In the critically-acclaimed multi-awarded TV series, "24", we were introduced to the concept of a Black president. Somehow the idea did not seem bad at all. On television, that is. But when reality followed fiction, the public outlook changes and many people were not that supportive of the idea of having an African American sitting in the Oval Office as President.
Just recently Sen. Barack Obama, the gentleman from Illinois who could be a political dark horse, is thrust into controversy when he announced his intent to run for President in the 2008 Elections. Unlike his celluloid counterpart, however, Obama was met with criticism and skepticism.
Not Black Enough?
His critics were skeptical on how Black really Obama is. Which brings us to ask: What makes an African American an African American or a Black a Black? Is it the color of skin, the bloodline, the place you were born and grew up in, or is it the culture you were exposed to? How does being pure or unpure Black decreases Obama's capacities to lead a country? How does race, gender or sexual orientation cast one's leadership skills behind a shadow of doubt?
It appears there exists a divide between Black Americans and African Americans. The terms here are used to define Americans who are Black, who were born in America and whose family have lived through generations in America as opposed to Americans whose family tree have a more closer connection to Africa than America but lived in the US long enough to be classified as a citizen.
Although Barack was born in Hawaii and later in his adolescence grew up there with his maternal grandparents, he wasn't considered by many Blacks as African American or Black enough since his family history did not extend as far back as the slavery years.
The discrimination on Obama is not about skin color or race, but rather that of culture and life experiences. What those Blacks who are unsupportive of Obama's presidential campaign are concerned about is how well Barack can relate to the authentic African American experience. Having a Kenyan father, a White mother, and growing mostly in Hawaii and for some time in Indonesia, Barack is viewed mostly by Blacks as "not Black enough" to understand what most Blacks of this country are going through or the history they have living in America.
Not Ready For A Black President
This perception, however, seems to have changed as a new Washington Post-ABC News poll recently showed there is an increase in support from the African American community for Sen. Barack Obama's bid for presidency. According to the CNN.com article on that poll:
In recent months, ABC News-Washington Post polls showed Sen. Hillary Clinton running 40 points higher than Sen. Barack Obama among blacks voters asked to name their preference in the Democratic primary.
But in Wednesday editions, the Washington Post reported a poll that has Obama leading Clinton by 11 points among black voters -- 44 percent to 33 percent.
But does this mean Obama has got the black vote? Well not necessarily as the poll results would have you think. It just means there are more Blacks than before who are in favor of Obama as president but Hillary Clinton still got more votes than Barack Obama from the African American community. She and her husband, Bill Clinton, have strong roots in the Black community.
In fact, Obama might not be the First Black President if he won in 2008. It was Bill Clinton who was honored as the nation's "first black president" at the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. in 2001. Obviously Bill was "black enough" for Blacks. (For more of past "black" presidents, read this very interesting article at DiversityInc.com)
As the CNN.com article further explained:
Blacks, in part, may be slow to warm to the candidacy of Obama because, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll suggests, they are less likely than whites to believe that America is ready for a black president.
The poll, conducted December 5-7, 2006, found that 65 percent of whites thought America was ready, compared with 54 percent of blacks. The poll's margin of error was plus-or-minus 5 percentage points.
Political and Personal Records
Reading through Obama's political record, one can see an impressive trail of achievements he's made through US legislature.
In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate from the state's 13th District in the south-side Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park. In January 2003, when Democrats regained control of the chamber, he was named chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. While in the Senate, he authored a law requiring police to videotape interrogations for crimes punishable by the death penalty [Wikipedia].
But perhaps the most telling proof of his capacity to become a leader of this country came from a February 2007 article in the Washington Post that noted his ability to work effectively with both Democrats and Republicans, and to build bipartisan coalitions in the Illinois Senate.
There are many issues that Barack Obama has either opposed or supported and these are neatly outlined at the Vote Smart Organization's site. However, our main concern would be in Labor and in this Obama has shown tremendous interest and active participation. Most of his 100% votes were for unions and labor organizations.
Despite his high profile clean cut image, Obama isn't without his shortcomings. In his memoir Dreams from My Father, he detailed his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage. He used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years, Obama wrote, to "push questions of who I was out of my mind."
According to his biography at Wikipedia, after high school, Obama studied for two years at Occidental College and then transferred to Columbia University, where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations. After receiving his B.A. degree in 1983, Obama worked for one year at Business International Corporation. In 1985, he moved to Chicago to direct a non-profit project assisting local churches to organize job training programs for residents of poor neighborhoods.
Obama entered Harvard Law School in 1988. In February 1990, The New York Times reported his election as the Harvard Law Review's "first black president in its 104-year history." He obtained his J.D. degree magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991. On returning to Chicago, Obama directed a voter registration drive, then worked for the civil rights law firm Miner, Barnhill & Galland, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1993 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004.