"They still call it the White House
But that's a temporary condition, too.
Can you dig it, cc?"--Parliament "Chocolate City"
In 1975, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic released "Chocolate City," a song about the migration of African Americans to large metropolitan areas and the resulting white flight to the suburbs. My parents, coming of age in the 60-70s, played a lot of funk music in our house, but "Chocolate City" is, and continues to be, one of my favorite songs by George Clinton. Even in the year 2016 many of the lyrics carry a great deal of significance in regards to black culture and its continually evolving and burgeoning influence on the American psyche/culture.
President Obama has presided over a massive cultural shift in the minds of African Americans and subsequently America as a whole. Barack Obama, being the first black president, is now a significant part of black culture not just as an icon, but because his blackness is legitimized by the vitriol associated with his presidency. Authenticity is a defining factor in how people perceive those in power. Seeing Obama's detractors often resort to coded language to denigrate him and seeing him the victim of obvious racial bias, fosters kinship within the black community. Almost every black person at one point or another has been the victim of racial bias. Watching the first black president weather these attacks with grace and dignity has engendered a sense of pride in the community for him and his accomplishments. Pride breeds motivation; and he tapped into that mentality to win the White House in resounding fashion in 2012. Black Americans, long standard bearers for the Democratic Party, are slowly transitioning to the often disparaged term, "Obamacrats." The bar was raised to the point that all other politicians with an interest in drawing the black vote, must come close to matching Obama's level of ability/charisma. It's one reason the current 2016 candidates struggle with attracting black voters. They simply pale in comparison to the White House's current occupant.
Barack Obama's election, when black voter turnout was higher than whites' turnout for the first time in American history, was a turning point for the black community and this nation. That a minority group had voted in greater numbers than the predominantly white electorate had never before been witnessed until then. The realization that we as a voting block, can substantively effect a change massive enough to put a black man in office not once, but twice, is empowering to us as a community. We have within our grasp the voting power to change the course of this nation. Black Americans, for instance, have made it very clear, via organizations such as Black Lives Matter and some very vocal protests concerning the continued disparity in sentencing officers for unjustified murders (Freddie Gray) that we want comprehensive criminal justice reform. If candidates do not specifically tailor their messages to their minority constituents with a timeline and a viable method to see these reforms instituted, these candidates are not going to get the votes from our community that they require, these days to win. This state of affairs has evolved from simply being a threat to being an acknowledged fact in the 2016 election. It's why Hillary Clinton has embraced the Obama legacy and is attempting to build on his successes.
You don't need the bullet when you got the ballot"
--Parliament "Chocolate City"
Despite attempts by some prominent media outlets such as Fox News and right wing talk radio to peddle this fiction that we are a post-racial society, minorities are taking a greater role in the shaping of this country. Race has become an even more important factor in determining elections, creating laws, and changing cultural standards and expectations. People like to see themselves represented in the dominant culture. The question is no longer a case of, "how" but "when" the next charismatic minority candidate will emerge and bring his or her culture, experiences, and people to the forefront of the American consciousness. The 2016 election is less about the old white people running and more about the possibility that they may feel impelled to take on minority candidates as vice presidents in an effort to entice minorities of that particular race/culture to the polls in their favor.
Since Barack Obama's election, the role of minority candidates has been greatly explored, debated, and expounded upon by political analysts because the tone of the message changes when it comes from someone that looks like the people you are attempting to communicate with. In a way, Barack Obama has opened the doors to the notion of candidates and culture taking a more predominant role in American mainstream culture. It is not an insignificant accomplishment. So much of American culture relies on blatant attempts to co-opt certain elements of minority culture in an attempt to make our concerns and statements more palatable to white psyches: "Barack is only half black. and "All Lives Matter", et cetera are examples of this cooptation. What we are seeing is the evolving notion that minority cultures are beholden to no one but the people of that particular group. Many in this country are not particularly enthusiastic about either of the major party candidates, so many of us are looking forward to what their actions could mean for future elections. Again for many, it's less about Clinton and Trump and more about the possibility that a minority candidate will once more take center stage in 2020.
Take, for instance, the Latino population which is on record as a steadily growing minority group. As their population rises, they are going to count for more and more of the potential electorate. The more you alienate them, the greater possibility you have of losing future elections. It's one reason the GOP is constantly trying to tell Trump to tone back his commentary regarding Latinos and their culture. For a political party that caters predominantly to white people, Trump's offensive speech has the potential to frustrate party efforts in future elections. It raises the specter that race may be a key element in determining the course of the country. The black community did it when they turned out in record numbers for Obama. What if the Latino population is the next locus of voter power? For politicians such as Julian Castro and Tom Perez, the elections following 2016 could prove to be defining events both for them personally and for us as a nation as the expanding Latino electorate moves to take a greater role in the political arena. The era of just old white men inhabiting the White House is now a thing of the past.
The 2016 election, and open consideration of more minority candidates, has created a shift in politics and in America itself. With white people taking more of a backseat in terms of determining elections, (despite their still being the predominant population culture) it is only a matter of time before the minority cultural shift, not to mention shifting cultural demographics, completely changes the foundation of the American electorate. And we have President Barack Obama to thank for much of it.
Movin' in and on ya
Gainin' on ya!--Parliament "Chocolate City"