Through a maze of colour

By Keith Smith
Thursday, June 5th 2008

Barack ObamaI heard one of the talking heads on CNN, Tuesday night, talking with some relish – if not awe – of the fortuitous happenstance that sees Barack Obama winning the Democratic nomination (not that Ms Clinton doesn’t seem about to do her damnedest to prevent it, good sense, though, ultimately bound to prevail) on the anniversary of the very day that Martin Luther King gave his now legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

I heard two loaders atop a delivery van, Wednesday morning, talking avidly, if not with some reverence, of the likelihood of Obama becoming “the first black president of the United States,” Mr Obama being actually of mixed race, the loader’s take on the accomplishment hardly misplaced given the historical American position that “if you’re not white, you’re black”.

I remember once having to take on, somewhat testily, a would- be intellectual (and the operative word here is “would-be”) who took it upon himself to take on the Mighty Duke who had had the temerity to sing about black being beautiful, the pseudo-intellectual (ha!) making out that Duke’s was a racist, even Nazirist position, all peoples being beautiful be they white, yellow, black, brown or whatever.

What Duke’s would-be detractor was deliberately ignoring was the fact that the calypsonian was singing at a particular historical point in time, the 60s merging into the 70s being a time when, elsewhere and here, there emerged widespread resistance to the negatives associated with the particular complexion, the colour question, of course, linked to black economic and social conditions still sadly depressed, to larger or lesser degree to this day.

Skin colour, then, continues to have both negative and positive resonance in the world, one of my friends wondering out loud, whether Obama’s “blacknness”, should he go on to become president, would be a factor in his dealings with other world leaders, Russia’s president Medvedev, perhaps, looking askance at “this little black boy” purporting to talk to him “mano mano” across the diplomatic divide.
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8 Responses to “Through a maze of colour”

  • Barack Obama is a biracial Senator trying to become the first White Plus President of the United States of America. It is true that Obama hasn’t promised Blacks or others of the African Diaspora anything that he hasn’t promised all Americans. However, it is because we the people know that he is someone who before now who would have never been given the platform to make such eloquent and inspiring speeches to so many accepting citizens, that we can have the audacity to hope for realistic change that can effect the lives of the downtrodden and working class man and woman regardless of social status.
    Yes he is Black and yes he is White, but I’m sure there are at least two more things perhaps even more important that he would want at least every American to know and that is that he is American and that he is HUMAN.
    Anyone who has faith in humanity and possesses the mental capacity to tolerate the package in which it is being delivered for their interest can take pride in Obama. His appeal is that he is a Product of Africa, Europe, America, and is willing to fight for all people outside of the mainstream and for anyone who has the audacity to hope for a better America, and world for the best interest of their children and children’s children starting now after so many doors have been shut dreams crushed and hopes evaporated.
    I believe that anyone who wants to can take pride in Obama and that he would welcome that. The fact that he is referred to as the would be,” First Black President if elected” shouldn’t be a deterrent for people to vote for him or not solicited his representation. The fact that no other President has been anything other than a White male should not be a negative against Obama but rather, a mark against a nation who claims to be a beacon of freedom for all across the world.
    Any world leader would be playing a dangerous game in not respecting him if he were to be elected because he is already expected to fail by many who cannot vision the leader of the most powerful country in the world being such leader.
    I leave you with a quote from Wyclef,” I’ll be gone til November”.

  • I saw Obama fawning to the Israeli lobby group, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). He went to the AIPAC Conference displaying an Israel-USA double flag “friendship” pin on his lapel and put on an unctuous display for about 7500 Jewish activists.

    Although John McCain and Hillary Clinton behaved in a similar fashion, one wonders why Obama followed that tradition of pandering to the Israeli lobby group to the extent of outraging even moderate Palestinians, especially since his presidential bid is supposed to be about change.



    Even the Daily Show with John Stewart poked fun at it.

    Also read:

    No, I Can’t! Obama and The Israeli Lobby

    Obama also delivered a speech on May 23 at the Cuban American National Foundation where he repeated the same old anti-Castro lines just like other American presidents. This prompted a response from Fidel Castro.

    Are we to assume that Obama is not being fair in his commentaries on the Cuban and Israel-Palestinian situations simply to win the votes of the anti-Castro and Jewish bases, and if he wins then would we see the change people are supposed to believe in?

