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The black European
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-08-10 09:34:07
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An article I wrote a few days ago about the use of the ‘race card’ from the hopeful for the US presidential election McCain triggered a series of remarkable comments that moved the question to the other side of the Atlantic, so instead of asking if Barack Obama should use the ‘race card’ the question turned to be if Europe was ready for a black leader of the state. And by that I mean president or prime minister.

But before we come to this side of the ocean let’s stay for a bit on the side of the USA. Coming to Barack Obama I think there is a very old argument between historians, sociologists and scholars and it has to do with the role of the persona in history. How different Europe would have been without Napoleon or Churchill? Would Athens have had the Golden Age without Pericles and what would have happened to the Roman Republic without Augustus? Did it need to come to 2008 for the United States after a civil war and all the civil rights struggle that has lasted nearly till the end of the 20th century to have a black candidate for the Oval Office or does everything have to do with Obama’s charisma?

I have come to believe that everything has to do with Barack Obama and not with the timing. Remember Rev. Jesse Jackson? At the time and despite the fact that people forget, Ronald Reagan was worse than George W.  Bush and for the ones who lived that period you might remember that despite the fact that at his time started at the start of the Cold War and the USSR as we knew it, his first period was the second worst period of the Cold War, especially when he started his ‘Star Wars’ plan, the fear of a nuclear war became more visual than ever.

When Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for a second term a young black American, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, became one of the hopefuls for the Democratic Party. My personal opinion is that Jesse Jackson picked and invested in the ‘race card’ something that scared the average American black or white and actually I think that mistake became a lesson for Obama and that’s why he carefully keeps away.

In the race for the candidacy Jesse Jackson gained 21% popularity which means that the time was right, the candidate and his strategy was wrong. 21% means that he had attracted voters for all education, financial and colour sides of the American society. Of course the party was not ready for a black candidate but is anybody who believes that the Democratic Party was ready now? I think they were forced and if the power and the force of the people Obama had attracted was smaller the party would have definitely support a woman.

Coming now to this side of the ocean, I believe that this is where the answer lays, in the fact that we never had the persona, the right black persona to lead a party into elections and win the office. We just haven’t found our Obama yet! It will be very naïve to say that we are not dealing with racist problems in Europe, after all we had our war and a genocide to remind us how serious the racist problem could get but since then things have change dramatically. Who would ever believe that a man with Jewish background would ever be the president of France fifty years ago?

Despite to what we want to believe anti-Semitism was stronger in France that it was in Germany before WWII and the Jews suffered under the communist regimes till the end. But Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of the French republic today and people didn’t vote him for his background but for his ideas and what he is representing. You see in a way Jews were the European blacks.

It's not the system or the party’s bureaucracy or status quo that will stop a black candidate, Barack Obama after all had and probably still has to face exactly the same challenges in USA and don’t forget that in Europe we have shown much more tolerance to homosexuality for example. In Holland they had a gay candidate for the nationalist party something it sounds just unbelievable or very …European for the Americans or we have active even powerful communist parties something definitely unbelievable for the average American.

Cyprus this moment has a president elected from the communist party. So to my opinion to see a black candidate in Europe is not a wishful thought but a case of the right person, after all my daughter goes to a school this minute with kids that when it comes the day will have the right to elect and be elected and they are black, white, Asian but all of them are Finns.

I really hope Barack Obama will win the US elections and this has nothing to do with his colour but with the changes I really hope he will bring to the international scene but on more I hope I have is that his example will inspire more people internationally and more people will understand that colour, religion, origins, sexuality have nothing to do with it and this is precisely the wind of change Barack Obama brings.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-08-10 11:40:02
Indeed, the concept of “psycho-history” is still being debated today in and out of academia: how much does what Hegel calls “the spirit of the times” facilitate the appearance of an Augustus or a Napoleon or an Obama? This seems to me similar to the conundrum: which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The philosopher of history Giambattista Vico hinted at a solution when he postulated that while it is true that Man makes history, it is equally true that history makes Man. In other words the question makes sense only if we grasp the paradox of history and recognize that far from being a perfect deterministic science, history is a human science founded on man's freedom. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-10 11:52:44
Turning more specifically to Obama. The Republicans, who are good at spreading innuendos, insinuations, slanders, half-truths and at general character assassination to win at any cost, have put out there the notion that Obama is really a Moslem in disguise and part of a general Moslem conspiracy. In fact, one in five Americans still believes this proposterous notion. They consider his Christianity a mere cover-up to some kind of conspiracy. Why do the Republicans spread such disinformation? Because they know that, despite Obama’s charisma, he will never win the general election if he is perceived as a Moslem; which is to say the times are not ready for a Moslem president just as they would not have been ready for a Catholic president at the times of Washington and Jefferson, despite the commendable separation of Church and State found in the Constitution. A more perfect union needed to be forged first in the fires of a civil war. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-10 11:58:37
Which bring us to the other side of the Atlantic and to ask this question of you Thanos or any European for that matter: would the French have elected Sarkozy had he been a practicing Jew rather than a practicing Catholic with a Jewish background? I am not so sure that the answer to that question is a strong yes, perhaps it is not even a weak yes. In fact I believe, that despite the tremendous progress made in Europe and elsewhere regarding the eradication once and for all of anti-Semitism, the problem remains smoldering like ambers under the ashes. How do we know this? By the fact that, as Tony Judt, continues to insist, that the Holocaust has been "misremembered"; which is to say,it has been put on record, it has been commemorated with museums and monuments especially by the “enlightened” intelligentsia that considers itself beyond religion and consider human rights as merely guaranteed by a powerful state, but unfortunately its tragic existential lessons on our very humanity have never been truly contemplated and learned.

AP2008-08-10 12:17:11
"We just haven’t found our Obama yet!"
I don't know about this... If we didn't find it yet, maybe it was because we didn't want to yet, as there are many black people competent, enthusiastic, with political vision, honest and with the right education to assume those positions. And it's because colour or sexuality or whatever don't matter that it's strange their absence from political power positions until now. I don't believe that's merely occasional.
Of course in the future Europe will have black and asian leaders.
My question was just why it has taken so long, and how long is it gonna take still for Europe to look at all its citizens and recognize their skills.

Eva2008-08-10 18:00:14
What is long? I think it depends on which time perspective you look from. And will all of these issues ever be 'fixed', could they even get worse?
Good article.

AP2008-08-10 20:44:56
Long is 1. since black people arrived in Europe 2. since most European countries are considered democracies, which varies
I believe they will be fixed, but that it will take some time, cause I don't even see black deputies yet. Unless Obama gives a push :)

Emanuel Paparella2008-08-11 06:34:06
Today on Meet the Nation Carl Rowe has said that Obama's trip to Europe shows that he is ready to be the President of the United States of Europe but not the United States of America. It has begun. Remember Kerry and his wife speaking French and Michael Moore getting accolades from the Europeans for his movie Farenheit 9/11?

Sand2008-08-11 07:45:24
There are very strong signals that Obama may be an Oreo. His heavy financial backing by Wall Street heavies, his vote on FISA, his obeisance to the worst elements in Israel, his very aggressive attitude towards Iran, his reluctance to look clearly at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A black slightly softer version of Bush does not arouse my enthusiasm.

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