Black and white in 2008

barackobamaAs a close neighbour, I am delighted that the US has elected Barack Obama. It’s a great day for the US — hey, it’s a great day for the world — when the electorate has clearly decided against George W. Bush. Never was Bush’s paucity of vision more obvious than in his speech congratulating Obama on his election victory. Yes, I know his speech was written for him, but leaders get to make sure their ideas are captured. This speech was about nothing other than the novel sight of a black guy in the White House.

  • “It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House …”
  • ” … all Americans can be proud of the history that was made …”
  • “[Voters showed] the strides we have made towards a more perfect union”
  • “[Obama’s] journey represents a triumph of the American story …”
  • “This moment is especially uplifting for a generation of Americans who witnessed the struggle for civil rights with their own eyes.”

And, of course, Condoleezza Rice is “especially proud.”

Am I the only one who finds the emphasis on skin colour repugnant? Yes, of course, it is a great day that American has finally, officially turned its back on decades of shameful, evil racism. But is that symbolism all Obama is? I hope not, and I don’t think so.

It reminds me of growing up female in the sixties. All my life, I’ve celebrated the first woman to do this, the first woman to do that. But along with the celebration comes the flip side: why in the twentieth century and now in the twenty-first is the human race still so obsessively focused on gender and race in situations where they just aren’t relevant?

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