Chris Roper

God bless America

2009-07-29 10:50

God bless America. Yet again, despite the best of intentions, they appear to have elected a man who judges people's actions based on the colour of their skin. At least this time he's stereotyping white police officers, as opposed to blacks, ragheads, chicks and them Frenchies. Which is what we call progress in this sad little world we live in.

I refer, of course, to Barack Obama's instinctive terming of the fantastically named Sergeant Jim Crowley's detaining of African-American academic Henry Louis Gates, as "stupid". This without taking the facts into account - just a pure knee jerk response to race.

Historians among us (I'm looking at you, Wikipedia) will remember America's stab at apartheid, the infamous Jim Crow laws, enacted between 1876 and 1965.

Jim Crow laws include "the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms and restaurants for whites and blacks". The law was named after an 1828 song and dance mockery of black Americans, performed by a white man in blackface.

And here we have a Sergeant Jim Crow(ley), accused of racist law enforcement. Only in the First World, people. You can't make this stuff up.

Leaving aside that history and society seem to indicate that Obama was probably right to infer racial profiling (see, I too can make sweeping presidential assumptions based on gut feel: maybe there will be another white president of South Africa one day), it's not a particularly bright move to polarise your country on racial lines.

But perhaps it's better that Obama's halo slips now, rather than later when the Middle East has already made the fatal choice to give up the burqa so they can all look more like Michelle.

Now lest I be accused of continental profiling, and lest (wow, that's two lests in one sentence, known as the "more is lest" rhetorical gesture) I be accused of thinking that American democracy is, if not the actual second coming of Christ, at least a damn good advance guard, let me offer you another governmental tale, culled from the Cape Times.

We move our attention from America to Zimbabwe (A - Z, get it?), where a woman persuaded a government task team that she could miraculously conjure diesel out of a rock. The task team, presumably well-lubricated, returned to Harare announcing that Zimbabwe's fuel crisis was over. They also paid the miracle woman up to a million US dollars.

The woman, who used the alias Nomatter Tagarira (small clue there in the name, lads?), was convicted of fraud, although inexplicably she didn't turn up for the court case.

Nomatter had help, the court found, from registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede, coincidentally the man who has run Zimbabwe's elections since 2000. Interesting, interesting, as we say down at the conspiracy theory club.

I retell this story, not to make fun of Zimbabweans, gullible idiots, or witches, but to give Americans hope. You'll be asking yourself, after this terrible WaterGates scandal blows over: is it possible that our president could be just the same as all the other presidents? That is, it's the same old foot in mouth, just a different colour foot? Can Barack Obama possibly be a fallible human being? Yes. Yes he can. But at least he's not a complete utter moron, like most of Zanu-PF.

- This is Chris Roper's last column for News24, as he moves to another, slightly smaller news website called the Mail & Guardian. You can still catch him on Thanks News24 readers - you've been a great audience. And I mean that.

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