“What’s been going on since I’ve been gone?” joked the former Democratic president as he moderated an event at the University of Chicago in the city where he began his political career and which will be the site of his presidential library.
Obama, who once taught constitutional law at the school, recalled starting out as a young community organizer in the city and told a panel of six current and former students that he decided to focus his post-presidency on encouraging young people to engage with their communities.
"The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world," he told an audience of several hundred people.
One of the first things President Obama said before he started this question answer session was that he's wondering what his next job should be. I was really happy to hear him say that he wants to work on create the next generation of leadership.
I'm still listening to the speech. I haven't finished it yet. But I'm hoping he finds a way to communicate, in this speech or the next, that individual black people becoming rich, that the black community creating its own darker-skinned one-percent, doesn't help us collectively.
In fact, I'm wondering if our black one percent doesn't represent the vast majority of the 13 percent of black men and more than a quarter of latino men that voted for Trump.
Whenever I read about Black Wall Street, all I can think about is how little political power those rich (?) black men must have had.
Think about it, black men who were equivalent in power to Bob Johnson and Oprah Winfrey -- or on their way to that kind of money-power -- just had everything snatched away from them...because they couldn't create and control the laws, which his what you have when you have political power.
I've been paying more attention to Trump than most anything else on television and news lately. And it's kind of incredible to watch the republicans just walk up to rules and laws and just change them or ignore them when they want to refuse to put a Supreme Court Justice in place for a year or decide they don't want 60 votes to be necessary to put someone like Neil Gorsuch on the supreme court.
It seems to me there are very few federal laws that has to do with our congressmen that the party in power can't just eliminate or ignore.
Black folks need the power to ignore or change laws at will too OR the power to enforce them on white men no matter what their title is or how much money they have.
So the black community does need those people that have the power associated with money. But we also need a heck of a lot more political power than we currently have. President Obama's presidency showed us that. The republicans held up dozens and dozens of his judicial nominations, not just the supreme court.
We need to tell our young people more than "Politicians are all cheats and liars and white people will always control everything. Why bother to vote." We need to tell our children to do more than just vote. We need to tell our children to run for office if we don't want to have choices like Hillary Clinton (questionable racial past) and Bernie Sanders (numb and deaf to anything but cross-burning, n-word-yelling white racism)
To be specific, in truth, I think we'll be better off if we place our hopes in creating politically powerful black women.
In a patriarchal society, boys and men turn toward competition with other men because it's rewarded and seen as normal and good. Steve Harvey wrote an entire book on how men are not going to focus on anything, or any relationship until he feels worthwhile making money. While this is more than somewhat simple-minded, there's more than an element of truth in this. A lot of men feel like nothing if they aren't making money, if they aren't the bread winner. There aren't a lot of Barack Obama's out there who could be married to a woman making 100K more than he is and even take the time to make virtually nothing for periods of time to be a community leader.
Black feminist men understand that competition, greed for money and power without thinking of anything else is something only white men can afford to do. White leaders of corporations know their white political brothers have their backs via having their white male hands on 90% of the levers of power.
Unlike white men, when you are black or brown, in my opinion, you have to think of the collective just as much as you think about your own aspirations. Yes, we need people of color to have money-power. But that money-power isn't safe unless you have a political power shield. In addition to being outnumbered and outgunned, that is the lesson of Black Wall Street for me.
We need political power at the state and federal level. Again, I think it's going to be black and brown women that get this done.
While female socialization can be very negative in some ways, black women having been socialized to think of the family, to think of the black group first --instead of "I wonder how much money and power it's going to take for me to feel like I'm valuable" like men of all races tend to do-- might actually wind up being a very good thing.
Black and brown women may not put self first often enough, but the flip side of this socialization might make them better community nurturers, better community leaders, and better politicians.
Nurturing isn't just for children. We need to nurture our communities.
President Obama and feminist men like him are rare. Too many black men cannot conceive of looking at feminism in the same way they look at anti-racism.
Maybe that'll be different one day. And we need to make that different for black boys TODAY for sure. We need to take the straight jacket of masculinity off them.
But for now, I think we feel most hopeful about placing our focus on moving our black girls toward community service, leadership programs with links to city jobs and city offices, running for office in small towns, and getting on city boards for this or that.
If we don't move toward leading ourselves at the federal and state level, we're going to have to deal with someone that will capitalize on Trump's white supremacy gains.
This country is getting browner and browner. White supremacy is not going to go down without a fight. We need to be politically ready to deal with that.