It is still a long way from nomination day for the major parties in the US presidential elections; it is an even longer way to the elections themselves. But the Democratic and Republican candidate races are already getting exciting after the first major event, the Iowa Caucuses. Barack Obama won the Democratic Caucus by a huge margin. As the candidates move to the New Hampshire Primaries he has surged into a large lead ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton (see CNN report). I will admit that I am not very interested in the Republican possibilities; none of the candidates inspires me. I am very interested in the choice the Democrats will make.
I will make no bones about being very impressed with Barack Obama from a long time ago. His background and rise in politics says so much about the "American dream" and that anyone can make it. He also attracted me because he was not a typical black man in America and was facing what many of us who are black but not "African American" face, which is a certain resentment because we were not products of America's strained racial history. It is sometimes incomprehensible to African Americans that other black people have a history different to theirs with different problems; with no connection to civil rights marches in the 1960s; with no need to rise from segregation over the past 100 years, yet with a bag full of racial struggles of our own. We often do not latch onto discrimination as the reason for our problems in America; we see failings of our own and perhaps some difficulties in making the cultural transition to American life. But we do not have a crutch that is all about racism. We, especially if from the Caribbean, also see that without a solid education we can make no progress.
Barack Obama shows what can happen if you make it through "the system". Go to Harvard; get MBA; become Senator; become presidential candidate; become very good positive role model. Not become a thug. Not become a criminal. Not become marginalized. Not feel sorry for yourself.
I am not going to get into the debate about whether Americans will vote for a black man, or prefer a white woman as a presidential candidate. I personally believe that many voters have been longing for a choice such as they now have: a candidate who is really worth voting for, and whose personal characteristics are not really the issue. I also think that voters will consider seriously an intelligent candidate of any colour, and certain not reject on just on racial characteristics if he/she does not look or sound threatening.
I am in at least two minds about wanting to see Barack Obama succeed. I have a four year old, born in the US, and I envisaged that she would become president of the USA: she could be the first black woman to hold that post. Whether Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton win either would open the door for my daughter. I am putting my money on Barack Obama because I think his message of "change" is real and can be seen to be real, if only for the obvious reason that America has never had a president who looks remotely like him.
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