Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
Location: Los Angeles / Hannover Germany
Mentioned: 11 Post(s)
Quoted: 934 Post(s)
Has the US overcome its racism?
Has the US overcome its racism?
By Jonah Hull in London
Does the candidacy of Obama indicate the US is now at peace with its traumatic racial past?[AFP]
The success of Barack Obama's presidential campaign shows just how far the US has moved on the issue of race since the end of the "Jim Crow" era - when laws permitting the segregation and oppression of the nation's blacks were passed.
In-depth coverage of the
US presidential election
The Democratic candidate is not the president yet, but four decades after the US voting and civil rights acts were passed - effectively scrapping the last of the Jim Crow laws - a black man of mixed race finds himself on the brink of entering the highest office - not just in the land -but arguably in the world.
International polls suggest that Obama has overwhelming global support over his Republican opponent, John McCain.
If he wins, Obama will be hailed and feted the world over.
The most recent Harris Interactive/France 24/International Herald Tribune survey conducted online shows majorities of adults in Germany, France and Spain, as well as lesser but still large numbers of Britons and Italians, believe that electing a person of colour as president would have a positive effect on the US.
And they feel Obama would have the best relationship with Europe if elected.
A thorny issue
What the polls do not reveal is how Obama's race would play out in countries where race is neither properly discussed nor integrated into mainstream politics.
Would those nations currently lauding Obama's candidacy themselves vote his like into office?
It has only been in the latter stages of the campaign that race has become a real talking point in the US itself.
It's a thorny issue across the multi-racial, developed world. The elephant in the global room.
The ghost of a past that the privileged half want to believe has been miraculously overcome in the modern world with its progressive and egalitarian values.
Talking about it too much just reminds everyone that race is still there, buried, sometimes not so deep. No-one wants that.
Take Britain, the cradle of the 1980s anti-apartheid movement.
Of the four corners of the planet which poured scorn on the leaders of apartheid South Africa, some of the loudest, most indignant voices came from here.
Yet, as South Africa now muddles along â€“ a deeply imperfect muddle, albeit - with its 14-year-old, multi-race, multi-party democracy, can Britain claim similar progress in its hundreds of years of mixed-race history?
Here, the first non-white members of parliament were elected following urban race riots in 1987.
Parliament today would only be truly representative of Britain's 10 per cent minority population with 50 to 60 minority MPs.
But there are currently 15 - none of them in the cabinet - and the fact they are there is largely due to their black and Asian constituents.
Nevertheless, the Obama effect is already being felt.
One organisation looking at the black democratic deficit in the UK is Operation Black Vote.
Its director, Simon Wooley, described his excitement at what he called the "Barack Obama generation" now coming out of the shadows and looking to emulate Obama's success.
"There are talented [black] individuals in British politics who could resonate across the racial divide," he says.
"What we need is someone with Obama's audacity of hope."
A divisive reality
Hillary Clinton could have been the US's
first female president [AFP]
That probably will not happen in the near future, and Britain is not alone.
In France, a country with a minority population in the several millions, mostly from its former colonies, there is not a single minority face representing a local constituency among the 577 members of the National Assembly.
Riots along race lines remain a deeply divisive reality.
Across the EU, migrant policies are being tightened, immigrants labelled outsiders and national identity promoted and protected.
The world can be forgiven for its astonishment that a black man stands at the threshold of greatness in the US. Americans might simply be proud.
After all, they have already had two black secretaries of state to prepare them in recent years, one of them a woman.
And they have also watched Obama defeat a woman to reach the Democratic ticket.
Hillary Clinton, don't forget, could have been the US's first female president. Sarah Palin may yet be.
Will US voters rely on pure instinct
come election day? [GALLO/GETTY]
This is an election that has already broken the mould.
Would, or could, Britain dare to be so bold? A woman, yes, but a man or woman of colour? Not right now, thanks.
Does that mean the US alone is at peace with its sensitive extremities?
Obama is living the American dream.
He has run the equal opportunity gauntlet and succeeded so far.
But history proves that, come next Tuesday, many people will cast their votes not on issues or the merits of the campaigns, but on pure instinct.
And the instincts of American voters may yet show that the mixed-race Barack Obama is simply too black for many whites, and too white for many blacks.
Source: Al Jazeera