Time Obama acted like a black president
Hildegarde The Arena
People in this part of the world believed that the United States’ first black president would introduce radical policies, including signing executive orders to put paid to racial issues that affect African-Americans, some of which end tragically like the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases.
THE geo-political sphere has so much to contend with right now, and all the events in the troubled spots are threatening to be tipping points and threats to global peace and security.
Apart from the wars and civil strife, the deadly Ebola virus is proving that it has the capacity to kill more people than all the wars put together – not just in Africa, but even in the most developed countries with state-of-the-art healthcare systems. Since March, more than a thousand people, mostly West Africans, have succumbed to the deadly virus which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has described as a public health risk.
However, this is not about the Ebola virus. It is about United States President Barack Obama and his slow action regarding issues affecting African-Americans.
It is about President Obama who refused to invite President Mugabe and three other African leaders to his inaugural US-Africa Summit early this month claiming governance issues and human rights abuses.
But you start wondering which world the US president lives in. When cases of racial profiling, police brutality against African-American men and the killing of unarmed African-American men are in the news most of the time, you wonder who exactly is on the right side of the civil liberties issue: the four African presidents versus President Obama.
At the time of writing, there were violent protests by citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, in the United States who are demonstrating against the killing of an “unarmed black teenager”. President Obama called the killing a tragedy.
It is indeed a “tragedy”, Mr President, and so, too, are the other brutal killings of unarmed black men in the United States in the past. Last time, African-Americans had to demonstrate for close to month before Trayvon Martin’s killer could be apprehended. I have also watched a number of videos on TV and YouTube showing US police brutality against African-Americans, and have wondered whether we are back to slavery.
But what is more tragic Mr President is that the killing of this teenage boy has resulted in more shootings, and that the police officer that shot dead Michael Brown has not been arrested.
This is also a tragedy considering that this part of Missouri has a large black population, but where the racial dynamics in the police force do not match the demographics, since black police officers are outnumbered by white police officers.
Yesterday, President Obama issued a statement, which read in part: “I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but . . . I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding”.
Mr President what does it mean when you ask people to remember Michael Brown “through reflection and understanding”? What should they reflect on, and what is it that they have to understand?
That despite having one of their own in the White House, they should understand that they are still fair game in a country where things are viewed through colour lines – black and white to be specific?
Since President Obama has accused our President of all sorts of things and even imposed economic sanctions not only against President Mugabe but the whole nation, the simple question we ask is what is President Obama doing for the black people in the United States of America?
As Zimbabweans, we know that you are angry with President Mugabe for redressing the colonial imbalances where a few thousand white people “owned” land including the natural and mineral resources, while the black people, who are the owners of Zimbabwe had nothing. Your disdain is now understandable because it is as if you are not one of us.
People in this part of the world believed that the United States’ first black president would introduce radical policies, including signing executive orders to put paid to racial issues that affect African-Americans, some of which end tragically like the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases. How naïve we have been to not realise that it is a straitjacket position.
Thus we should think about your role in a reflective and understanding way, and simply accept that racial profiling and police brutality against African-Americans will not go away any time soon.
It’s a process. After all, it took centuries of fighting for black people to be recognised, let alone run for office at the highest level – the presidency.
The US leader should also look at his situation at home and the just-ended US-Africa Summit, through a reader who calls himself “Afrika Comment”: “President Barack Obama had long forgotten his roots only to be awakened by the hard-to-ignore Chinese economic footprints in Africa. At Nelson Mandela’s funeral, Obama arrogantly pointed out that Washington did not need Africa’s resources, which ironically is what the US hunts and kills for wherever resources are found on the globe.
“My President R.G. Mugabe was not invited, and had he been invited, he would have gone to Washington to shame the devil, or he would have refused protesting at Washington’s litany of shortcomings and its shameful inhuman human rights record and illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe . . . The leaders that Washington did not invite are deemed to be ‘dictators’ or its perceived enemies of democracy as if its own record in that aspect is a bed of roses … The sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are truly ‘targeted’. They have been targeted on every Zimbabwean the way I see it. How can they not? The US-Africa summit becomes a damp squib in the sense that it does not have the capacity to rectify the trail of destruction left by colonialism in a space of only five years, that’s not realistic – Obama knew that – but he could tell his visitors that . . .”
On second thought, I also tell myself that President Obama’s little action regarding African-American men’s (in particular) civil liberties is too tall an order for him to deal with in his eight years in office.
It is a mammoth task because he has to deal with the likes of Zimbabwe apart from fighting terror, competing with China and dealing with the so-called Russian aggression against American interests. After all, Obama is president and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America defence forces. Although he is decisive in his protection of Israel’s interests, he cannot replicate that among his African-American brothers and sisters. That would amount to villagising the most powerful man on the planet.