It was on everyone’s
mind all along whether on not they admitted it. So when Barack Obama talked
race last month, ostensibly a knee jerk response to being implicated by his
mentor Rev Jeremiah Wright Jnr (who preaches of conspiracy theories against
black Americans) the lid flew off the pressure cooker. The damage had to be
contained, Obama’s universal appeal restored. It was time.
He could not have ignored the sly racial arrows at his
direction. There was politician comedian Jon Stewart, who slyly, (and
knowingly to an America paranoid about Muslims and terrorists) reminded the
world that Obama rhymed with Osama.
There was feminist Gloria Steinham who implied it was
“morally correct” that a woman (Mrs Clinton) should get a shot at the
Presidency quicker than a black man. He ducked Bill Clinton who wanted to
shove him to “limited leader” stereotype (which necessitates an only-black
following) boxed and locked as an incarnation of Jesse Jackson leaving the
rest of America for his wife.
Commensurate to Obama’s rising popularity, his widening
lead of Hillary, would be the backlash from people who feared change the
What these people didn’t reckon on is that Obama’s
strength isn’t in having an African father. Neither is it having a white
mother. It was having both.
He has an African father who left him and his white
mother and returned to Kenya. He lived in Hawaii. He had an Indonesian
stepfather and lived in Jakarta. As a young man he sought his identity in
Kenya (there is an endearing photo of him as a young man posing in a village
with his Kenyan stepfather) and in a black America he had never really known
as a child. He absorbed Asia too, in the Jakarta years.
Battling for all
Obama’s strength is being all of this. I know people
say we are such an egotistical little twin island state that we bring
everything back to ourselves. But isn’t this who we are? Everything? Asian,
Our politicians, inheritors of a multi-racial bird’s
eye view use it for their own gain.
They divide and play to the gallery, ruthlessly carve
out their voters and access to the treasury by giving them what they want:
Dependency, racial conspiracies, spending, entertainment.
Consider how Obama handles this divisive stuff. Does he
hit back at the insidious racists parading as liberals or does he rise high
enough to move with a bird’s eye view?
The Economist observed: “Mr Obama sought ambitiously to
lift the (race) discussion far beyond his preacher’s comments to take on the
far larger issues of racial frustration in America. He described the
justifiable frustration of blacks in America, given their history of
oppression and the lingering inequalities they face. But he also said the
black community is flawed by pockets of ignorance, decaying families and
other ills. Mr Obama spoke out against labelling whites as racist without
realising that their ‘resentments...are grounded in legitimate concerns.’
“He said past policies of welfare, which have gone
disproportionately to blacks, may have done more harm than good. He
empathised with struggling white parents who see children of minority groups
win help through affirmative action to atone for crimes that they and their
own children had not committed.
“He returned again and again to the weak economy, and
to corporations that he said destroyed American dreams by shipping jobs
overseas. This rhetorical structure was ambitious: to criticise both whites
and blacks, but to sympathise with both groups’ grievances, and implicitly
to say that this made his candidacy even more necessary.”
Mr Obama has demonstrated unequivocally that he is
battling not for himself, not for pockets of supporters based on race, but
for all the people of his country. He deserves to lead.