2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

A Kenyan's Views of Obama


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 I am troubled by Obama's  performative distancing with black and race
issues. As a Kenyan, I am troubled by his evasive double-use of his Black
father's ancestry to validate his blackness while running away both from
black issues and Kenyan issues. To my mind, he uses his atypical ancestry
as a magic wand to simultaneously dissolve both his blackness and

I know (we) Black folks are looking for reason to believe in one of our own
-- but when folks ask for evidence that Obama's narrative could be inimical
to race issues, I get confused.  What we need is evidence that he cares about issues of race. [When individuals insist that] Obama has reached Dr. King's mountain-top and has seen the promised land  where racism, militarism and capitalism are one, I wonder what evidence there is to suggest that this is true. On the contrary, there is plenty to suggest that Obama is no different than most White Americans on at least two of the issues (militarism and capitalism) and neutral on the third (racism).

Talking of his credentials on militarism and capitalism, is his position on
Iraq pull-out progressive? Listen to him speak. The assumption
is that everyone in Iraq is an incompetent, lazy, parasitic fool
waiting on America to build the country for them. No acknowledgement that
America broke their country for them. Ever heard of Obama talk about the
obligations that the US has to Iraq and its citizens -- regardless of the
wisdom vel non of the war? None. He will leave some troops over there
because of US vital national interests. Progressive? I don't think so.

Obama came to Kenya in summer of 2006. I was there. Kenyans are crazy
about him because of his genetic association with the country. He was given
a heroes' welcome. He was invited to give a public lecture at the
University of Nairobi. First, though a state guest, he publicly accused the
government of rampant corruption. Probably true -- but patronizingly bad
judgment in the context. Now he wonders why, in the midst of the crisis in
Kenya, the incumbent President of Kenya (whom I don't support) won't take
his phone calls.

Then, he accused Kenyans of out-of-control tribalism. He conveniently
avoided the problem of racism in America. In fact, he told smitten Kenyans
"Americans are dealing with the problem; Kenyans are not." Really?

Third, he was asked by a university student what America is doing to ensure
that globalization and international trade do not continue to hurt poor
countries like Kenya. You see, he said with a self-satisfied chuckle, every
country has to protect its interests; the US protects its own interests in
international trade; Kenya has to protect its own. He completely elided the
problems of structural inequalities in international trade. Progressive?
Hell no.

And then on racism in America, he refuses to give the slightest cue that he
knows that racism is a big problem; and that we are not in a post-race

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