Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Won

I saw a black American comentator on Al Jazeera this morning. He talked about his experience coming of age in the 1960's and going through adulthood in the years that followed. What he talked about was the sense that a black man rising in the 'white' world in America had to be twice as good as his colleagues; that he always carried a high burden of proof.

I think also of Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player, who not only had to perform on the field but also be an exemplary character on and off; not for him the hot dog wolfing, beer swilling, womanizing life of a Babe Ruth. Those instincts, if he had them, had to be suppressed, and, he had to put up with taunts, jeers, boos and threats that no other player had ever tolerated. Had he not been a star, he might not have made it, character notwithstanding.

Which brings us to Obama. He has helped America to realise things about itself, as jackie Robinson did. But he still has to be twice as good. He is an extraordinary candidate with a kind of appeal that even the charismatics Clinton and Reagan would have to admire. And this is what helped the country achieve its breakthrough.

What a breakthrough it is. But, as the man himself said, it is just a chance to begin. The work of racial healing has so very far still to go. So let us look to another breakthrough, some time in the future. We look at Major League Baseball today and it is full of black players. A few are great, some are good and quite a few, like most players, will never be remembered. That is the full breakthrough: black baseball players no longer have to be extra great to make it.

I don't wish mediocrity on the United States, but the work that Obama started today will be complete when the country elects its first shitty black President. May he be only a black Jimmy Carter and not a black George W. Bush.

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