With that said, everything I struggle with in writing about the Obama presidency and race is in this video. It's often said that the Obama family's occupation of the White House is only of "symbolic" importance. I don't believe that's true, but even if I did, I think symbols are really important. An unbroken 200-year plus run of white men in the White House must, necessarily, convey that only people meeting such a criteria need apply for the position.
It's easy to wax cynical about black parents in 2008 saying, between tears, that "Now I can honestly tell my child that they can be anything." Except that it's sort of true. No progressive, pre-Barack Obama, would have said that only having white presidents was irrelevant to American history. I don't know how you can hold the inverse opinion now.
That kind of symbolism comes through in this video with Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon. All I can say is that these are sort of moments that, as a black kid in the 80s and 90s, I could not have fathomed. And as sure as the white near-monopoly on the television screen once mattered, this matters. You can't just say, "Yeah but what about...." It all matters.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.
Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.