„Shock and Awe“ and Why Black isn’t Black at all!

The election campaign for the next US-Presidency has started as early as never before. Although we are fourteen months ahead of the popular votes and even far from the Primaries, the rally is already in full swing. Especially among Democrats the race for a probable candidate to the Presidency is under way, but also Republicans got surprisingly early off to the start. What seems so interesting this time are the various characters who all would have one thing in common … to be „the first“: The first woman, the first African American, o even the first Mormon to become President.

As former First Lady, Hillary Clinton has been debated as candidate for a long time. Her chances seemed to be untouched for quite a while but another democratic senator is catching up. Barack Obama scored tremendously in the first TV debate just a couple of days ago. This is not only due to his brilliant rhetoric but also to the fact that Clinton wasn’t able to set a clear guideline to her political program. While Obama, the son of a Kenyan and a white farmer’s daughter from Kansas, positions himself slightly left of the middle focussing on themes like education and health care, Clinton has to face her past first when she voted for the war on Irak. „If I had known, what I know today, then I wouldn’t have voted for the war“ is quite a poor response today and certainly too less to survive the campaign.

What’s hers though are the already collected 26 million dollars in only the first quarter of the year. „Shock and Awe“! But who is shocked? Obama is up to sensational 25 million, after the debate in television he might be up in all the other polls by now, too. But not only Democrats can announce new records on early campaign contributions, Republican Mitt Romney shocked his competi- tors with 23 million. The generally favored John McCain only made half of the amount. But odd as it is in the United States, every dollar within one’s party is first a dollar against the candidate in the same and not against the one in the other party. Because first the money needs to be invested to bawl the innerparty rivals out. Here everyone for him- or herself has to face some serious difficulties and confrontations. May it be that Clinton and Obama really cannot stand each other and might damage their images badly even before the actual race for the presidency starts. Or may it be the fact that a lot of people are suspicious of Romney because of being a Mormon. Neither taking the conservative side nor his successes as former governor of Utah and organizer of the Olympics in Salt Lake City will help him to get rid of the uncertain image among the population.

But what is the Mormon image on the one hand side is the African American on the other. And surprisingly enough the candidacy of Barack Obama has initiated a new debate on race within the United States. In the worst times of old racism no African American had a choice. What meant affiliation to a certain race was determined by the white people. They decided who was to sit in the back and in the front of the bus, who had access to jobs, hotels, and restaurants, and who was to vote and rule. Even if someone was fairly brown of color, racism labeled him black. Within the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s and 70s rights were slowly equaled. „Black is Beautiful“ was the new slogan. And up to this day everyone who is able to recall a certain blackness in his roots, is „proud to be black“. Everything in between, although Black America became quite light-skinned over time in comparison to its ancestors in Africa, doesn’t exist. You are black or you are white! The difference is that today this differentiation is made rather free of choice than it was forced in the past.

So back to Obama. His fate is to be of a white American mother and a black African father. But even more his father came from Kenya while the majority of African Americans in the United States recall themselves descendants of black slaves and attach great importance to that fact. Now some African Americans, who have long been a political power, seem to capitalize Obama’s origin against him. This seems strange as the historical experience of slavery doesn’t connect African Americans that much anymore. Their reality and situation is as differentiated as of all other Americans. But still Obama is not titled a „real“ black because he doesn’t share the same (cultural) heritage throughout slavery. Them, the ones who still recall this heritage, favor Clinton, the great liberal lady from the east coast. The phenomenon seems more than simply politics since similar impressions are reported by the growing black community of Caribbean immigrants who are often rejected by the „traditional“ black community in the United States. The irony here is that exactly these immigrants actually share the heritage of slavery. But even that doesn’t help Obama much. Having a „real“ African father seems to bring him rather votes by white Americans than by his „brothers and sisters“.

It will be interesting. Not only how the race develops until the Primaries, not only which candidates will be elected for the Presidency, not only if Democrats in the end really step on the thrown again and lead the nation after 2008, but also how the sociocultural situation of blacks and whites and in-betweens will evolve throughout time. Right now, this seems just to be another episode of racial differentiation.

Debra Dickerson, author of „The End of Blackness„,
explains on The Colbert Report that Barack Obama is not
a Black American. More serious than it seems …

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Posted on Dienstag, Mai 1st, 2007 at 16:18, filed under Politology. Subscribe to this feed, leave a response, or trackback from your own site. You are also welcome to Print This Post Print This Post .

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