NB: THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT
RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT: BECAUSE OF THE
POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES OF
IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS
IS AMERICA READY FOR A BLACK PRESIDENT?
Reporter: Hilary Andersson
RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 15:10:07
JEREMY VINE: Good evening, I'm Jeremy Vine and this is
BARACK OBAMA: There is not a black America and a white
America, a Latino America and Asian America, there's the United
States of America.
VINE: Barack Obama could be the first black American to win
the most powerful job in the world. He says race should no
MARIANNE FARINAS DE LEON: He seems to care and represent
everybody regardless of race, culture, religion.
VINE: But can he win enough white votes without losing the
KEVIN GRAY: He doesn't want to scare white people by being
with those rowdy negroes.
DREW WESTEN: He's every white person's fantasy of what they'd
like a black man to be.
VINE: A year ago few people had even heard of Barack Obama.
Now he is a political sensation, raising nearly 80 million
dollars for his campaign and becoming a serious candidate for
the White House. Tonight his wife Michelle is in London raise
even more. So can he stay in the race and is America really
ready to elect its first black president?
NAR: He's come out of the blue and is taking America by
storm. (Cos I've got a crush on Obama, I can't wait till 2008...
Baby you're the best candidate....) Can you imagine this for
Gordon Brown? We're in Barack Obama's home town Chicago to find
out why he's being called the new John F Kenney. America is
under attack abroad and divided at home. Obama is selling a
dream of a new start.
Obama campaign advert
What if....? What if there was hope instead of fear? Unity
instead of division? What if we had a president who believes
that we are one nation?
OBAMA: There is not a Liberal America and a Conservative
America, there is the United States of America.
NAR: The inexperienced young senator is up against the
heavyweight Hillary Clinton for the democratic nomination. She's
ahead in the polls. The son of a black man from Kenya and a
white woman from Kansas, Obama is breaking the mould of black
Senator BARACK OBAMA
Speaking to CBS
I am rooted in the African American community but I'm not
defined by it. I am comfortable in my racial identity but that's
not all I am.
NAR: Chicago is Obama turf, they love him here. We stopped in
at Obama's barber's shop. They're convinced he's going to make
history and win. Zarif, his barber, says the whole point about
Obama is that his colour doesn't matter.
ZARIF: As everybody knows, you know, he's mixed race and
that's no problem, and for people who mostly meet him, they
don't really see his colour I think.
NAR: Obama is not running for president as a black candidate
but as a candidate who happens to be black. The message he's
sending: that race shouldn't matter - 'about time' is the
We're not dealing with things black or white anymore. Things
have a transition of grey, and we're in a grey state, and what
better time in a grey state of America than to pick a grey
NAR: Obama, born in Hawaii, raised in Indonesia, is
cosmopolitan. He's modern, fresh. He's not about black issues.
Voters flock to hear his promise to pull out of Iraq. He wants
to fight poverty but black poverty is not his focus. A strong,
fair economy would be good for everyone he says. He's
OBAMA: You have been frustrated because you see policies
coming out of Washington that make the rich richer and the poor
poorer and squeeze the middle class.
NAR: Past black presidential hopefuls like Jesse Jackson have
run as distinctly black candidates, flamboyant and angry,
emphasising the needs of minorities. Jackson won staggering
numbers of black votes from his presidential campaigns of the
80s. He thought he was going to pull it off.
JACKSON: Blacks can run this country, blacks indeed can be
congress persons and senators and supreme court members, they
indeed can be president.
NAR: But Jesse Jackson didn't win. He accepts that Obama is
using a different approach to win more white votes.
Reverend JESSE JACKSON
I think he has a right to try to shoot as broad a lens as he
can, to maximise his coalition I think is the right thing to do.
It's not just his fight, the fact that we must all fight for
racial justice and gender equality.
NAR: But he's fighting in a different way than you used to
JACKSON: Well that's alright, everybody has their own...
right to their own approach.
NAR: But even with his new generation approach, Obama faces a
huge challenge. America is not used to mainstream black
candidates. Drew Weston, political psychologist, says Obama may
not like it but his race does matter.
