2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
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Africa (East): The Emergence of Barack Obama, Part II


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  Timothy Kalyegira
The Monitor (Kampala)
7 March 2008

As we did last week, we must ask once again: what explains the ecstatic support for Senator Barack Obama across America and among whites, as we know whites? How can whites suddenly no longer care if their president is a Black, given their 200-year history?

Emory Wheel, the newspaper of Emory University in the United States noted two weeks ago that, "[Opinion pollster] Frank Luntz asked college students at a recent focus group to name the candidate they were going to vote for.

All of them said Obama, but when Luntz followed up by asking them to name a single accomplishment of the senator, they couldn't name one." (Emory Wheel, February 18, 2008)

Where is this unquestioning, outpouring enthusiasm among whites coming from?

As a rule, when one sees a leading Black figure or head of state become a darling of the West and whites (Mandela, Museveni, Kagame, and now Obama) we must ask the suspicious question: why? Black leaders who clearly stand up for Black interests or frighten Whites (Robert Mugabe, Idi Amin, Louis Farrakhan) are always, without exception, portrayed as monsters by the western media.

A glimpse into the world Obama must live in and hope to one day lead can be seen in how he deals with the questions of his identity.

Obama's late father was a Muslim and he was raised in Indonesia by a Muslim stepfather. News profiles of Senator Obama are careful to emphasise that he is a Christian and that his Indonesian stepfather was a non-practising Muslim.

Two weeks ago, when a photograph of Obama dressed in traditional Somali wear was sent to the Drudge Report website, the Obama campaign officials were furious, describing the distribution of the photograph as a smear effort by the Clinton campaign team.

The question is: Why should a photo of Obama dressed up as a Somali (or as a Muslim) be viewed as negative for his election chances, unless we must admit that the United States is still deeply prejudiced toward Muslims and Arabs - and Africans? How can the White Americans love Obama this much, but not his father's faith, African heritage, and traditional dress?

While meeting Jewish groups, Obama, well aware that although the Jews are only two percent of the American population, they dominate and control a quarter of the media, finance, entertainment, and the sciences, sought to identify with Jews, pointing out that his name Barack in Hebrew means peace.

It shows us the other dishonest side to Obama that most of us Africans and Black Americans don't see in our current enthusiasm, a man who would rather graft himself onto the Jewish world via his name than visit a mosque and celebrate his Islamic roots. The world of Obama is summed up by a Caribbean-born Black British commentator, wearily familiar with the price that a Black public figure must pay to rise to the top in the white Western world, and he is not overly excited by the prospect of Obama becoming US president.

Writing in the March 2008 edition of the magazine Prospect, Trevor Phillips observes: "Obama is a kind of Greek tragedy in the making. The very thing that makes him the first person of his kind has 'bound' him to failure: if he fulfils the hopes of whites, he must disappoint blacks--and vice versa...

For the black underclass and beyond, Obama may be the latest messiah, but there is anecdotal evidence that where blacks have prospered to the extent that they are grimly competing for jobs and property with whites, they don't buy 'Obamania.'...This] is because the people who actually experience just how far America remains from post-racial harmony are those blacks who work with whites..." Perhaps because of having read too many books on the activities and history of the CIA, I remain suspicious even of the recent string of Obama primary victories.

How does Obama win 12 consecutive states, mainly populated by rural whites who are typically lukewarm toward Blacks, then suddenly he is unable to sustain the momentum when it comes to Texas and Ohio, two states whose racial composition is identical to the 12 he easily won weeks before?

How come Obama won 12 consecutive states but they were all states with a small delegate count, while Hilary Clinton won all the heavy population, industrial states except for Obama's state of Illinois: California, New York, Florida, Texas, Ohio?

Might there be a conspiracy to quietly tamper with the primary results and give Obama the appearance of victory, well knowing this is in small states, in order to demonstrate that America is no longer racist?

As understandable is the great hope Black Americans and we Africans have vested in Obama, real hope will only come when we have a Black world leader who acts on our terms, not the White world's.


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