The Meaning of Obama's Victory to the Afro-Americans!
The meaning of Obama’s victory for the Afro-Americans!
‘… the biggest issue in the world right now is RACE…racism is all over the world, it will never die, it will only multiply…’Chris Rock, Afro-American Comedian. Obama must bring change, real change to deal with this demon called racism.
On 20 January 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of United States of America (USA), and significantly as the first Black President of a nation where not so long ago slavery was the order of the day. This historic event reminds me of the great men and women in Black American history, who sacrificed their lives in the fight against racial oppression. Names that quickly come into mind include Frederick Douglass who believed in fighting the rotten system; W.E. B DuBois with his ‘We are Africans’ philosophy; Marcus Gurvey of the ‘Let’s go Back to Africa’ philosophy, Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, Rossa Parks, Martin L. King etc. These are some of the great minds that gave thought to problems of race, gender and class in the American society. It is my hope that Obama will finish the ‘war’ on racism that was started and fought by his forefathers over a hundred years ago.
It’s no secret that Afro-Americans and Blacks all over the world were so excited; very excited about Obama’s victory. The whole election campaign was racial, but Obama’s victory overcame the misconception that black is inferior. This is the chance for Blacks who were disadvantaged for a very long time, because of their skin colour; to have their issues looked into. On the night when Obama was elected as President, Mr. McCain even observed that ‘… I recognize the significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight…We both realize that we have come a long way from the injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation.” That’s true. As such, Blacks need to know whether or not Obama will help them reach their Promised Land, will he fulfill their dreams and aspirations to live the ‘dream’. A lot has to be done to improve the socio-economic and political issues that affect the Black man in America today. Sadly, most of these problems are a legacy of slavery.
However, enemy number one that Obama has to fight is RACISM. Whether we like it or not, the issue of skin colour is still alive today; not only in America, but the world over. It’s unfortunate that up to this day, we still judge each other based on our skin colour, yet in God’s eyes we are all equal.
Blacks all over the world and more importantly, Afro-Americans have pinned their hope on Obama, being one of their own; to serious look into the issue of race and class and ultimately improve their living conditions. More than a hundred years ago, the Afro-American was freed from the bondage of slavery .This freedom, which came after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on 01 January 1863 brought hope to ‘millions of Negro slaves who were subjected to injustice …’It is the same hope that Afro-Americans hold today after Obama’s victory. They hope for a brighter future. Better days to come. Martin Luther King, Civil Rights activist was correct when he pointed out in his famous speech, ‘I have a Dream’, that more than100 years after the Afro-American attained his freedom, he is still ‘…crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination….’This entails that, not much has been done to address the plight of the Afro-Americans. It’s now or never!
Historically, even after the abolition of slavery in America by laws, it’s sad to note that blacks continued to be disadvantaged and were ruthlessly targeted by the white supremist group, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). There were Racial (Jim Crow) laws which were enacted to make sure that blacks couldn’t thrive and for those who tried to fight white supremacy by championing for black rights were lynched. The justice system was biased in favour of the whites. That has to change. Justice and equality must prevail.
I have watched Chris Rock’s ‘Kill the Messenger’ comedy countless times. The guy is good. He is hilarious. Rock raises some serious questions about the issue of race. To start with, Rock lives in a predominantly rich white neighborhood where he owns a muilt-million dollar mansion. However, he had to make ‘miracles happen’ to get that house. What struck me most is the fact that there are only four blacks in his neighborhood. Yes, only FOUR! A neighborhood with hundreds of houses, but only four black people own houses there. These are Mary J. Blige (R&B star), Jay-Z (Rapper), Eddie Murphy (Comedian) and Chris Rock (Comedian).This is not surprising as history has shown that there has been a deliberate attempt by the whites to segregate themselves from blacks by making the acquisition of property a hassle for the Black man. It’s also common in former colonial states where whites have created their own world where by all means necessary try to dissociate themselves from Black people. They have their own white communities, their own schools, hospitals, suburbs, shopping malls, old peoples home, Sports clubs and pubs and even cemeteries. How do they achieve that? It’s simple. They just make property unreasonably expensive and unaffordable for the black people whom they know have been economically handicapped. As Rock points out, ‘The black man got to fly to get something the white man can walk to.’ That’s the truth, though sad. Obama has to look into those issues without being an anti-racism racist and bring positive change. The Afro-American and African share similar experiences. They were both oppressed and exploited during slavery and colonialism.
It’s the little things that matter in life. The portrayal of blacks in media has to be addressed. Certain racial stereotypes must be done with. They no longer have a place in new America. For a long time, Blacks have been associated with lying, being prone to crime, irresponsible and good for nothings. Ever noticed that blacks in films are the first to die, in fact they assume inferior roles in films and are portrayed negatively.
Talking about stereotyping in films, I am reminded of my childhood favourite TV series ‘The A Team’. If you grew up in the 90’s you would probably remember how Mr. T. (weird hair-cut) was portrayed in the series. Ever noticed how he was meant to behave in a barbaric manner His other name BA Baracus was used to suggest so; (seems as if they wanted to say barbaric).He was scared to death to fly on an airplane that they had to dose him just before take –off. He was a man of few words and did most of the manual work- too eager to please the ‘master’ and could not think independently. He took orders from Hannibal Smith (the white guy who did most of the thinking). He was a big contrast of Hannibal Smith, who was the think tank; cool, smart, and intelligent. The film is reminiscent of the slave master relationship that existed during slavery.
One can not talk about American black history and the fight against racism without mentioning Martin Luther King’s famous speech, ‘I have a Dream’ delivered on August 28 1963.As a Civil Rights activist, Luther , through his powerful speech, which is still relevant in modern America, called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. According to Wikipedia, the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.
As W.E. B DuBois states that the ‘problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the colour line’, Obama has to bear in mind that King’s ‘dreams’ are still alive today. King hoped for a just society with equal opportunities, a society where you are not judged by your race. He said ‘I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ That has to be fulfilled. Obama has a big role to play for his fellow Black brothers and sisters.
As I see it, Obama’s victory, at a metaphorical level represents the advancement of the black race; a victory over white supremacy and dominance .An affirmation that black is not inferior as the world was meant to believe for hundreds of years, to the extent that many have lost pride and confidence for being black.
In my home country, Zimbabwe we used to have the skin-lightening creams. It’s a pity that some of our black sisters are still using them to date; some even want to pass for white. As Ngugi clearly states we need to ‘decolonize our minds.” That’s true.
Obama’s victory on the other hand is a celebration of black beauty; what negritude writers have been advocating for: ‘black is beautiful’. I hope racism will be defeated. It is also my hope that, the legacy of slavery: discrimination, unequal economic opportunities, segregation, racial stereotypes will come to an end .Most importantly whatever change Obama advocates for, it must bring hope to the Afro-American- and must create a society where blacks and whites will be able to live together in harmony and ‘let the past bury itself’. It has to be a step towards freedom and true independence as well as racial harmony. Lastly, Obama’s administration must fight to eliminate racial problems as joblessness, lack of housing, police brutality, and poor educational facilities.
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