Professor DREW WESTEN
There is no escaping that America is a divided nation divided by
race and that even those of us who have.. who consciously are
not racist and don't make decisions based on race are still
influenced by the colour of a person's skin, whether we'd like
to be or not.
NAR: Obama knows exactly what he's doing though, bye bye
slums of black America, hello Barrington Chicago. He's raised
eye-popping sums of money from America's elite. Obama is a hit
in well-heeled Liberal white suburbs like this. In this peaceful
haven it's easy to imagine that America's race problems don't
exist. We've been invited to an Obama barbeque organised by
enthusiastic local supporters.
MICHELLE HARDMAN: If you stay long enough you can have lunch
and dinner here, you're more than welcome. Have fun. Thank you
for coming out.
NAR: Neighbourhood do's like this have turbo boosted his
I actually invented a recipe just for the event today and it's
my Barack the ribs, South Side Chicago Hawaiian fusion and we've
got a bit of South Side Chicago sauces mixed with some pineapple
salsa and some coconut and a little bit of Asian twist in the
spices, so we thought we'd blend it cos he's a blended kind of
NAR: So do you see Barack Obama as a black candidate?
No, I see him as a global candidate.
NAR: The white middle classes are taken with Obama's charisma
and his vision of unity. Today's American, they say, is not the
country they grew up in.
George Bush has pretty much destroyed our country and if anybody
could heal it I think it's Barack Obama.
NAR: And frankly here they like the fact that he doesn't go
on about black victims of poverty.
MIKE & MARIANNE FARINAS DE LEON
MARIANNE: Part of why I like him is because I think he
MIKE: He doesn't take the tack that Jessie Jackson would. It
isn't so in your face and aggressive, we deserve to be in this
MARIANNE: That's what we like about him, that he seems to
care and represent us, you know, everybody, regardless of race,
culture, religion, any of that.
NAR: Obama's vision has inspired whites partly because he
appears to have neutralised the race issue and made people feel
good about themselves.
DREW WESTEN: He's every white person's fantasy of what they'd
like a black man to be. You know, he's thoughtful, he's
articulate, he's handsome, he doesn't fit any of the stereotypes
of the dangerous, dark skinned, black male that people see every
day on television, you know, hauled off in handcuffs by the
police. He's the kind of man that Americans would like to
imagine themselves being able to vote for and being able to say:
"You know what, race doesn't matter."
OBAMA: There is not a black America and a white America, a
Latino America, an Asian American, just the United States of
NAR: Obama is dreaming of an America that doesn't exist, not
in Jena, anyway. This is rural Louisiana. You'd be forgiven here
for wondering which century it is. In this school yard one day
several black children dared sit under what was known as 'the
white tree'. It was where the white children always sat. The
next morning nooses were hanging from its branches. The tree has
now been cut down. In the south where hundreds of blacks were
once lynched, nooses are a deeply provocative racist symbol. Now
six black youths stand accused of badly beating a white boy in
the racial tensions that followed. Together they face decades in
jail. The white children who hung the nooses were not expelled.
Michael Bell, 17, was charged with attempted murder and was held
in an adult jail. He now faces lesser charges but he could still
go to prison for years. His father, Marcus Jones, says there's
one rule for blacks in this town and another for whites.
NAR: How do you think African Americans are seen in this town
by white people?
Oh less than human beings. A lot of the white people in this
town haven't changed from 40 years ago, so that means this town
NAR: Most whites here think the town has been maligned by
outsiders, though Billy Wayne Fowler on the school board admits
racism is still alive.
BILLY WAYNE FOWLER
La Salle Parish School Board
The world still sees Jena, Louisiana as the most racist town in
the world, and that bothers me. We're not. If I could take you
back 60 years in time, compared to where we are today, I think
you'll be complementing us on the progress that we've made, and
that does not mean to say that we're perfect because we're not.
[Group Singing at black gathering]
Well the first thing we did right,
Was the day we started to fight,
Keep your eyes on the prize,
Hold on. Hold on.
NAR: It took a year for it to sink in but last month
thousands of black Americans descended on Jena demanding
justice. Black organisations crowded in, all wanting a part of
it. Civil rights veterans like Al Sharpton were back in the
thick of it.
AL SHARPTON: Are you ready to march?
SHARPTON: And we're gonna march for justice.
