Monday, January 07, 2008

Obama and the Ghosts of Racism

"Africans were enslaved. Next, a savage war was justified by the "freeing" of slaves. Then, in a distinct but insufficiently acknowledged act of the drama, black people were actively resubjugated in the decades after the Civil War. That resubjugation, embodied in a "reconstruction" bargain between North and South, according to which the other purpose of the Civil War, "union," was given priority over "freedom," led to the culture of Jim Crow, radical segregation, and the use of law to keep African-Americans in an assigned place. That actively nurtured system - not the crippling effects of a long-abolished injustice - defines the ongoing American crime."
James Carroll's article in The Boston Globe observes "African-Americans have not been passive victims of this heinous tradition. Blacks led the resistance to it, culminating in the triumphs of the civil rights movement, preparing the way for leaders like Obama. But his arrival, at a level below the surface of whatever policies he advances, calls into question the dominant way in which this nation thinks of itself - not only in terms of race, but in terms of war. After all, the American belief in the righteousness of mass killing for the sake of abstract values like "freedom" springs not from the Revolution, where the killing was relatively slight and the freedom limited to a merchant class, but from the Civil War, where a spirit of total killing was justified by a professed commitment to racial equality that simply did not exist."

Barack Obama's rise to limelight in this U.S. Presidential Election at the same time when his father's homeland in Kenya where another presidential election and voting aftermath is in turmoil, and the surprising "coincidences?" of having the blood link with the same African tribe, the Luo tribe, like Raila Odinga, the Kenyan opposition leader can be befuddling for many. Who says history ain't exciting and like a rotating circle?

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