I just watched Obama’s acceptance speech, available here because the UK news networks wanted to share in the glory of the new world messiah.
Now I can’t say I watched it all that closely after a while, because I got bored with more of the same old thing. However, as the speech reached its crescendo, I listened just to marvel at how many sentences Obama and his speech writers could string together without actually saying anything. The crowd was getting so excited at what he was saying and he wasn’t saying anything.
As he was being invested as a demi-god in the faux Greek temple, cheered in a football stadium by throngs of supporters, I marvelled once again at his rise. After a bit more than half a term in the US Senate and the equivalent of two terms in the Illinois Senate, he is the answer to all that troubles the world.
I thought it was particularly interesting that the news coverage talked to people who quoted Martin Luther King’s line from the “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But that’s exact what has happened. Barak Obama’s candidacy is not the fulfilment of King’s dream – or if he’s the fulfilment of King’s own dream, he’s not the fulfilment of King’s words. Obama is being judged by the colour of his skin.
After all, he is neither the descendant of the black American experience nor was did he grow up in his own experience of racial discrimination. But he’s black. He may be the first actual African-American every elected to any federal office. After all, his father was African and his mother is American. All of the other black elected officials I’ve known of were born to an American father and an American mother which makes them American-Americans, as best I can tell. So if people are wanting to elect an African-American, he’s about as authentic as they can get and about the only chance they are ever going to get.
If people are wanting to vindicate the slave heritage and the triumph of civil rights, then there is nothing remarkable or groundbreaking about his nomination. Denver was not, in the words of the Sky News, “The scene of an unprecedented night American history.” He has nothing in common with Martin Luther King, W.E.B. DuBois, Thurgood Marshall, James Meredith, or the Little Rock Nine, other than the amount of melanin in his skin.