NAR: Jena tapped deep-seated anger. Black men are sent to
jail at a rate roughly seven times that for whites. On this day
black America was saying the justice system is racist.
Demonstrations on this scale rarely happen nowadays in America.
This is old style race politics, it's angry, it's
confrontational and it's in your face. The exact opposite of
Barack Obama's approach. Barack Obama wasn't at the march. If
you're mainstream you don't march, you make statements instead.
BARACK OBAMA: Jena exposed glaring inequalities in our
justice system that were around long before that schoolyard
fight broke out. It's time to seek a new dawn of justice in
NAR: Obama says Jena is an American problem, not just a black
one. But almost the only white faces at the march were
journalists and this couple.
WHITE MAN: A bunch of bullshit if you want my opinion (laugh)
NAR: Why is that?
WIFE: [hushing husband] Oh, that's not nice. I just never
thought I'd see anything like this in Jena. We have some good
black people here, friends.
NAR: Like many of America's black leaders, Jessie Jackson was
at the march. He had attacked Obama the day before in a
newspaper. He said: "If he were a candidate he'd have been there
and Obama was acting like he was white." We found Jackson on a
day that was all about black unity - he probably wished we
You were reported as saying that you thought Barack Obama was
acting too white.
JACKSON: Well they misinterpreted what I was saying.
NAR: What did you mean by that?
JACKSON: I really made it very clear that I offered my
support for Barack unsolicited and still support him so that's
easily a dead issue.
NAR: One of Jessie Jackson's former campaign managers is more
blunt about Obama.
Former Jesse Jackson campaign official
He doesn't want to scare white people by being with those rowdy
negroes who are marching in the street, complaining that white
folk aren't doing enough, or white folk haven't changed, when
he's trying to say that his candidacy represents a change in
America, then, you know, if he goes back and marches with them,
then that pretty much diminishes all that.
NAR: Al Sharpton, a leading figure in the civil rights
movements says Obama has taken sides on the race issue in a
blatant political manoeuvre.
Reverend AL SHARPTON
Has he taken enough of a stand? It's according to what he wants
to stand for. If he's trying to play mainstream politics he
hasn't the right to do that. And he hasn't the right to say I'm
going to play cautious because I'm trying to win different
votes. But then if he does that, as I have told him, then you
don't have the right to expect civil rights leaders and all of
African Americans to support you. You can't have it both ways.
What do you want?
When do you want it?
In Alabama, a long jumpy week of raw nerves and tension drags
NAR: The fight for civil rights reached its climax in 1965 in
Selma, Alabama. Thousands face down police brutality demanding
the right to vote. Before all this, blacks and whites here were
segregated. Obama says this struggle is central to who he is
because his parents were black and white.
OBAMA: Don't tell me I don't have a claim on Southern
Alabama, don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to
NAR: But Obama now thinks the civil rights movement has done
most of its work.
OBAMA: The previous generation, the Moses generation pointed
the way. They took us 90% of the way there but we still got that
10% in order to cross over to the other side.
AL SHARPTON: I don't think you're 90% there when you see that
we're still doubly unemployed, when you see that we are still in
the worst health areas, number one in infirmities; when
education is markedly underfinanced in our community. I think we
have made progress in 40 years but 90 is to me a much higher
mark than I would give it.
NAR: We tracked down Obama on the campaign trail to ask him
if he felt he had to gloss over America's race problems to get
votes. The question seemed to catch him off guard.
You say there's no black America, no white America.
NAR: You know there is. Are you trying to side step the race
NAR: .. because you're afraid it could hurt your campaign?
OBAMA: No, that's a silly question. I don't.. that question
doesn't make any sense.
NAR: Well it's not silly, in Southern Alabama, you said that
OBAMA: No, no, it is a silly question... let me... it is a
silly question because when I say there's no black America and
white America what I'm talking about is aspirationally we all
come together as Americans.
NAR: But Americas races haven't come together over his
campaign, not entirely. He needs them to, that's the point.
Obama is accused by black leaders of acting too white, others
think he's too black.
Professor DREW WESTON
In America you can run from race but you can't hide. His race is
in the colour of his skin. The reality is that 75-85 percent of
white Americans still hold negative, unconscious feelings
towards African Americans and even if you don't want to talk
about race, it's still the elephant in a room.
