Reigning NBA champions, the Miami Heat are at crossroads almost midway through the 2013-14 season. Although they still occupy the spot in the southeast conference, this season, they seemed to have lost the swagger and intimidating swipe of the two previous seasons that culminated in their winning back to back titles. The loss of the championship gloss has resulted in the losing three consecutive games for the first time since the “big three” were corralled to browbeat their opponents into submission and win not only games but also championships.
On January 15, five days before the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, the Heat were in town to battle against the rejuvenated Washington Wizards, a team the Heat had dominated in four previous meetings. On the eve of the game, the Heat called on President Barack Obama in The White House to present their championship trophy to him for the second year in a row.
During the presentation ceremony, the President praised the Heat for repeating as champions but bemoaned the lack of respect being accorded the Heat as a result of which every NBA franchise they play believe they can beat them. As the President pointed out, “This group has now won twice but it’s gone to the finals three times and, sometimes, it feels like they’re still fighting for a little respect,” Obama said, adding: “I can relate to that.”
Obama’s parody of the Heat is a typical African American rhetorical strategy known as signifying, and it is a clear indication of the indignity that sometimes comes with being the President of the United States. Bill Clinton got his fair share of it, and so too did George Bush. However, while Clinton and Bush were harshly criticized (sometimes unfairly) for some ontological decisions, Obama’s excoriation is based mostly on the hue of his skin, which is a sad commentary on the current political landscape of America.
We are not yet in a post racial America. Agreed. But what the pessimists, the naysayers, and the skeptics must perennially bear in mind is that when at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Philly, then Senator Barack Obama took the podium to declare inter alia: “There is no White America; there is no African America; there is no Latino America; and there is no Asian America; There is the United States of America,” he was reminding the nation of the disparate identities that together make the nation a powerful unitary force.
The evocative declaration is also a metonymic freezing of the national motto, E Pluribus Unum, which literally means “out of the many, one,” to illustrate the teleology of the collective aspirations and yearnings that goad us to be diligent in the transmutation of our dreams of a better life for us and our posterity.
Although the Heat went on to lose their third in a row to the Wizards, Obama’s signifying was more than a parody; it’s a profound depiction of some of the indignities he has to deal with on a consistent basis as the President of the United States. Is it time yet to judge the President of the United States by the content of his character and not according to the color of his skin?