Max du Preez

Viva Barack, Viva!

2008-11-05 07:30

Max du Preez

Oh, what a bad day it is for the racists and the bigots of the world. The world's most powerful nation chose a young black man with a ticket of radical change over an experienced - and deeply honourable - white senator and war hero as their president.

It's going to be hard for those among us who often whisper and sometimes say out loud that blacks are a bit backward to face the fact that for the next four years the most influential individual in the world is going to be a black man. A very clever, charismatic black man.

Barack Obama wasn't voted in by African Americans. There are too few of them. He wasn't voted in by Hispanics either. They're mostly too conservative; most probably voted for John McCain.

Obama wasn't voted in by radical white working class people either; they hate him. The bulk of his support came from middle class, upper middle class and professional white Americans. Not because they wanted to make a political statement or prove that they were not racists. They voted for Obama because they trusted him more with their future than they felt they could trust John McCain.

It wasn't only Americans who became excited about having this dynamic young black man as the "leader of the free world", as the Americans sometimes refer to their president. Millions and millions of Europeans, most of them white, feel energized by his election. Remember the crowd of some 250 000 who came to listen to Obama in Germany a few months ago? These people sensed that the democratic world was about to cross a Rubicon in having a black leader.

The people of South America and the darker-skinned people of Africa and Asia are as excited. Perhaps this is the symbolic act that would signify a change in racial attitudes all over the world. Perhaps this is going to be the beginning of the Great Healing. My own sense is that most white South Africans strongly supported Obama and are excited about what his victory would mean to the world.

So the next time you hear someone talking about the "darkies who can't get it together" or some similar statement implying black people are not as sharp as whiteys, laugh in his face. The joke is on him. He's the idiot. That's also what the rest of the world thinks.

But Obama's election isn't only a lesson for white racists here and elsewhere. Black South Africans and black people elsewhere should also stop and ponder the significance of a majority of white people choosing a black man to be their leader. Perhaps we should start toning down on the sweeping, generalised statements of universal white racism and black victim hood we hear so often in southern Africa.

Let's be even more specific and uncomfortably honest. The black South Africans who are so intensely proud of seeing a black man elected as president of America should remember that in our screwed-up South African terms Barack Obama is actually a "coloured" - his mother was a white woman. Could this please serve as a reminder to our black brothers and sisters to be more accepting of those among us who are of so-called mixed-race ancestry?

(Did anybody else notice the almost total absence of coloureds, Indians and whites in the top leadership of the Zuma-ANC as well as the top leadership of the Shikota Express? And then both sides shout about the Freedom Charter!)

We cannot ignore race or wish it away. But Obama's election should inspire us to struggle harder for that elusive dream we once had, the dream of non-racialism. Non-racialism means not only the end of racism, but a positive assertion of a culture where race, colour and ethnicity aren't the criteria by which we judge people's worth or their potential role in society.

Viva Barack.

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