We need to quickly get over the significance of the “The First Black President”
Promoted by roxy - originally posted 2008-11-05 13:26:10 -1000. Our friend from across the pond makes some excellent points. Discussion?
To many, many Americans, the meaning and deeply powerful significance of Barack Obama becoming President elect lies so completely in the history of their families and their communities and their nation that any comment from Wales is little more than an impertinence.
Of course, it is not such a remote thing I am not tremendously moved.
I can talk about my thoughts and despair from a long distance away as I read and saw the pictures of the struggle for civil rights and felt the deep pain and shock of the worst of the events.
When someone like Martin Luther King talked of the future for the black citizen of the United States he was talking also about the aspirations of everyone, regardless of race and colour. His inspiration was our inspiration, although the interpretation may have been personal to the individual.
Today in the UK our television screens are full of pictures of celebrations across the world. Not least it is seen in the less developed countries, and particularly in Africa. The same celebrations - although less demonstrative - are being seen across a very wide spectrum of many people in many countries. I would say “all countries” and all peoples where there are those who are looking for change in their own societies and the wider world.
I admit to a tear in my eye last night. What was happening hit on a small but very real and still heavily felt experience that I had in in the States four years ago. It is a story of no great incidence and I am told is just an every day event that deserves to draw no special comment. Protected as I am from exposure to questions of race, it is only my own lack of awareness of discrimination that made it upsetting to me.
My next door neighbours here in Wales had befriended me. I am not sure why, I am in my sixties, she was in her twenties and he in the early thirties. Despite this, close friends we became. With their medical training complete, Yolanda, an Afro-American, returned home to her small town in Ohio. Dele, who had emigrated to England at the age of nine, followed soon after for the marriage.
Delighted by my invitation, I went over for the celebrations. The wedding was outstanding. Dele’s family had come over from Africa and Yolanda’s family took me into their fold. It was a fabulous day, colourful and full of unusual aspects that allowed the pleasure of encountering cultural differences.
The day after, I went as planned to the home of the family. I had difficulty in finding it. I stopped the car and got out to make enquiries of a man about my age who was in the garden of his small neat house.
He was as helpful as he was able and said he was pleased to meet an Englishman ( I felt no need to correct him over my Welsh nationality). We talked at length and it was very friendly. He didn’t know the address, although the road was clearly that on which is his own house stood.
I handed to him the piece of paper on which I had the address and the name of Yolanda’s family.
When he read it he stiffened. “Are they black?” he asked. I confirmed it. His face expressed a hateful disgust. He abruptly turned his back and walked off, saying he wouldn’t know but that, if they were black they would be on the other side of the tracks, pointing dismissively with a wave of the arm at a bridge that crossed the road about a mile away.
In fact, I found the house. It was behind some trees with a short twenty yard dirt track leading to it. The home of Yolanda’s charming family was immediately opposite the front garden of the man.
When I talked to Yolanda about it three months later, she was puzzled that such a small every day occurrence had affected me so much. Her family had far, far worse said and done to them.
Ridiculous I know, but that is why I was personally so deeply affected by Obama winning the election. It was simply an expression of my love for Dele and Yolanda.
All day, I have had British TV showing and discussing the significance of the election of the first black man to the presidency of the United States.
I would be denying all that I know of the civil rights movement if I did not understand why it has captured the imagination of everyone across the world,
Now, however, I am just impatient for the emotional reaction to come to an end. TV in the UK has reached saturation level about the race issue. Of course it deserves celebration and has important lessons for our own country. I want Barack Obama’s colour to be put aside. I want to show the majority of white males who did not vote for him that their time is past and the fact that there is a new black President Elect is now only of historical significance. His interest to us is that he is simply a new president elect. As such, I have some critical questions to ask of him during this time of transition and they have nothing to do with race.