Letter for President Obama, for the Second Debate

“I drink the Obama Kool-Aid,” a colleague proclaimed.


And Proudly.

But even she was getting tired.

“He’s gonna have to show more fight. I hope he does during the next debate.”

And if he doesn’t?

“I’m through with him,” she said.

Naw. Not you.

“I…think so. I really do.”

I was shocked beyond being able to articulate the consternation. I mean, this semi-retired black woman, I think in her sixties, loves everything about you. The way you dress. Your walk. (She’s the one who pointed out to me that Romney walks funny——those weird baby steps.) Your lovely wife and daughters.

Days ago, she smiled when I told her I thought you won Debate One on points, but I could tell she also suspected I was just trying to make her feel better when the pundit class placed you at the receiving end of a blowout.

“But people need to see more. He needs to speak…you know…”

From his heart?

“That’s it. He needs to speak from his heart.”

So this is where we are.

From the heart.

The organ impervious to digressions, or pauses, hunts for better words.

The heart knows what it means. Trust it.

I know. I’ve talked about it a million times. So have a million other people. It’s dangerous for a black guy to show his anger. Frankly, I don’t buy that. Not always. I think Ray Nagin’s outburst about Hurricane Katrina pushed the Bush administration up against the wall. Quiet as it’s kept, some white people are waiting on us. It didn’t matter that Hannity wrecked his little Fuehrer heart to make Rev. Wright a lasting issue. Your excellent race speech helped, of course. However, when all was said and done, I don’t think that whites viewed as surprising a damn near seventy-year-old black man having problems with race in this country. They rather he didn’t air his grievances, but they’re not surprised the grievances are there.

“If you guys would just get out of the way.”

That was your vice president’s best line in his already legendary beat-down with the One Whose Hero Is an Ayn Rand Fictional Character. Biden may have overdone it in spots but that was to make up for what many considered your lack of passion in the first debate.

Black people want you to say, with all the feeling you can muster, that the unemployment rate would be lower, that more people would have jobs, if they—-your opponents— supported your jobs initiative. They voted to see people suffer—-even their own supporters, more than a few crazy enough to go along—- rather than see you win.

If anybody knows they’re in the way, it’s black people. This is the M.O. of the line from which they descend, the one that brought us slavery, Jim Crow, last hired-first fired, a criminally unfair criminal justice system. Blacks suspect they’ll not veer from that line—-that they’ll remain in soldierly place—-were you to win again.

Think about that. Blacks could make the decision to not vote for you. Let Romney win. Maybe the reactionary whites will calm down and companies—-some that you bailed out with everybody else’s money—-will stop holding the economy hostage and throw blacks a few jobs here and there. It’s hard out here. There’s rent to pay, babies to feed, and, as you know, no one’s more unemployed than we. Blacks also know that they’ll have some version of Obamacare if Romney wins. Thanks to you, it’s unfashionable now not to insure people with pre-existing conditions. They’ll be some version of that. They’ll also pass some kind of jobs bill if that’s what it takes.

It’s about not letting you succeed. Or, as the wording on a supporter’s T-shirt screamed at a recent Romney rally: “Put the White Back into the White House. (Whites have improved in not being as collectively reactionary, but they still have a way to go in confronting brethren who are. That’s why they can pretend Fox ain’t all that bad.)

But blacks have decided to buck the continuing blowback and vote for you.

Oh, there are other reasons not so honorable. Some, like me, will vote for you if only to see all these right-wingers have a collective stroke and croak. I speak with intentional hyperbole, of course (I think), but you get the point: Whatever their reason, they’re ready to make the sacrifice.

So, in Debate 2, speak as if you know this.

As if you know (and I know you do) that the movement created by dragging your people to these shores for free labor is, after winning at so many other levels, including having one of their own as a president, has more to achieve, and that it still faces a formidable group of dead-enders threatening to impede that progress and who can do one of two things not immune to the laws of change: get with the program, or grow.

As if you know of the growing number of allies who have their own share of historical issues with this lot—-like anti-women’s suffrage, union busting, militarism—-and who have invested their time and talents to seeing that you win.

To not fight and win is not to win, as that famous quote of Fred Douglass reminds us. (I know you know this too.)

If all of this is becoming too difficult for you, as I suspect it would for many of us, if the expectations from the pragmatic to the proud to the outright partakers of your Kool-Aid are too unreasonably exacting, I submit—-respectfully, sir—-that you get out the way and, in the new, less cluttered air, let the worthy ride the arc set in place long ago to a win.