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Obama’s blackness unsettles Africa’s despots

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Siasa' started by ByaseL, Jul 20, 2009.

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    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Jul 20, 2009
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
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    If my memory is correct, the only time I have written about US President Barrack Obama was in January this year, when I observed (among other things) that Obama is the first US leader – and that there may be no other one for a hundred years – to be free from the racial baggage that prevents white Western leaders from confronting their African counterparts with more forceful moral authority. In simple terms, the descendants of slave owners, imperialists and brutal colonialists could always be reminded of that history and intimidated into silence whenever they tried to “teach” democracy and good governance to Africa’s despots.
    But Obama presents special difficulties to Africa’s tough guys. He can say that he has enough African blood not to entertain that old racial crap. And they need no reminder that he has enough communication skills to meet any rhetorical challenge from the continent. And yet, paradoxically, their biggest headache may turn out to be Obama’s responsibility to the very identity of blackness. I will return to this point.

    European explorers and early anthropologists tended to characterise the African native as incapable of profound thought, moral judgement or long-term perceptions. The native was a brute obsessed with food, sex and alcohol. Although this blinkered view of the African was subsequently debunked, it was partly responsible for the wholesale humiliation of Africans through the twisted history of slavery and colonialism.

    The work of better informed observers and scholars, the phenomenon of jazz and other cultural expressions went some way to restore the African on the continent and in the Diaspora to full human status. However, the politics on the mother continent, the cynicism of the rulers and the cycles of violent conflict have conspired to project the African – and by extension black man – as a backward brute unable to see beyond selfish manipulation and personal advantage.

    More than any other type of primate, the African politician has lent a breath of life to the otherwise discredited view of the African (the black) as belonging to a lower order of humans.
    Although virtually every sub-Saharan African ruler would have been thrilled to host President Obama (if only to bask in the camera flash-lights), only Nigeria openly cried about being left out. In the aftermath of his visit to Ghana, the reactions from officialdom around Africa are predictable. Some will dismiss what Obama took to Ghana as sour grapes; so they missed nothing particularly valuable.

    Because Obama is a young man who was relatively unknown until a couple of years ago, the rulers are disconcerted (even annoyed) that this upstart should so smoothly take control of the most powerful nation on earth, while they have to deceive peasants, buy and steal votes, imprison and kill their fellow citizens to stay in control of their filthy, grovelling little republics. Green with envy, they know that deep down in his heart, Obama probably despises many of them.

    The reaction to any suggestion of this contempt in his Ghana speech is again fairly predictable. It comes from the Gospel of Obstinacy. It is the proclamation that Obama does not have enough experience in power; or that his knowledge about Africa is insufficient; so he cannot teach them anything about governance.

    Neither does Obama have much hope in changing their attitudes. But he is not going to bomb them out of their presidential palaces. To rescue the black identity from the menace and shame of these despots, and to restore it to its proper dignity through political action, to project blackness as capable of maturity, rationality, justice and fair play, Obama has assigned the youth. It is a call for a new brand of patriotism all over the blighted continent. If they listen to him, is the stage set for a spate of new revolutions?