Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Africans to whom Obama’s victory would be bad news

 

By Charles Onyango Obbo
More by this Author

At the start of August, with the Democratic Party convention a month away, I could only find a sprinkling of Africans who thought Illinois Senator Barack Obama was going to beat Senator Hillary Clinton in the race to be the party’s presidential candidate.

However, none of these few Africans gave him a chance in the race for the American presidency against Republican Senator John McCain.

It was only a month ago that a few African voices on the various lists and chatrooms on the Internet began to express confidence in an Obama victory.

Still, the majority think he will be assassinated in the first few days in office, because America is simply too racist a society and is not ready for a black president.

Now with national polls showing Obama up on McCain by anything between 10 and 14 points, the ranks of the believers are growing.

The fat lady has not sung, so Obama doesn’t have this election in the bag yet, despite all the glowing polls. In fact the fat lady is only getting on to the stage, but it would be perfectly reasonable for Obama’s Kenyan relatives in Kogelo to order new suits and dresses now in preparation for a big victory celebration after November 4 in America.

Obama’s victory would be history-making enough in the USA, but it might even have far-reaching effects in Africa and the Third World in ways that we are not fully prepared for.

There are whole activist, anti-globalisation, and NGO industries in many parts of the world built around agitating against the inequities and imperial transgressions of America. A major drive of this anti-Americanism is the USA’s moral culpability on the question of racism.

There are many racist societies in the world, but America is seen as the one that most benefited from it through slavery, and is the modern democracy that has the worst record of tackling racism.

For example, India, that still has a caste system, could elect Kocherill Raman Narayanan, as its first “untouchable” president in 1997, but America, where racial segregation was outlawed as early as 1856, is still considered unlikely to elect a person of colour as president more than 150 years later.

The most America is expected to do is to have fictional black presidents as in the addictive TV series, 24, not in real life.

But even then, the first black president in the series, David Palmer (a convincing role played by Dennis Haysbert) loses office and is assassinated by white conspirators.

His younger brother Wayne Palmer (an extremely flat performance by D.B. Woodside), is also finished off in a plot by his white vice-president.

This evil white hand striking down a promising black, Hispanic, or Asian prospect is a central part of the narrative of the evil American empire.

Take it away and more than 50 years of scholarship and political mobilisation in many countries will fall apart.

If Obama is elected president, thousands of public intellectuals, radical professors and social activists, and nationalist politicians and journalists will be plunged into crisis.

Now they will have to explain how it is possible that a black person could be elected in this profoundly racist country.

This, in a situation where Obama’s nomination has already unsettled many because part of this international narrative about America, also considers the Democrats hypocritical liberals.

They are happy to posture as being against racism and for minorities, as long as these people are mostly serving as sidekicks. Thus black people can sit at the high table with white liberals, but not at the head of it.

Again, this is best illustrated in the TV series, West Wing, in the very liberal Democratic President Josiah Bartlet’s White House, with marginal black characters like presidential assistant Charlie Young.

And when Hillary Clinton and, especially, her husband, the man once referred to as the “first black president” seemed to play the race card against Obama, the cynics were vindicated.

Ironically, the Republicans, although more openly racist, do better. It took George Bush, not Clinton, to appoint a Gen Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as America’s foreign affairs ministers.

The best election result for the radical international non-American intellectual order, therefore, is for Obama to lose.

That would make sense, because it would confirm the dominant orthodoxy that America is racist; and/or that it has a very corrupt political system that allows the Republican-linked Establishment to steal elections.

An Obama victory would leave many Third World intellectuals and nationalists either jobless, struggling for relevance, or scurrying back to the drawing boards to explain an America led by a black president. Of course, they will also wish that he met some misfortune at the hands of a red-neck.

And to imagine that this “crisis” wouldn’t have happened if a Kenyan student called Barack Obama hadn’t gone to the US on scholarship, become a deadbeat dad, and left his son behind in America to be raised by his mother!