Monday, January 26, 2009

Beyond the Sentiment: The 44th American President and his multicultural connotations

As an African woman living in Sri Lanka during this historic time in American history, it is difficult not to be amused by the excessive hype associated with a person of African derivation becoming the president of the most “powerful” nation in the world.
Obama’s presidency has been celebrated as a sign of Martin Luther King’s “Dream” coming true.

This may be an over generalization of life for the average African- America. However, there is no doubt that his hopes of ending racism and all the evil it perpetuates is slowly coming to an end. King’s aspirations for his descendants is gradually coming to life as the world watched and supported Obama’s presidency not because of the “color of his skin”, but because of the “content of his character”.


“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For those who supported him because of the color of his skin, that of course is their prerogative, though that cannot be what King meant in the same speech when he said

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood”.

Whether life today in Georgia is free of racial discrimination, it is only those that live there who can tell.

This part of his speech reflects the need to see ALL people as human beings who deserve just as much peace and happiness as we do, not as categories based on race or religion. Division of the classes based on financial status is another issue all together, as only a spiritual evolution that would eradicate greed can end that.

However, racial discrimination in particular can end when we recognize that we all share a common thread of humanity and whatever affects others will one way or the other affect us too.

President Obama’s father was a Kenyan immigrant who came to the US on a scholarship he must have earned, as he went further to get his PhD after his divorce from Obama’s mother, and then returned to Kenya. Obama’s mother an anthropologist remarried an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro, together they had Maya Soetoro Ng, who is currently a history teacher in Hawaii.


Obama had lived in Indonesia and Hawaii, where he must have experienced other cultures, developing some sort of understanding of other religions and languages. As he was quoted as saying to an audience before he was inaugurated,

The day I'm inaugurated, not only will the country look at itself differently, but the world will look at America differently, because not only do I have the experience of working at the highest levels of government on foreign policy but also because the leaders of others counties will know that I've got family members that live in small villages in Africa that are poor so I know what they're going through”.

A President with a world view perspective will definitely do more good for America than one that would single mindedly pursue that goals of his country and undermine others, making enemies along the way. As good as he may be for America’s image, the solution to the economic and security problems America and the rest of the world is facing lies in the union of humanity. Na├»ve as that might sound, Obama does not hold the key to the solutions to Global warming, conflict in the middle east and Corruption in African governments.


The solutions lie in the individual efforts of millions of people all over the world. It lies in the personal responsibility of doing your own bit to make a difference. Talk as they say is cheap, America’s new President may bring conflicting parties to the table, but what they do after that is not up to him.
Real change will always lie in the hands of the People. It lies in you and me taking responsibility for little things like proper garbage disposal and being kinder to those of other religions and ethnic groups.
Obama has broken the stereotype, the image of “black” man in an influential position will inspire millions of youths. Finally the inferiority complex that has plagued the African race since the days of slavery will begin to fade away. But real change still depends on you and me!




I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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