Obama Wins Democratic Nomination – what next?

I’m proud to be here in America during this historic election period. Well done to Barack Obama for running an excellent campaign so far and for becoming the first ever African American Democratic nominee…Not many black people thought they’d see this in their lifetime.

So what’s next? A year ago, the media and even most voters had no idea America would end up where we are today. Questions such as ‘is Obama black enough?’, ‘can he appeal to white voters?’ and ‘is America ready for a black president?’ were all asked and used to justify why people thought Obama had slim chance of beating Clinton. How things have changed.

However, the questions are still pertinent… Is America REALLY ready for a black president? The votes of Democratic supporters are not the only ones that are taken into consideration in a general election. Most of Obama’s supporters are educated white people, African-American and young people – what about the rest of the voting population? How will they vote? Are they prepared to vote for a black man? What about Hillary Clinton supporters, a number of whom have said they would rather vote for McCain than Obama? What about middle America, and the blue collar workers who kept Hillary going?

Although Clinton has not yet conceded, there is talk that she may join forces with Obama, running as his vice president. Would this be a good move? Some think not. If anything, it could be a good way of stopping her supporters from defecting to McCain.

How much of a role will race play in the battle between McCain and Obama? I believe that it’s in the Obama v McCain contest that we’ll see how Americans genuinely feel about race. The fact that some Clinton-supporting Democrats have said they’d rather vote for McCain than Obama hints at that. Will Obama talk more specifically about the problems within the African-American community and what he intends to do about them if he’s elected, or will he continue to avoid that in order not to be pigeon holed?

What will be Obama and McCain’s achille’s heels in the next few months? Will the media dredge up anymore figures like Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee? Will McCain’s age prove to be his downfall? And will Obama face his critics who have said he is nothing more than a great marketeer with a slick tongue?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Let me know!

The soap opera is only just starting!! I can’t wait for the forthcoming episodes!

Monkeys & Black People

A couple of weeks ago a (white) friend of mine asked me if, as a black woman, I’d be offended if he used ‘gorilla’ as a term of endearment towards me. I said I most probably would be. He was surprised. He said that he had, intending to be friendly, called one of his black friends “gorilla” and she was (unsuprisingly in my opinion) pretty upset, to say the least.

I explained to him that since he was a redhead, if I referred to him as a ‘carrot top’ or ‘ginger nut’ it’s likely he would believe that my term of endearment for him was based on his hair colour or his red freckles. Similarly, if he called me or his black friend a gorilla it would not be unreasonable to presume that, for some reason, our being black reminded him of a primate.

Now, there is a guy somewhere in Georgia who is peddling the t-shirts of Obama pictured above. Apparently, to him, Obama looks like ‘Curious George’, the cartoon monkey who is featured in the t shirt. This guy says that he can’t see what’s wrong with the comparison. When asked by news reporter Manuel Bojorquez why he chose a monkey image, the man said “I thought, man, look at those ears and his hair line and that’s what I saw. I didn’t see anything offensive.”

Now, do we really need to explain that the comparison of a black person to a monkey is offensive? It has always been used as a racist, derogatory and offensive stereotype against black people. I don’t think it takes a genius to work that out.

Is the Curious George comparison really the only one that this man felt Obama was worth of?! Honestly? …. That’s very, very sad.

Obama vs the media

 

 

I had a piece published today regarding Obama, Jeremiah Wright and how the media has shaped the whole story… Here is the link to it: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/lola_adesioye/2008/05/obama_versus_the_media.html

I’m not necessarily pro-Obama and I’m not necessarily pro-Wright. I just find it rather interesting to see how powerful the media vehicle is when it comes to influencing – and dare I say manipulating – the public in a particular direction.

This story – which to me is actually pretty irrelevant – just will not go away, and it has been fanned by the replaying of small snippets and soundbites over and over again.

Having listened to Wright’s sermons in full, I feel sorry for the man. He appears to have been the victim of some kind of character assassination. People will say ‘oh well, his speech on Monday was egotistical’… well maybe it was, but he is probably frustrated and probably a little angry. I would be too. To be honest, I have listened to the entirety of his speeches and once again I believe he made some very good points. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he is not a crazy black man on a mission to destroy America – that much is for sure.

It’s unfortunate for Obama that he came out to speak at this time. But the whole episode is also very unfortunate for Reverend Wright. He did not choose for the media to pick up on him and his (7 year old sermons) in the way they have done.

ANYWAY my general point is that once upon a time, the role of the media was to be a purveyor of truth and fact. Now, the role of the media appears to be to titillate and sensationalize – and that has destructive consequences for individuals and for society…

Many of the people who are waxing lyrical about Reverend Wright no more than the soundbites they have read in the media, yet this is what they are using to base judgements on Barack Obama.

Do You Wanna Be A Nigger?!

 Nas has sparked controversy with his new track “Be A Nigger too” . Personally I don’t really understand what he’s trying to say or why he feels the need to use the word – other than for publicity’s sake.

I don’t think he’s made any insightful, enlightening or political points in the song, or said anything particularly meaningful or profound either – so it really does seem that he’s used the word for no good reason.

Since I’ve been living in America, one thing that has shocked me is the amount of racial terminology and general derogatory language that people use. ‘Nigga’, ‘bitch’, ‘cracker’, ‘muthaf***a’ – I hear them all… and often.

Until I came here, I thought that the N word was used mainly in music, until I realized that it really is an every day term in the black community. Its usage in hip hop may have called attention to it and made the word more public, but the fact is was already being used in common speech. Some people use it more than others, but in general ALOT of people use it. It’s not even a class thing – middle class and educated black people use it too.

I’ve had a number of discussions about the word and my opinion now, based on my experience here, is that trying to get rid of it is pointless because it really is a word that is deeply ingrained (whether or not people want to admit it) in African-American culture.

Saying that though, I think it’s extremely sad that black people choose to use the word at all. To my knowledge, no other ethnic community has taken a word that has been used to subjugate them, started using it themselves and then made themselves believe that they have turned the word into a positive. No – they have just consigned the derogatory word to the past where it belongs and moved on.

If African-Americans (or any other black people) want to use a term for endearment or to describe ourselves, why not choose something else? Why don’t we make up our own word – a word about which we don’t have to have countless debates and discussions regarding whether or not it is positive or negative? 

The argument that the meaning of the N word has now been made positive is a false one. African Americans often use the term to denigrate other black people, so I don’t buy that argument. As a black person, I could still offend another black person if I used the word in a certain way. Furthermore, most black people would also still be very offended if a non-black person called them a nigger (even as a term of endearment), so I don’t really see how the word’s meaning has changed at all.

I personally can’t understand why people can’t find another word to use if they do want to use it as a term of endearment (‘darling’, ‘love’, ‘dear’, ‘sweetie’, ‘honey’ are all quite good!) but I’ve come to accept that nigger is a word that has been used for years, in fact for centuries, and for whatever reason black people still continue to use it today and will continue in the future.

Having not grown up around the word (it has only started being used in England by young black people recently, as a result of hip hop), it has very little meaning or significance for me. It’s certainly not a word I use to define myself or to define others.

My biggest issue with the word is that it is still so negatively powerful and so destructively rich in meaning. Acting as if it means nothing and that it is a harmless term and continuing to use it over and over again actually gives it MORE power rather than reduces it.

If it truly was a harmless word, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion right now and nobody would give too hoots about Nas’ latest song. 

WTF???!!! Sean Bell Injustice

News is in this morning that the 3 detectives in the Sean Bell case have all been acquitted on all charges pertaining to Sean Bell’s murder.

I’m shocked although sadly it’s not even that surprising.I had hoped though that justice might have been served. This is a travesty, a huge injustice and disrespectful of human life. What kind of a message does this verdict send out!? Police are still above the law it seems, able to kill innocent people willy nilly and not be held accountable. Lord help any of us who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not only do we have to worry about being shot by criminals, but those who are supposed to protect us might kill us too.

Sean Bell was shot 50 times. 50. 5-0. I cannot for the life of me understand how or why officers who are highly trained in how to shoot accurately need to shoot one person 50 times. Could they not have disarmed (if they believe he was carrying a gun) or maimed him with a couple of shots? It’s likely that he probably would have died after the first few bullets anyway, so why the need for 50? That to me, does not sound like the actions of officers who were in control of a situation. Somehow the judge deemed otherwise.

What does this do for the relationship between the police and local communities? Let me be specific here – what does this do for the (already tense) relationship between the police and black people? We are supposed to trust the police, we are supposed to have faith in their ability to protect us when we can’t protect ourselves, they are supposed to be the ones who act as a barrier between us and those who might wish us harm. History has already shown many black people that they can’t and shouldn’t trust the police… and this ridiculous verdict further reinforces that point of view.

Is it ok for the police to kill innocent people just because they were ‘doing their job’? That’s what this verdict seems to suggest. Ah well, ya know, the cops were just doing their best, and too bad for Sean Bell who was caught up in it all. Never mind that he was innocent, that doesn’t matter…. Huh?? Even if the police were just doing their jobs, they made a fatal error which cost a young man his life. Their actions have fundamentally changed the lives of his family, his fiancee, his friends… Is there NO accountability for that whatsoever?!

Maybe the police were acting in the line of duty but they got it drastically wrong. Their actions did not protect. Their actions hurt and destroyed. They did not help a situation, they made it worse. If I work in a company and my actions – even if I believe them to be right at the time – end up in some huge financial loss or disaster for the company, you can bet I will be fired pretty promptly. The police’s actions in this case resulted in a huge mess: the loss of an innocent young life. The judge said that there was no evidence that the police officers acted criminally. Are you telling me that killing an innocent person is not criminal?! Once again, I ask – where’s the accountability??

In England, THANK GOD, the police do not carry guns (and guess what – crimes still get solved without them!)… A case like this proves even further that they should not be able to. Why? Cos they can’t get it right! The police cannot be trusted to carry lethal arms. Ok, once in a while, things go wrong – they are human after all. I get that, but when things go wrong, you have to be held responsible. And the cops in the Sean Bell murder case should have been held responsible. If they were a group of thugs carrying arms who accidentally killed a young man, they would have gone to prison. But no, clearly wearing a police badge puts them above the law.

It’s a sad, very very sad day for justice. What’s even worse is that judging by many of the comments I’ve read online, many people expected this verdict. I feel for the family and friends and anyone else who knows Sean Bell. I didn’t even know him and I’m outraged. The family must keep on fighting and get the necessary justice that is due to them and their son. America’s police and legal system needs to check themselves and ask some hard questions.

A new conversation about race begins…

So “Meeting David Wilson” aired on MSNBC on Friday. It was great… and the ensuing conversation was extremely interesting.

First of all, from the perspective of a Black Briton it was fascinating to see black and white people sitting on a stage, on national American television, talking about race in such a frank way. Tim Wise, Director of the Association for White Anti-Racist Education, was bold enough to ask questions such as (i paraphrase) ‘what’s wrong the pathology of people who subjugate and dominate others in the way that white America has done?’. I was like ‘WOW!! – did he really say that?!”

I have NEVER in my life heard such an open discussion take place in the mainstream arena in the UK. And to be honest, I don’t think such a conversation would take place…We are still in that ‘liberal’ mindset where we think that because someone has one black friend this means there is no racism in the UK. For all of England’s cries of being more open and less segregated than America, people do not discuss race in this way – even though they very much need to.

Some people think that the debate on race on Friday, however, was too academic and intellectualized. I don’t agree with that completely. I think the academics had a lot of important comments to add, but admist talk of the prison industrial complex, education and that sort of thing lots of them missed a glaringly obvious issue which is that of personal responsibility within the black community.

Black people have been oppressed. Black people still are oppressed to a degree – although arguably a lesser degree than in the past. However, outside oppression is not the only issue. Back in the day, in the days of slavery and even until recently, black people faced very overt systematic racism. However, in spite of that, they still educated themselves, taught themselves how to read by candelight and so on. So how come today, with less of those issues, people are still complaining and saying that they can’t raise themselves up? What about our own personal responsibility? What about what we can do INSPITE of the outside forces?

I’m just listening now to David Wilson talking on Al Sharpton’s radio show. Al Sharpton has just said: if I knock you down on Monday and you fall over, that’s my fault… but if I come back next week and you’re still lying there, that’s your issue! I agree with him – that’s where we are right now. Why are we as black people still lying down? If we want to get up, we have to make it happen ourselves.

Anyway I’m glad that Dave’s film has sparked this conversation – it’s a very important one for Americans to be having… I look forward to hearing and being involved in more discussions on this matter.

 

Iraq: The Republicans May Be Right…

In 2001, I was one of the many hundreds of thousands who took to the streets in London to protest against the invasion of Iraq. I couldn’t see the sense in it now and I can’t see the sense in it today. I long for the whole sorry mess to be over, but I don’t believe that the withdrawal of troops – considering the instability that has been created in Iraq – is the answer at this moment in time.

Iraq is in a state right now… and it’s up to America to stay in there and sort it out (since they started it!). The Republicans are making the most sense to me on this issue at the moment. Tensions are high in Iraq right now and General Petraeus’ reluctance to stick to a timetable for the withdrawal of troops as well as his call today for a 45 day halt on the withdrawal of troops seems to me to be the responsible – and right – thing to do. 

Hillary Clinton insists that “…it’s time to begin an orderly process of withdrawing our troops.” She wants a withdrawal of all troops within 60 days should she be elected as president. To me this is just wrong wrong wrong! If you (America) created the mess, it’s only right that you help clear it up! Undoubtedly there should be an exit strategy but strategies need to be adjusted and refined from time to time if they are to be effective.

I actually tend to agree with John McCain’s policy on this – troops must be kept in Iraq for as long as it takes to help re-build the country and make it stable again. There is actually no time scale on that. People can estimate and project, but as we’ve seen so far, those timescales have had little to do with reality.

Barack Obama’s position is some kind of middle ground, but I don’t think he can just say that he will withdraw 1 or 2 troops per month over 16 months without prior knowledge of what will be going on at the time. What if Iraq is in even greater crisis by then?

I don’t think General Petraeus wants to keep troops in Iraq, but he has to right now because of the present situation… and that is sensible and right.  I’m with the Republicans on this one.