New Internationalist

Welcome to ‘Obamamerica’

Like it or not we are all in America's front or backyard and as such those non-Americans that wish to, should be able to voice their choice of candidates. With this in mind I declared my support for the Green–Rainbow party candidates, Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. That was a few days ago. On 5 November we all woke up to a new President, a Black man, an African man, who had swept the country into his palms and had taken what seems like most of the world with him.

As the dust settles grown men, black and white weep alongside women and children. Tears of joy from Jessie Jackson and even our own dear Adam Ma’anit of NI has confessed to blubbing like a baby. Unless you are a Republican, in which case no one – including myself – gives a hoot, not supporting, or worse, criticizing Obama is not for the faint-hearted. I have been accused of being negative, a fifth column, working for the CIA and worse of all, a counter-revolutionary. Even those close to me have not taken kindly to my position. But no worries I am a grown mature woman and I can take it. The hyper reality and excruciatingly painful rhetoric and baby babble is overwhelming and there is no refuge. How long will all this last? One fellow comrade has coined the word ‘Obamerica’ to describe the alleged demise of racism or the post racist society. Here are some of the goodies to be expected in this brave new world...

‘What does this promised land look like? This Obamerica? Shortly after Obama is sworn in, the police, instead of subjecting blacks and Hispanics to capricious traffic stops, will only stop them to offer free tickets to the policeman’s ball. Throughout the country, they will address blacks and Hispanics as sir and ma’m. The overcrowding prison problem will end, because all of the blacks and Hispanics who’ve been sent there as a result of prosecutorial and police misconduct – probably half – will be set free. And all of those police who have murdered unarmed blacks only to be acquitted by all-white juries will be retried. Blacks will have the freedom to shop in department stores without being watched.’

And that’s just for starters. Already the media in the US and UK are awash with proclamations that racism has ended – gone, dead. This is one of the main dangers facing Obamamerica – the struggle for racial justice is very much compromised by notions that we are now in a ‘non-racial world’. Obama represents a race neutrality that appeals to white people as to a great extent it relinquishes the burden of race from them.

Racism in the US, as elsewhere, is highly institutionalized and it will take more than the election of an African-American well intentioned President to change this. For example, there are an incredible 1.1 million African-Americans behind bars and evidence shows that there is a clear correlation between those numbers and a racist justice and penal system. Another danger is to use the election of an African-American man as a measuring stick for all African-American men. The discussion takes two forms. One that we live in a meritocracy therefore if you behave ‘properly’, work hard you will succeed irrespective of class, race, gender or any other factor. The second form eliminates race as one of these factors and to a lesser extent gender. Both are insidious and can lead to even more marginalization of Blacks and women and by implication, Black women.

Obama has shown himself to be decisive and focused and his election is a victory for a better America and yes for racism. For African-Americans and African descendants throughout the world this is indeed a proud and very significant moment and I too celebrate that moment. Nonetheless, the status quo remains in tact albeit with a more sensitive and friendly paternal face. Progressives in America and elsewhere will have to continue the struggle by pressurizing Obama on all fronts towards a real change not just plugging a few holes in the system.

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