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President Barack Obama: Change...What Change?
January 20, 2009
Updated: May 26, 2009
Today, Tuesday 20th January, 2009, Barack Obama officially becomes the President of the United States of America. While there is much elation about this occasion, especially as the Bush era was marked by atrocities and war crimes, Obama has not mapped out a clear path for the change that he constantly spoke about on the campaign trail. However, Obama did express some views on several key issues recently and we can gauge those to see if he is really about meaningful change.
Fact 1: Obama supports the hypocrisy of so-called free market capitalism: Obama (and then opponent John McCain) supported the US $700 billion plan to 'rescue' the U.S. financial system. As if! Isn't this diametrically opposed to the tenets of U.S./Europe-styled capitalism? Why would the U.S. want to save capitalist business? Why not let it run its course. Why not help the real victims: the ordinary people who could possibly lose a lifetime of savings?
Fact 2: Obama has, before his official inauguration as president, already continued Bush's venom-spewing against anti-imperialist nations blaming Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, for the supposed backwardness of Latin America. It is obvious, as Chavez points out, that Obama is kowtowing to the dictates of the Empire, (like Darth Vader to Palpatine). (See: Obama and Chávez Start Sparring Early at washingtonpost.com)
Fact 3: Obama did not - repeat - did not promise to end the hostilities and embargos against Cuba. His promise to ease the travel ban for Cuban-Americans (and other Americans) is a gesture that may especially help to mend family ties for the Cuban community. However, he does not want to end the embargo because he says it is "an important inducement for change." I suppose we will have to wait for the U.S. to force their version of democracy Iraq style before all embargos are lifted. Ahh...what a day it would be when Cuba once again becomes a playground for the mob and the rich and famous! Ahh, yes...wouldn't America just love that! (See: Top Obama Flip-Flops at washingtonpost.com)
Fact 4: Obama intends to "draw down U.S. troops in Iraq and send some to Afghanistan," rather than a complete withdrawal of their illegal and amoral occupation of the territories. (See: Obama Calls for Aid to U.S. Auto Industry, With Conditions at bloomberg.com) He continues with the old paranoia of prior regimes of the world-against-America banter. Like the defensive realists, many of whom believe that we should do them before they do us, Obama has repeated the talk that it is "a top priority for us to stamp out al-Qaeda once and for all" capturing Osama Bin Laden who himself has never admitted involvement in the 9/11 event.
Also, although Obama proposed to withdraw troops from Iraq, he is not opposed to sending them back in the event of disaster or genocide. The invasion of Iraq was in itself a disaster and America has already massacred a nation of many innocent Iraqi citizens. America should leave Iraq and not play God by keeping troops stationed there or even returning troops when America feels necessary. So as benevolent as Obama's plan of expatriating U.S. soldiers may seem, the possibility of their return, especially if there is no real threat to the U.S., is still a desire to keep control of the territory.
Additionally, despite Obama's rhetoric of holding talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without pre-condition, he is still of the view that Iran poses a threat to the Middle East and the U.S. and is not opposed to imposing "international sanctions to push Iran to be more transparent over its suspect nuclear program." What about America and its allies nuclear programmes?
Fact 5: Obama opposes reparations for slavery (See: Obama opposes reparations for slavery at nydailynews.com) further highlighting his light-skinned, mixed race insensitivity to dark-skin Black African concerns and his attempt at political expediency by not turning-off his White support base. So people's idea that they have a chance to correct historical wrongs by electing a so-called Black president has boiled down to naught. This is the price of trying to get a kind-of-Black president by any means necessary: a president who may not necessarily have the interest of ordinary Africans or even native Indian and poor White, Asian or Hispanic interests at heart. Of course the basis of White-supremacy is about maintaining its structure despite the few cosmetic changes that may be made to it.
Fact 6: Obama has pledged "non-negotiable" allegiance to Israel despite their terrorism against Palestine, Lebanon and in general the entire Middle East and "envisages isolating Hamas and Hezbollah, as long as the Islamic militant groups refuse to renounce terrorism or recognize the right of Israel to exist." Nothing different from Bush's bush.
