The thing about Eric Holder

...I mean, besides this being the first step in Barack Obama's plan to institute a Mugabe-style transfer of wealth to the ghettos of America. I was talking to Kenyatta this morning, and she was making the obvious point that the "first black Attorney General" thing doesn't change anything for the average black kid walking down the street. I countered that this gets it backwards. Holder and Obama's "first" status isn't suppose to directly, 1 to 1, improve the lives of black folks, but rather mark how far black people--and by extension the country--have come. I know Obama is a product of many things. He is first, and foremost, the product of the home his parents and grandparents made for him. But he's also the product of the South Side of Chicago, the historic economic and political power center of black America.

The first black congressmen to be elected in the 20th century came from the South Side of Chicago. The first big black banks and insurance companies (at least in the North) were products of the South Side. Indeed, the city of Chicago, itself, was discovered founded by a biracial black man. The only other semi-successful run for president was Jesse Jackson--himself a South Side resident. My point is that all of these achievements were made possible by black people working in consort with many other people. In that light, I see Obama--and Holder--in light so unremarkable and cliche that it makes me shudder. They are both markers of what Negroes can do when they go out and vote.

UPDATE: I'm not sure why, but I think people are taking this as some sort of statement on the black vote in the past, or the lack thereof. I guess it is a statement, but the point in listing Jackson, Dawson, De Priest etc. was to give some historic context--in other words to specifically avoid the "Negroes don't vote" canard. Obama is obviously the most spectacular marker of us voting. But he isn't the only one.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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