President Barack Obama took the oath of office one year ago this week and a whole cultural dynamic took over "the People's house," otherwise known as the White House. I'm sure there has been much consternation about this from some segments of the American population. Talk about "guess who just bought the house next door?"
Close to 700 people come to work at the White House everyday. Another 200 persons are hired to maintain the residence, and about 100 more people are on security detail to secure the residence. Most of them probably needed a year to get over their culture shock. This wasn't exactly an everyday occurrence of the past 210 years the White House has been in existence.
Barack Obama and his family represented something the nation had never seen before, a black family occupying the Presidential residence with the architecture of a plantation house. The biggest "big" house in the nation that still reminisces about its Confederate past. The "White" House is one of the lasting (and most visible) remnants of that past.
It had to be a little strange for the Obamas sleeping every night in a place so full of historical meaning. I mean, every President who has lived there since John Adams first moved there in 1800 has been...well, you know.
When you live in a racial nation, it's difficult to ignore many of the racial ironies that have come about in the past year. I'm sure there had to be some rather awkward moments that the public will never know about. Rather than focus on all the things President Obama has (or hasn't) done, according to who you talked to (I wrote that two months ago), I choose focus on this peculiar phenomenon. I'm sure there have been some very hilarious "cultural" moments during the Obamas' first year in the Big, uh I mean, White House. Thinking about all the things that could have happened in the Obama's first year in the White House, I'm just wondering...
If President Obama has to tell people who he is from time to time. On a regular job, black people have to remind other people on a regular basis when they are in charge. "You know, that's my call, Bill. I am the supervisor." I'm sure the President has gotten more "pushback" than we know about.
I'm just wondering, if all the dignified people at State Dinners still talk about black people when President Obama is in the room. I wonder how many times Barack has had to say, "Uh, you know I'm standing here and I can hear you, right?" They probably just tell him he's different. "Oh, Mr. President, you're different." Until he gets in trouble. Then he's a...(don't say it!!!). Just ask Tiger.
I'm just wondering, how many real "situations" have happened in the Situation Room. Them military types are real direct and impolitic. They have probably confronted the President's military knowledge and deliberate approach with impatience and hostile language. I wonder if Barack had a community organizer in Chicago Southside "flashback" and had to raise up on one of them and threaten to kick their *ss. I can imagine the President saying, "I'm from the Southside, fool. I don't give a sh*t about them medals on your chest. I ain't no punk. I'll kick yo..." We'll never know, but I'm sure it was a hilarious cultural moment.
I'm just wondering if the first lady walks around the White House in a housecoat, or loungewear. Most sistas don't care what other people think when they "at home," and Michelle is definitely a sista. At the end of the day, or first thing in the morning, I'm sure there ain't a whole lot of conversation about it.
I'm just wondering if the White House residence staff, and the Secret Service, looks at the First Lady's behind when she walks by. I'm absolutely sure the White House has never had a dilemma quite like this, a first lady with a "big ole butt." I'm sure more than a few have caught that Michelle "raised eyebrow" that says the words she can't say for the next seven years. I'm sure the President has asked her to tone it down, but it is what it is. I'm jus sayin'...
I'm just wondering if President Obama has had to check the staff on that last wonderment. I can imagine the President pulling em to the side and saying, "You like working around here. You wanna keep yo job. If I catch you looking at my wife's butt one more time..." I'm sure Barack ain't lost all the brotha in him and surely that's when that "Negro dialect" will surface (Harry Reid said he doesn't use it, "unless he chooses to".. I'm sure he'll choose to.)
I'm just wondering when the 3 a.m. call was put through to President Obama, did he have his "doo-rag" on? We know the President has waves, and black people know how black men get waves. I wonder how the white people around the President respond to that. We know how they stare when they see us with one on in the airport. I wonder if Barack gets that same look (staring at his head during a conversation) while he's getting briefed.
I wonder if the Obamas have to tell their kids to "stop running in the house." That's a BIG ole house, and kids love big houses where they can run, jump, play, and hide. I wonder if the first Grammie has to threaten to whup her grand-kids about "touching stuff." I know mine did. Both of em.
I wonder if the President's White House lawn "bar-b-que" is gonna be a regular thang during his administration. Wonder how that was received by the neighbors. You know it's only gonna get bigger every year. I wonder if they will continue it after the Obamas leave the White House.
In fact, I wonder if the White House will still be "the White House" when the Obamas leave. You know America got that thing about living where we've lived and leaving once we come to the neighborhood. They might come back eventually...but usually not immediately after we've been there.
These are just some of the things I routinely thought about during the Obamas' first year in the White House, in between thinking about all the work they both put in to make America and the world better, and the undeserved criticism they received. But that's America, Jack. Comes with the territory.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Politics. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com