Obama’s electoral success is truly a remarkable commentary on the goodness of the American people. A 2008 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported “that 17 percent were enthusiastic about Obama being the first African American President, 70 percent were comfortable or indifferent, and 13 percent had reservations or were uncomfortable.” I’m 77 years old. For almost all of my life, a black’s becoming the president of the United States was at best a pipe dream. Obama’s electoral success further confirms what I’ve often held: The civil rights struggle in America is over, and it’s won. At one time, black Americans did not have the constitutional guarantees enjoyed by white Americans; now we do. The fact that the civil rights struggle is over and won does not mean that there are not major problems confronting many members of the black community, but they are not civil rights problems and have little or nothing to do with racial discrimination.
There is every indication to suggest that Obama’s presidency will be seen as a failure similar to that of Jimmy Carter’s. That’s bad news for the nation but especially bad news for black Americans. No white presidential candidate had to live down the disgraced presidency of Carter, but I’m all too fearful that a future black presidential candidate will find himself carrying the heavy baggage of a failed black president. That’s not a problem for white liberals who voted for Obama — they received their one-time guilt-relieving dose from voting for a black man to be president — but it is a problem for future generations of black Americans. But there’s one excuse black people can make; we can claim that Obama is not an authentic black person but, as The New York Times might call him, a white black person.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.