Baracksploitation is in full effect, and I'm not talking about the vendors in Washington who are selling Obama memorabilia. The major networks and cable news outlets are working overtime to manufacture one Obama story after another.
As I watched commentators on every channel stare expectantly into the camera and mouth the words "first African American president" over and over last night, I thought about those little brown children all across the south in the fifties who were the first black students to integrate their local school systems, eyes from around the country trained on each and every step they took.
The nervous tension inherent in these final moments before the swearing-in ceremony, like the heightened level of anxiety you see conveyed in the faces of practically every anchor person on every channel right now, doesn't stem from Barack Obama's history making quest, but from those who have been complicit in its denial until now. It is as if the network brass have decided to make their on camera personalities sell a product whose capabilities they aren't quite sure of yet themselves.
Journalists like Soledad O’Brien, who have traded on their “maybe I’m white, maybe I’m not” brand of racial ambiguity all their lives, are almost giddy with excitement because they don’t feel like they are on the outside looking in – being able to publicly appropriate the dark roots they have downplayed all their lives looks almost liberating as I observe the extra sense of knowingness in their faces.
And for the masses of my brownskinned brethren who have never been mistaken for being anything other than African American, whose omnipresence on every stretch of space in downtown D.C. has transformed the atmosphere of the nation’s capitol into that of a family reunion, there is no part of the Barack Obama story that doesn’t deserve to be blown up to larger than life proportions.
The thing that all this attention has done is force the mainstream media to focus on the darker part of our nation's history in a way that they never have before. Listening to the news announcers in prime time talk about the historical significance of the slave labor that was essential in constructing the nation's capital, including the White House itself, it sounded to me like they were practically wading through the pages of our history books, elbowing the accepted narrative aside to finally make room for the entire truth of our country's complete heritage.
I don't see a thing wrong with this kind of Baracksploitation if it will continue to help expose America to the whole truth of its past, and connect this past to the imperfect reality of today that those odious legacies spawned.