In the midst of the campaign for the presidency of the United States, the front runner is an African American who defies all the stereotypes that plague the black man in America. He is extremely intelligent, eloquent and profound in his thinking. He is a person of great integrity and has put forward a vision for the future of his country that has inspired and awakened many young people, who, heretofore, have been apathetic in regards to their political lives believing that the power structure had no place for them.
Hillary Clinton, Obama’s chief rival for the nomination as candidate of the Democratic Party, offers policies analogous to those of Obama, but she is deeply rooted in the power structure that derives significant support from corporate interests. The Republican Party candidate, John McCain, is an unabashed militarist and does not even acknowledge the plight of the American people within a faltering economy that fails to address the hardships faced by so many. Obama appears to be the obvious choice of the new generation.
His rivals from both parties, fearful of his ascendancy and his message, have some very powerful tools at their disposal; these weapons are ignorance and racism. The fact that the American people elected George W Bush, a man extremely handicapped by profound intellectual shortcomings, to the presidency not once but twice suggests a remarkable degree of ignorance. This is the kind of ignorance that has been masterfully manipulated by fear.
The fear that is currently being exploited is the fear that white people have of the black man. This is a fear that resides not very far from the surface. Questioning Obama’s loyalty to his country; reminding readers of his familial ties to Kenya by showing a picture of him in ethnic garb; falsely claiming that he is a Muslim and finally exposing inflammatory statements made by his former minister, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of the Trinity United Church of Christ, in a black church suggesting guilt by association, are all attempts to exploit the racist conceptions of the black man that are firmly embedded in the thinking of American whites regardless of gender.
The profound hypocrisy of using statements made by the Reverend Wright within a poor black ghetto community in Chicago as a weapon against a black candidate is deeply disturbing. It is essentially an attempt to use an integral part of the American Black experience as a weapon against an entire people. The statements that the minister made that so many find unsettling come from the depths of emotion spawned by the degree of injustice felt by blacks within white society.
These sentiments of supposed white outrage so readily displayed in the media emanate from the same world view that shows itself in the lack of sensitivity to the suffering of the Iraqi people that is a direct result of the First Gulf War and the current occupation of that country by the government that supposedly represents us. It reflects the same indifference that was displayed towards the Vietnamese people following the debacle that was the Vietnam War. Millions of Vietnamese died in that conflict and many are still suffering as a direct result of chemical warfare used by the United States against a largely civilian population. It represents the same expression of callous apathy directed towards the unimaginable suffering of the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki following their destruction from a nuclear weapons attack during the Second World War.
Racism is a malaise that continues to infect the American psyche. Racism will remain with us; until, the American people acknowledge its insidious presence and have the courage and will to confront this demon amongst us and ultimately overcome it. Only then will the American people be immunized against the collective exploitation of their political power.