Mason’s Maundered Musings: Obama leaves office, but not the community


Mason Schweizer, Opinion Editor

Last Tuesday, President Obama addressed the nation from his home turf of Chicago, giving a farewell speech to cap off his eight year tenure—eight of the most important years in American history. Later that week, the Department of Justice released a searing report on unlawful practices all throughout the Chicago Police Department, an investigation that was launched following the wrongful use of force by officers in the now-infamous Laquon McDonald shooting in the city in 2014.

Just a handful of miles from where Obama addressed the people, the deadly concrete jungle that is the Southside of Chicago continued to be a battleground not only amongst rival gangs, but amongst police as well.

While I am slightly troubled by the fact Obama was never able to make much of a difference in this area, something he vowed to use presidential powers to improve, his role as the face of the African-American community will carry on on much longer than his presidency.

And Obama is right up there with Martin Luther King Jr. as the two most important leaders this community has ever seen. MLK Jr. marched so Obama wouldn’t have to. He wrote from the Birmingham jail so Obama would never be imprisoned for nothing else than being a strong black leader.

There are a lot of parallels between the time that MLK Jr. marched and the time Obama was the leader of America. While the civil rights movement certainly made progress, the current cultural landscape of America shows us that we have a long way to go before reaching total, undeniable equality.

Marches and protests have found their ways to our smartphones the way the marches and protests during the days of MLK Jr. made their ways to our newspapers and television sets. However, there is not currently a face to the movement the way that leaders like MLK Jr. were the face of the movement. Sure, there are some strong leaders, but none that can captivate, motivate, or give such eloquent insight the way MLK Jr. did. Obama is arguably the best speaker and powerful rally-around-type leader since then.

Imagine how much stronger the Black Lives Matter movement could be with support from Obama. Some may argue that those who are out-of-touch with society and don’t understand BLM are also anti-Obama, and that awareness of the cause may not increase so much.

And that is true in a direct sense. But it would add quite a bit of legitimacy to the movement, providing more unification and cleaning up. With proper leadership and direction, why can’t our civil rights movement reach the impact that was seen some five decades ago?

I may not be the best person to speak on this matter. After all, I’m just a white guy, hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, off the shores of that crippling concrete jungle I spoke of earlier. As familiar and comfortable with black culture as I may be, as many black friends as I may have, as deeply interested in hip-hop and other “black” entertainment as I may be, the truth remains I will never live in America as a black person; I will never be able to fully understand it.

But I care deeply for Chicago. I care deeply for the black community, for civil equality and for the elimination of police brutality. I just want to see this world be a better place.

And I believe President Obama can, and will, continue to make a huge impact in the world once he leaves office.