Fact 7: Obama is MIXED race. Obama is half-Black African and half-White Caucasian, who is light in complexion. The texture of his hair and his facial features also show the mixture of the two races. Thus, deeming him the first Black president of America is a distortion of reality. This distortion of him being Black African (American) is a product of racist, American Jim Crowism which has yet to be abandoned. While there has never been a U.S. president that looked like Obama, the first acknowledged mixed race but reported as African-American president of the U.S.A., he is not the first African-American president in the real sense of the term. I personally feel that America isn't ready for that image. I do understand the history behind misconceptions about race as well as the victory some may feel over Obama's electoral win, especially since all past U.S. presidents, as far as I am aware, have not acknowledged recent non-White ancestry. This was deliberate in order to secure the White, racist image of the U.S. presidency. However, when African people buy into the notion that mixed-race persons are Black African, it works against dark-skin Black Africans. This did not begin with Obama but is a continuation of the problem of colourism which favours light-skin ones in the entertainment industry, in the education system, in the workplace and in high governmental positions, including the presidency as of November 4, 2008. Dark-skin Blacks are hardly considered unless, of course, they are 'polished' enough to pass as non-threatening. Can you imagine so many Americans voting for Obama if he was a dark-skin African?
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who probably can't get over the outcome of the American elections would rather deny that Obama is half-African by making the snide remark that he would get along with Obama because he is "young, handsome and also tanned." Berlusconi and others like him, because of their racism and because the white symbol of White supremacy in America's highest office is no more (at least for now), would rather dismiss the fact that he is part Black African and describe him tanned instead of dealing with him as a person of White/Caucasian as well as African ancestry.
So, the 'polished', mixed race Obama is president, but do his politics represent the interests of the ordinary American citizen? As far as I am concerned, his words have not indicated so. He still upholds capitalism with all its flaws and hypocrisies and has not articulated a real plan for better except his rhetoric of "change" and the ubiquitous slogan "Yes, we can!"
Fact 8: Obama and McCain are not too different. The Daily Telegraph (See: How Obama, McCain compare on policies at news.com.au) reports some of the policies of the two. Here is a synopsis:
a) McCain whole-heartedly supports the war and occupation of Iraq. Obama, while supporting the withdrawal of troops, is not against sending them back in case of "catastrophe or genocide."
b) Obama is in favour of talks with Iran but is also in favour of the imposition of international sanctions against Iran to force the country to become more "transparent over its suspect nuclear program." McCain is against talks with Iran and supports economic and other sanctions "if necessary".
c) Obama's view is that America's commitment to Israel is "non-negotiable" and McCain sings the same tune stating that he, Hamas' worst enemy, supports U.S. military aid to Israel.
I can understand the euphoria as well as the disappointment and concern about Obama's election. However, much of these feelings may be misplaced.
What many fail to realize is that the persons operating in the frontline, presidents in some cases and prime ministers in others, are just images that are projected, for instance, to acquire votes. In Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, we have long been accustomed to having leaders look like us, or in many cases, more 'polished' and commonly accepted versions of us.
While there may be one or two differences in policies among candidates, the purpose of their election remains the same: upholding White supremacy. In Trinidad and Tobago, for example, we have adopted and continued with the tradition of the Westminster system of government; we have not implemented mechanisms to allow the poor to be empowered, especially since we have totally endorsed the ideals of U.S./European capitalism; we are anti-communist/socialist or any other utilitarian forms of government or attempts to do so, and the list goes on. The same can be said of American politics. While Democrats and Republicans may differ on some issues, they all agree to uphold White supremacy. Would this be any different under Obama's reign?
I think, to some extent, it would be a good thing for Americans to experience what we here in the Caribbean, and indeed other parts of the world, have been experiencing for decades: White rule with an African, mixed race or Asian face. What we should be weary of is the reasons behind people's endorsement of Obama as well as their rejection of him. We should just as much be aware that the racial labels people ascribe to him may be based on general misunderstandings or other nasty agendas. For example, I may argue that Obama is mixed race and not Black African, especially since I am aware that America's categorization of one drop 'Black' blood equals Black, was done as an extreme form of racism to protect their pseudo-scientific pure-White race beliefs; to ensure that economic benefits did not get into the hands of Africans through those mixed with African, and to ensure that the White supremacist structure remained intact. What the one drop African blood classification did, in effect, was to further disadvantage dark-skin Black African Americans because light-skin Africans or mixed race individuals were (and are) still preferred by Whites. The net result was that lighter skin ones got more economic and other opportunities, especially with systems such as affirmative action, while Whites could claim benevolence to African-Americans in general. Dark-skin Blacks also prefer lighter skin ones - one of the negative syndromes which resulted from slavery - and so they are inclined to support light skin individuals in positions of power while they, dark-skin ones, continue to feel the bulk of the oppression. Thus, the term Black or African-American was effectively warped making race a political term instead of a strictly phenotypical one. This contributed to making life more difficult for Africans while maintaining the racist pyramidal structure.
We will see what Obama does starting today. I still maintain, despite change of face, change...what change?