NAR: And the people who do want to talk about race are some
of his opponents on the right.
[Sings] Barack the magic negro lives in DC. The LA Times they
called him that cos he's not authentic like me....
NAR: This satirical song about Obama's candidacy has been
transmitted on radio across America. Other attacks have joked
about his name.
The Rush Limbaugh Show
Obama Osama leaves star power....
NAR: But the most damaging attack focused on Obama's time at
the school in Indonesia. It came from a Conservative website and
it wasn't true.
OBAMA: It was a pretty scurrilous article suggesting not only
that I'd gone to a madrasas but that.. you know, my family
members were Muslim radicals and... you know, we didn't make
much of it, you can't control what's on the web. What was
surprising was that it eventually bubbled up into the mainstream
Fox & Friends
FOX NEWS - OBAMA'S BACKGROUND
The first decade of his life raised by his Muslim father as a
Muslim, and was educated in a madrasa financed by Saudis, they
teach this Wahabism which pretty much hates us.
DREW WESTEN: What the right would ideally like to do is
simply to associate him with anything negative they can
associate him with, so whether it's the idea of Islamic
extremism, that he's not really Christian, he's really Islamic,
when this is 85% a Christian country. The whole point is he's
not like us and that's what you really want to convey if you
want to run a kind of a stealth racist attack on Barack Obama.
NAR: If Obama is going to somehow glide through this
treacherous territory and become America's next president, he
needs to win part of the South. No president has ever been
elected without winning at least one southern state. But this is
Republican country, a tough battleground for any democrat,
especially a black one. In South Carolina we dropped in at Hog
Heaven, a roadside barbeque joint. Here they're nervous of Obama.
They've been watching TV.
There is a relationship in his family somewhere, I can't say for
sure, but there is obviously some sort of Muslim or Arab type
thing involved there. Obama? It sounds like Osama to me.
NAR: Does that make you nervous?
J.T: No. Well yeah, it does. It does. I mean you don't know..
you know, you never know.
NAR: What, what? Terrorist?
J.T: Well he could be the guy. He could be the dark horse
guy, you never know.
NAR: It doesn't matter here that Obama never went to a
Madrasa and isn't a Muslim.
Yeah, he's a Christian but if he still has blood some blood
going back or something going back in his time to Muslim like.
NAR: What do you think, that's enough to make people nervous
BOB DUNCAN: I think it's enough to make some people nervous,
NAR: In south Carolina it is also simply that Obama is black.
I don't want to really come right out and say it but
unfortunately it's true that there are people in this state that
feel that blacks are inferior because they have an attitude
that's 200 years old.
NAR: South Carolina was a slave state, slave plantations
still scatter the landscape. Hard lined attitudes linger for
whites and blacks here, race still permeates everything. Two
centuries later blacks are still far poorer than whites here,
proportionately three times as many are under the poverty line.
Obama, who doesn't have slave ancestry, is criticised for not
understanding how deep America's racial sores run.
Former Jesse Jackson campaign official
It's all about race and slavery in South Carolina whether or not
people want to accept it. Blacks who are descendants of enslaved
Africans have a different attitude than let's say new African
immigrants into the country. You can't run away from the history
of the country if you're talking about turning a page or.. you
know, you ought to read what's on the page before you turn it,
and so a lot of us look at Obama is not understanding that
NAR: This long strip of South Carolina is known as the
'corridor of shame'. It's one of the poorest, most derelict
parts of America and it's mostly black. In January South
Carolina will be one of the first states to vote in the
primaries. The outcome could be pivotal. Obama needs black votes
here. Right now he's struggling.
OBAMA: There is an assumption on the part of some
commentators that somehow the black community is so
unsophisticated that the minute you put an African American face
up on the screen that they automatically say that's our guy. A
black candidate has to earn black votes the same way that he's
got to earn white votes and that's exactly how it should be.
NAR: Deep in the rural areas we met Barbara, a single mother.
She makes ends meet with government food handouts. Her son,
Michael, helps with the children. There are eight of them in
all. Obama will be tested here on what he plans to do about
black poverty. Working long hours in a fast food joint Barbara
has struggled to be there for her children.
