Barack Obama’s presidential win was triumph for America, because they rose above prejudice; for African Americans, who’d waited so long to see that day; for Kenya, which declared a national holiday, because the country is his father’s birthplace; for Indonesia, where the young boy grew up. But when Western leaders broadcast their congratulatory messages, lauding America for making history, they carefully ignored the most profound of victories.
Obama will not just be the first black president of the United States of America, he will be the first black president of any Western country, and on his father’s side at least, the “‘black” side, he did it in one generation.
Surely somebody had to mention this. But no, the Western world would have us believe that Obama’s victory, the possibilities his journey holds, was an American thing. After all, there’s no place on earth is as red-neckedly prejudiced as the United States of America.
Would the world have us believe that whole communities of broken, embittered and angry African descendants, are not as far flung as Preston, Canada; Brixton, England; Noble Park, Melbourne; Blacktown, Sydney, where the struggle of all blacks was waiting to be acknowledged. Where we were crammed into lounge-rooms holding our breath, crowded around barbecues with butterflies in our stomachs, screaming from the roof-tops with joy.
With numbers of African Australians arriving every day — migrants and asylum seekers on the run from countries ruined by the systematic underdevelopment, global apathy and post-colonial corruption that is the hundreds-year legacy of slavery, would King-quoting Prime Minister Rudd prefer us not to wonder whether this feat might be capable of occurring anywhere but in America?
Newspapers across Australia failed to cover, or even mention, the euphoria of African Australians — both those who have arrived directly from the continent, and those of African descent like myself, who have travelled four or five continents over hundreds of years to arrive here.
Australia failed to engage us, failed to notice us, failed to acknowledge the significance of Obama’s first generation miracle in a country where, just last year, the Federal Minister for Immigration in the Howard government publically proclaimed:
I have been concerned that some groups don’t seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life as quickly as we would hope and therefore it makes sense to …slow down the rate of intake from countries such as Sudan.
Minutes after America’s 44th president elect gave his stirring victory speech, I received a text message from my sister in Finsbury Park, London. It read:
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Obama could run. Obama ran so our children could fly.
It was a chain message. I sent it on. I sent it to an activist acquaintance in Kampala Uganda, a lawyer friend in Tottenham, London, to my mother in Blacktown, Sydney, to a poet friend in Halifax, Canada. I read it out loud to my three-year-old son.
Who knows, one day he just might tap our own Prime Minister, or President, on the shoulder.