He deserves to lead


Quick Links

1995, 1996, 1997

1998, 1999, 2000

2001, 2002, 2003

2004, 2005, 2006

2007, 2008, 2009

2010, 2011

Category: International 06 Apr 08

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 most.

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, African, Caucasian?

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.


horizontal rule



All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur