Much ado about what?


So Mr. Obama is being heralded as America’s first African-American Presidential candidate. Great, but…

This man is the offspring of a white woman and a Kenyan who had enough resources to pursue his higher studies abroad.

Brought up largely by his White grandparents.

He never really underwent what African-Americans actually go through… in terms of discrimination and lack of opportunities, if that’s what the community goes through…., he doesn’t even share a history with them.

And yet he is being heralded as some sort of a new dawn or whatever. Is this plain tokenism or is it something else?

Contrast that with India, where we’ve had a Dalit president, one of the Minority community, and a woman, too.. and we don’t seem to be making enough noise about that. And still people talk of the disparity, of minority-bashing, of us being an inequal society…

What conclusions can we draw?

PS: I’m curious to know if an African, say, a Nigerian in America and an African-American are treated the same in the USA. Is the affirmative action etc to make up for historical wrongs, or is it to provide an incentive for those who are negatively discriminated based on skin colour/ethnicity? More specifically, can a child of migrants from Botswana put down her ethnicity as African-American and walk away with all the benefits? In India we have authorities issuing caste certificates… if indeed affirmative action is provided on basis of race in the US, do they have authorities issuing race certificates? How does the whole thing work out there?

About wanderlust

just your average books-and-music person who wants to change the world.
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17 Responses to Much ado about what?

  1. Vikram says:

    Your analogy between the presidents of USA and India is flawed. Prime Minister is the seat of power in India, while the President is largely ceremonial. I’d rather equate Barack Obama’s rise with Mayawati’s in Uttar Pradesh.

    Perhaps, you’ll agree with me that it is difficult to imagine a Muslim or a Dalit occupy the chair of Prime Minister of India, no matter how educated/rich (s)he may be.

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  3. Logik says:

    Well, Obama never did project himself as the black candidate. However, that statement doesn’t deny the obvious fact that he was chosen in many constituencies based on his race.
    Women president generated noise than anyone wanted. From the likes of S.gandhi,M.singh etc. The fact that she chooses to live like a recluse, is probably why she isn’t in the news. And, after having someone as prolific as Abdul Kalam,I’d think we’d be expecting too much if we wished for similar presidents.
    About the whole afro-american stuff, one satirist showed a pic of a swarthy chap[ ok, black it is], and asked people to identify his race. Most people identified him as African-American. Not many called him African-origin or by any such similar tokens. Turns out he was a Black-Brit. Ah, the stereotypes.

    @vikram:- Mayawati wants to be PM one day. That dreaded day might not be too far…

  4. wanderlust says:

    Hmm… i hadn’t considered that!
    when you come to that, the first thing that strikes me is that there have been very few non-dynasty prime ministers who’ve been able to hold their own for a considerable period of time.
    Or for that matter non-North Indian, Non-upper caste.
    Dalit… making allowance for the Congress domination of politics for so long, we have quite a good number of dalit etc. politicians who have PM ambitions/have been CM… Modi is OBC, Veerappa Moily is SC, Ajit Jogi was a tribal, i think… though, your point still holds.

    I would take the muslim-africanAmerican analogy in your comment with a pinch of salt, because unlike african-americans in the US, muslims in india have never been the victimized parties, or a section of the society who have been discriminated negatively against.

    That apart, i’m really interested as to what your take on Obama’s perceived ethnicity is.

  5. wanderlust says:

    @logik:
    yeah, it’s like people thinking that Indira was the Mahatma’s daughter and voting for her.

  6. Swati says:

    Very true- This is what the former Indian ambassador to the US had to say on NDTV – narrating a chronology of events- some 19xx year-“someone with non white skin” dont remember who, was not allowed entry to a restaurant in texas as it was meant for the whites only- some (19xx+y) year the Indian ambassador refused membership in some club as africans were not allowed to be members of it- and now in 2008- america is witnessing its first african-american president!!! Drama-drama-drama as always with anything associated with the U.states!!

  7. sudarshna kalyanraman says:

    inspite of the fact that obama may not have had it tough, the most visible aspect about him is the fact that he has brown skin. This has been repeatedly proved whether be it clinton’s dig on him, the prejudiced voting for or against. his rise is hence symbolic because its never happened before, irrespective of whether he can dunk well or anything else.Narayan by the way was a highly inept politician yet we keep citing his case as an example, also a case of much ado about nothing.Abd prathiba patil seems irrelevant.

    but what caught my attention was this early in the morning from obama-” i repeat i shall do everything in my power to prevent iran from acquiring nuclear weapons”- there we go:)

  8. wanderlust says:

    @sudarshna:
    yeah, narayan was pratibha patil’s predecessor in being a cong installee. but that’s a better tokenism than obama being cited as an example of an african-american being successful.
    an analogy that comes to mind is of a tranvestite taking part in womens’ athletics and subsequently setting a record for fastest human and the rest of the world oohing and aahing about women having breached the final frontier.

  9. Karthik Ram says:

    Who according to you is really an African-American? I think if you clarify that, other things may fall into place. Has Obama been accepted as a ‘White’ person because he is half-white or because he grew up with his grandparents… methinks the discrimination is b’coz he is ‘not white’. Not b’coz he IS Black, Brown or Beige.

    That he did not suffer discrimination or from lack of opportunities is too strong a statement to make. Yes, he has had opportunities… to run for the senate, to run for presidency… but surely they have not been easy in coming. By your theory, anybody who has come this far cannot possibly claim kinship with the actual sufferers; the unemployed, the illiterate, the drug-addicts. By the same token, how is Narayanan a ‘dalit’ president. Wasn’t he in the IFS? I believe (hope) that Obama can work as a representative of the oppressed

  10. Arjun says:

    [vikram] “Perhaps, you’ll agree with me that it is difficult to imagine a Muslim or a Dalit occupy the chair of Prime Minister of India, no matter how educated/rich (s)he may be.”

    Flawed statement. There are schools of thought which might argue it’s easier; but perhaps you’ve been watching too much Rajdeep, Roy and Yechury to harbour this opinion?

    We’ve had four Muslim presidents and major Dalit ministers. It’s wrong to believe there is such religious discrimination in India.

    I realise I might be sounding confrontational. I’m like this. I have an “I have to be right” complex, sometimes.

  11. Tuna Fish says:

    Lets just say for now, that India is “ahead” in such aspects…
    Try this angle,
    For a country which has been independent for more than 300 years, with what 42 presidents? nominating a black candidate (discrimination was there based on color) alongside a woman, in a time where is has a maaaajor influence in the world is really breakthroughish

  12. wanderlust says:

    @karthik ram:
    african-americans are according to me, the descendants of the slaves brought from africa to work on the sugar plantations and then been freed by the civil war, been the victims of the ku klux klan, and now receive affirmative action to make up for all the historical wrongs.
    it doesn’t make sense otherwise, to make a hoo-haa about a black president, unless it’s someone who has overcome so much of historical disadvantage to contend for the highest position there is. because it’s much more than just being discriminated against for your skin colour.
    obama might have undergone difficulties, but they would have been just the same as it would have been for any white man. if that would be the same as any black man, brilliant, we’ve achieved what we set out to do, but then what’s so great about a black man being the president?
    >>By your theory, anybody who has come this far cannot possibly claim kinship with the actual sufferers;
    what makes google different from all the other software companies launched around the same time? what makes 50 cent different from all the other dope peddlers?

    as for the dalit president, he had really humble origins, and he made it as far as the IFS on his own (it’s another matter that he was the congress’s presidential candidate because of his caste). when he was in the last year of his tenure as the president, his older brother in his village in kerala was aspiring for a post in the gram panchayat. so there.

    but then, going by your logic, if we say everyone is different and no one can claim kinship, then there’s no point of saying hail obama still.

  13. Man on the moon says:

    african-americans are according to me, the descendants of the slaves brought from africa to work on the sugar plantations and then been freed by the civil war, been the victims of the ku klux klan

    See now this is the text book definition. But practically speaking I don’t think our mind is programmed to work like that. We see a dark guy and well,hardly anything more than his race crosses our mind.

    See another thing is, half black or pure black, when a non-black makes it as the president of the nation(or any other high level post), it inspires the truck loads of blacks(but still the minority) in America.I doubt if they’ll actually compare the hardships they faced wrt to the luxurious life obama faced.

    And Arjun, I am sure you’ll agree that APJ ‘s appointment was more of a BJP wanting to show that they’re secular than anything else.

    Lets leave Indian presidents out of this 😛

  14. wanderlust says:

    @man on the moon:
    >>it inspires the truck loads of blacks
    that should be an unintended effect of obama being nominated. wouldn’t it amount to misinformation if that was official?
    it’s not like there’s a shortage of black role models… there’s condolezza rice for one!
    now the first thing that comes to mind when an ill-informed person hears the name Indira Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi is that they are related to Mohandas… should we endow them with the same respect generally accorded to the father of the nation?

    what do you have to say about Zakir Hussain, Muhammed Hidayatullah, and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed?
    i’d say they were less eminent than Kalam… a cv with missiles on it is hard to beat, especially for a post that has supreme commander of the armed forces as one of its attributes.

  15. Reema says:

    oh I didnt know these facts about Obama…Your post is v true! I wonder why does Oprah supports Obama and not Hilary when she is a woman and Obama is not from that oppressed background or community.

  16. Man on the moon says:

    Wanderlust,

    Zakir Hussain and Fakhruddin were both elected by the congress govt, where s the third chap you mentioned was the acting Prez.

    My point is merely that lets not use Presidents to prove a point. Abdul Kalam wasn’t the only guy they(BJP) could’ve picked. Clearly his CV made their task of portraying themselves as secular made it easier. But hey, I might be wrong 😛

    Now look at the number of Black people in the government. You are saying that there are enough black role models?????

    REALLY?

    I was going through the post on cartoon, the on that was published after this one, How many black cartoon characters were mention there? Infact has there EVER been a semi-popular black superstar?

    There aren’t enough black role models. Its always the same set, Luther King Jr in the 60-70’s, And Rice and Oprah now. Name 5 others please.

    Amerians can seriously do with a black President. Frankly speaking, it doesnt really make a difference to me. 🙂

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