I couldn't support them, not then, I couldn't have been there
either to help them with their homework or chastise them, or to
be that mother figure.
NAR: Barbara is pessimistic about Obama's chances because she
sees racism everywhere.
BARBARA: This country always been run by the white man. Ain't
never been run by the black. And that black man will have to do
a lot of struggling to get there and they might even cost him
NAR: So you think attitudes are too entrenched.
BARBARA: Yes, it's really hard, you know, it's hard you can
look at people every day and don't realise they hate you because
of your skin.
NAR: Obama visited a school here in August. Yes, he says,
blacks have it worse, but the answer isn't lots of black
programmes. It's a strong economy. He says this isn't just a
race issue. His message for blacks is tough. "Clean up your
rubbish, stop having children you can't care for" and he adds
"be better parents."
OBAMA: What parents are doing is critical and parents need to
parent and they need to turn off the television and put away the
video games and emphasise educational excellence in their
NAR: But it's not quite that simple. This is Allendale High
where Barbara's son, Michael, goes to school. It's almost
completely black. Around 40% of these children never graduate.
Many white children here go to private schools. Most do graduate
and go to college.
TEACHER: Now first thing we talk about is texture....
NAR: Michael had to look after the family when his mother was
TEACHER: Mike, what do you say about it?
MICHAEL: Sugar is something sweet.
TEACHER: Sweet, okay.
NAR: Michael's been put onto a slow learning programme. The
pressures at home were too much. Many in the school have similar
Outside we may look okay but inside it's tearing me down, it's
tearing me apart, cos every day I see my mom just struggling and
struggling out there trying to make it for her and the rest of
us, and knowing me, I have to put in part-time my work to help
NAR: Michael wants to get a football scholarship to college,
but his coach, Wayne Farmer, says he probably won't even finish
school. Michael's future at the lower end of society looks set.
Coach farmer says that's how it is for black's here.
Coach WAYNE FARMER
Allendale-Fairfax High School
We're not living in a perfect world, racism's there, nothing is
gonna be... we're not living in a fair world, bad things are
already decided, predicted. So it is racist in our professions,
racism in the school system, it's racism everywhere.
NAR: Barack Obama is not breaking through to people like
Barbara even though they're black. At the moment he's running
neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in polls of African
BARBARA: He don't have no chance. Like I say, we women
stepping up to the plate now and you know I think we can make a
difference no matter we black or white, a lot of women can make
a difference now, so he'd better look out cos Miss Hillary's
NAR: Unlike Obama, Hillary Clinton doesn't have to worry
about looking too black, and crucially she's capitalising on the
immense popularity of her husband who won a place in the hearts
of African Americans.
Professor DREW WESTON
Bill Clinton was such a popular figure among African Americans.
People joked that he was their first black president, and if you
ever see Bill Clinton interacting with black people he seems
absolutely colour blind. He doesn't squirm like most white
politicians squirm trying to figure out do I call them African
American or black.
NAR: And does that help Hillary?
WESTON; It helps Hillary tremendously.
NAR: If Obama doesn't win key states like South Carolina in
January his whole campaign, his vision for America, could
collapse. Obama has built his campaign on the idea of a nation
that can look beyond race. Barack Obama has broken through as a
mainstream candidate but the simplest of things, the fact that
he's black seems inescapable. Why?
WESTEN: It's taken 150 years for us to go from slavery to a
black man having a real shot at running for presidency. It could
be a lot more years before those unconscious residues of racism
that are in all of our heads are diminished enough that a black
man could actually win.
NAR: Barack Obama is in overdrive trying to pull this off.
His ideas resonate here because they're deeply inspirational but
he may be a man ahead of his times. Obama believes America is
ready for a black president if only it would look forward.
OBAMA: I think if I don't win this race it will be because of
other factors. It's gonna be because I have not shown to the
American people a vision for where the country needs to go that
they can embrace.
VINE: Hilary Andersson reporting. It's already one of the
most interesting elections in years. If the Democrats win, a
black man might become president or a woman - both firsts for
America. Definitely worth watching.
Next week we examine the lengths England may have to go to,
to win the right to host the World Cup again.