  • With Israel getting ready to strike at Iran, talking to all seems the only option. When negotiating with two implausible opponents, one has to thread carefully. I first heard of this proposed Israeli attack on Iran at a forum in Houston, in Febryuary, 2008. It is allegedly planned for October, around Yom Kippur. The Guardian of London wrote about it last week. Such an attack will play directly into the Bush-McCAin White House foreign policy of “more troops for the Middle East” for the next 100 years. It will shore up their claim that “We cannot leav Iraq at this time: No one, however, is asking the Israel give up its nuclear weapons. Faced with this possibility, Obama has to seem on Israel’s side, if he is to get to make a difference. Israel has long been an ally of the USA, and the NAACP was started by a Jewish woman, trying to bring better opportunities to US Africans.Jews were once the persecuted of Europe, hence the Jewish State , too bad it happened at the expense of the millions of Palestinians rendered homeless by Israel.

    Heru and Dogheal are either naive, or are pretending to be so. Realpolitics means working towards a goal, while working with opposing sides.
    Hillary Clinton understands realpotitic. Her mouth spoke words of reconciliation and hope, while she twisted her hands in desperation, and never once smiled in her concession speech. Grow up you guys, and stop trying to act like little gnats.

  • Voices from his White Working Class Family
    by Dinesh Sharma

    “Obama needs to reconnect with the dreams of his working class White mother and grandparents and transmit their voices and images to the generation of folks Hillary has successfully courted. He must convey the urgency to voters about building the larger human family exemplified by his mother’s lifestory.”

  • Kae,

    Voices from his White Working Class Family:

    “Obama needs to reconnect with the dreams of his working class White mother and grandparents and transmit their voices and images to the generation of folks Hillary has successfully courted. He must convey the urgency to voters about building the larger human family exemplified by his mother’s lifestory.”

    Obama has been doing that.

    Even if Obama called himself Black and African-American in the past, he knew he was mixed race but probably did not see the need to challenge the established Jim Crow race classifications. But as soon as it became politically expedient, he reminds all that his African father left him when he was two years old and he grew up mostly with his White grandmother. That story is typically appealing to Whites. It has all the components to allow Whites to maintain their feelings of superiority while supporting mixed race Obama. We have the Black, African father who abandoned his son when he was a baby and the White family who took care of him while putting him through the best schools.

    Obama, like several other mixed race folks, remove themselves from the established Jim Crow Black demographic and claim their mixed race status when they feel it is more economically profitable, and in the case of Obama, politically expedient, to do so. They are quite entitled to insist that they are mixed race.

    There is now this call from some of Obama’s supporters for him to expose more of the White side of his family so as to connect with Hillary’s White supporters. And in many ways he has been doing that ever since he entered this presidential campaign.

    I am sure if people think about it, they would be aware of some mixed race folks who they casually accepted as Black, but when these mixed folks became popular, or saw the economic potential in being symbolically appealing to a wider cross-section of people, they claimed their mixed race status. I have no problem with them claiming their mixed race status as that is how I always saw them in spite of that “if you’re not White, you’re Black” concept.

  • Seems Obama is going to have a time being everything to all people. Can’t help but notice every article reinforces the father image “who abandoned him at the tender age of two”. I suspect there is more to his parents separation story than is being told, even to Obama. While some Whites probably won’t vote for him that would have voted for Hillary, I think quite a few will vote for Obama with the idea that voting for what they perceive as a Black candidate means they are not racist.

  • Obama is not any more or less White than Bob Marley. The difference is that Obama is not entertaining them. If he were a entertainer there wouldn’t be a problem. If you’re a Black entertainer in America, you can touch little kids as long as you can sing and dance. For many of these people who supported Hilary, Obama isn’t staying in his place as a subordinate based on hue. Either the country is ready for change, or may it perish in separation cemented in the ethnocentric and xenophobic traditions of the past. The United States has a chance right now to demonstrate how great a democracy it can be rather than the hypocrisy that it has shown the world time and time again. We will see and may TNT learn from the mistakes of the U.S.

  • Interesting article. I particularly liked the title. I liked it much more when I read the book as a teenager in the 1970s in Trinidad.

    A nephew of Alert (Berty) Gomes.

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