From the AFRO’s first inauguration coverage in 1904, the temperament of the overall Black community surrounding the celebration of the seating of a new American president has in most cases been one of excitement and hope. Surprisingly, this excitement was despite the Jim Crow environment that excluded Black people from actually participating in the principal presidential inaugural celebrations during all of the first part of the 20th century. Such exclusions, however, did not prevent African Americans from producing our own celebrations since it was always believed that we were still and nevertheless Americans, and the president of the United States was our leader too.
So, when America evolved to the point of being able to look beyond the color of a presidential candidate’s skin color and elected a Black man in 2008, the excitement and celebration of the entire Black community surrounding his inauguration was unmatched by any of the previous presidential investitures. The inauguration of Barack Obama was the impossible dream come true for a vast majority of the African-American community. From Jim Crow America to President Barack Obama—that was quite an accomplishment! Such excitement was repeated in 2013 when President Obama was again inaugurated for his second term.
We are now about to inaugurate a successor to President Barack Obama. In comparing our history of presidential election coverage, it appears that the inauguration of Donald Trump is, in many respects, like those of the early 20th century inaugurations. The level of excitement surrounding Trump’s installment is not, however, at a noticeable level in the African-American community—he received a paltry less than 20 percent of the Black vote in the presidential election. This low level of excitement is due to the vicious presidential campaign conducted by this incoming president which has left most of the American voters (Black and White) stunned and disappointed as reflected in many of the recent popularity polls this week.
Because of Trump’s campaign rhetoric, a majority of the African- American community can only view this incoming president as being anything other than a positive beacon of progress for our community. Donald Trump clearly has not shown that he has any meaningful connection or level of understanding about our community’s needs that can compare with those of President Obama. His generalizations and recent Twitter insults directed at Congressman John Lewis have further depressed any hope of Trump quickly establishing any meaningful relationship or support base within the African-American community.
The task of connecting with the African-American community and unifying an extremely fragmented and disjointed country is a formidable one Trump must face and master if he is to succeed. A large part of this country’s fragmentation lies at Trump’s feet due to the campaign rhetoric style he used and continues to pursue. However, he now works for us all.
The contrast of the dire possibilities facing us in a Trump presidency does not, however, dim the reality of accomplishments President Obama achieved over the past eight years. This is what we choose to celebrate.
In spite of the never-before-seen level of demonstrations planned to protest Trump’s values and rhetoric that will be clearly visible for the world to see during this inaugural weekend, we believe a recognizably large part of the American population will continue to realize the progress we have made during the past eight years under this Black American president.
Therefore, in this AFRO Inauguration Edition, we focus and celebrate not on the inauguration of the incoming president. Instead, we pay tribute to and acknowledge the positive experiences the out-going President Barack Obama provided this country and to the African- American community.