In 1930, just months after the devastating stock market crash that launched the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover spent $30,000 to install the very first air conditioning system in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, Americans across the nation suffered as the summer of 1930 set the record in Washington for the number of days temperatures reached or exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This unprecedented heat ushered in the Dust Bowl, an era of unusually hot and dry summers that caused disastrous crop failures, caused numerous heat-related deaths, and contributed to the economic hardships of the Great Depression.
No group was hit harder during the Great Depression than the African Americans, who, by 1932, had an unemployment rate of 50%. And as poor Americans struggled to feed their families and protect themselves from the overwhelming heat, the white, Stanford-educated president stayed cool and comfortable in the White House.
Since the founding of this country, white privilege has kept the line between the “haves” and the “have-nots” clearly defined. It has kept white men in the White House and everyone else in the hot, dusty depths of a divided nation. That is, until Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008.
When America chose its first president of color, it was considered a victory for the African American community and for marginalized people across the nation. Obama stood as a gleaming beacon of hope that perhaps white privilege was a penetrable barrier after all.
And then, on November 10, 2016, President Barack Obama met with President-elect Donald Trump at the White House to discuss the looming transition of power.
As the American people are well aware, in just three months, the Oval Office and the highest position of power in the world will be passed back from the hands of an intelligent, charismatic black man to a divisive member of the white elite.
Donald Trump, who has spent years trying to delegitimize Obama’s presidency, praised him, saying, “I look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel.”
President Obama, who campaigned fiercely against the Republican, stood by his criticisms of Trump but said that he was “encouraged” by the meeting.
“I believe that it is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together to deal with the many challenges that we face,” said Obama.
Despite the fears expressed by minorities, women, and other marginalized groups, President Obama remains outwardly optimistic. He has encouraged the American people to not lose hope and to have faith in the democratic system.
“I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” he said. “The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.”