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Hot Damn

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I lived to see it.

Written by janeh

November 5th, 2008 at 7:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'Hot Damn'

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  1. Me too, and I never thought I would.

    The election of Obama raises an interesting issue. I know and accept that he would have experienced much of the disadvantage and racist discrimination experienced by blacks in the US, so to that extent he shares with all African-Americans some facets of their lives. But I cannot see what else he has in common with them.

    He’s black, and he’s American, and his wife is (I think) of standard African-American antecedents, presumably the descendant of slaves. But Obama has none of that background. He did not, and could not, take in with his mother’s milk the history – real and legendary – of the slaves and their descendants as most other African-Americans have done. From what I can gather, he didn’t even grow up among them until he left his grandmother’s home to go to college.

    There’s an interview with Shelby Steele (by the Australian ABC’s Geraldine Doogue in which he says that whites are desperate to have an opportunity to vote for a black man, to prove once and for all that this is not a racist society. The full interview is here: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24591039-7583,00.html.

    The thing that impressed me most is his statement towards the end, where Ms Doogue, still trying her damnedest to get him to say something anti-American that would appease her oh, so latté-leftish biasses, and those of her ABC colleagues, simply stated that Americans had been ready to elect a black president for 25 years, so there really is nothing particularly special about this at all. He says that “… Obama is not change, he is just documentation of change that’s already happened”.

    But the doubt remains that Obama, like Powell – also a first generation citizen with roots quite different to the majority of African-Americans – is more acceptable (and thus more electable) than one of those hard-charging and challenging black civil rights campaigners with slaves in their family tree.

    Could one of them been elected this time? Steele obviously thinks not. Which sorta means that the battle for full African-American political equality may still not be won yet.


    5 Nov 08 at 8:44 am

  2. I must say that there are certain aspects of American race relations that baffle me, and one of them is who ‘counts’ and who does not in a particularly racial category. There’s the idea that anyone with any black ancestry is black – wasn’t there a ‘one drop rule’ once? – and simultaneously the idea that you are not really black, whatever the colour of your skin, unless you’re an AMERICAN black person, with a genetic connection to slaves (and slaveowners), and (according to some people) a particular view of this history and the way to react to it.

    Canada simply developed a third group, the Metis, originally only those descended from French and Scottish fur traders and (usually) Cree or Ojibwa natives. And when Canadians of varying degrees of mixed ancestry from other parts of Canada decided that they no longer wanted to be considered part of either the white or the native groups, they promptly adopted the ‘Metis’ name. Maybe having a third group helps reduce the frequency of people being accused of being not quite really black, or native, or white or whatever they consider themselves to be.

    Anyway, unlike various people who told me ‘the Americans will never elect a black president’, I wasn’t really surprised at the result, although I was mildly surprised at the extent of Obama’s majority. Maybe it had to be a particular type of black man who could pull off that win, but surely it takes a particular type of person of any colour to win the presidency. Obama’s careful navigation through the minefield of being the first and of having so many expectations based on him show his political skill – as do his ability to leave himself some flexibility by not painting himself into a corner by promising too much to too many.

    Those aren’t common skills. I wouldn’t say that there isn’t another black American, one with a few hundred years of black American ancestry going back to slavery with the same skills, and who could have done the same thing. But as I said before, I really don’t think I have a good handle on race in the US.


    5 Nov 08 at 10:15 am

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