is an obstacle of what I’d call “progress.” Perhaps in fear that he, much like me, is a contradiction unto himself.

As it stands, I am not able to sincerely make these separations. For now, I resigned to temper my thoughts and avoid casting my pen’s more severe condemnations.

The British and the Americans have pumped into my blood their superiority. You see, I am an African, one that has grown up on their television shows and reveled in their books. They have forced upon me their world view that I now see through the tainted blue contact lenses that relentlessly seek to imitate the gaze of the white man. Over my life up to this point, I have enjoyed their humor, envied their beauty, danced and sang to their misappropriated rhythm and blues. I have admired their culture and trained so damned hard to master their sophistication.

I mean look at me now, how well I can use these words of theirs to protest their very creators.

But now, I have Barack. President of the so called Free World. A biracial man. A black man, his paternal roots stem from East Africa, just like my own. I feel compelled to empathize with this man.

I guess, in some kind of way, he represents the pinnacle of what someone like me could achieve as shackled members of the British and American colonies that we call home. It is for this reason, I think, I project onto him that which I feel I would do. That which I feel I could do.

But now, I have Barack. President of the so called Free World. A biracial man. A black man, his paternal roots stem from East Africa, just like my own. I feel compelled to empathize with this man.

I want to believe he is going to change the world into something we both agree with, even though we’ve yet to have a single conversation.

I want him to champion my causes and fight against the injustices that I have not the power to reach. I will frown and mumble my disappointment when he neglect his unknown commitment to my conflicts of interest.

The joke of this all is that I’m not even an American citizen, at least not in the way that most people mean it. In fact I’ve never even left the arms of my Mother Africa; yet there he is. He continues to occupy this space, on a pedestal in my mind.

I remember sitting in various living rooms, on a trip to Kampala, Uganda, in 2009. I saw pictures of Barack hung in living rooms. Waving to us. Dozens of barber shops in his name. It was amusing. I got the sense that the pride folks had in him spoke so much more about how we saw ourselves than it ever had to do with who Barack even is.

I’m convinced, Barack, that you represent me. As strange as that may sound. I reread your books and listen to your speeches now and again for some kind of affirmation. A kind of one way conversation that I have with you when I need it.

I’ve learned, though, what I guess I always knew of to be true.

That a black man in the White House will not solve my own identity issues. There is only so much a symbol can do.
I don’t know if I’ll ever vanquish the hegemonies that oppress my mind.

I don’t know if the day will come when I can sincerely find affirmation outside of heroes anointed by Electoral Colleges.

What I do know is that I’m closer to understanding “it.”

And there it is, for what its worth. My dilemma with Obama. My projection onto you, my president.

By Brian Kamanzi

Brian Kamanzi is a Cape Town-based spoken word poet and engineer by trade committed to the social upliftment of his fellow people. He is a budding Pan-Africanist eager to make contributions to the movement and form cross-cultural connections with others in the struggle. Follow his writing online.