While racism in America does not disappear completely with Obama’s victory, the result of the US presidential elections reflected a significant change, a milestone in the struggle against the racist mindset. More importantly, it symbolized the American people’s clamor for change. But it would take more than the election of an African-American from the Democrats, and some minor reforms and changes to solve the crisis the US and the world is in, and to stop the US, as well as other advanced capitalist countries, from wreaking havoc on the lives of oppressed peoples and nations.
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
Much emphasis has been given to the fact that Barack Obama is the first African-American to be elected as president of the US. Rightly so for a nation that fought for and won independence from British rule under the banner of liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness in 1776, but only abolished slavery 89 years after, in 1865. It is indeed a symbolism for a country that launched brutal wars of occupation such as the Filipino-American war in 1900, with its soldiers calling Filipino revolutionaries as ‘niggers’ and ‘monkeys’ while massacring them. Racism -subtle it may be- is so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that some analysts were predicting that even if Obama was leading the polls, the white majority might still vote for Mc Cain at the last minute.
But Obama won so overwhelmingly that Mc Cain readily conceded defeat. Adding significance to Obama’s victory is the fact that he won amid a debilitating crisis when racist feelings are expectedly high. While racism in America does not disappear completely with Obama’s victory, the result of the US presidential elections reflected a significant change, a milestone in the struggle against the racist mindset. More importantly, it symbolized the American people’s clamor for change. And it is this clamor that the Democrats played to the fullest, with Obama running under the banner of change.
However, this does not necessarily mean that Obama would be implementing major changes in American policy. For one, Obama never articulated a position that radically deviates from the course America is taking now. He criticized the Bush administration’s war policy in Iraq, but pushed for more US military intervention in Afghanistan. Obama blamed the Bush administration’s economic policies for the crisis but merely articulated some minor protectionist and regulatory policies as alternatives. Obama criticized the Bush administration’s bail out plan for prioritizing banks without responding to the foreclosures, and loss of jobs and income affecting the American people, but he merely promised to help mitigate the sufferings of the American middle class.
Jesse Jackson, the African-American civil rights activist, presented a stronger platform when he ran for president. Ralph Nader, who is white, presented a more radical position on issues.
Nevertheless, the American people are expecting change and the burden of fulfilling this now rests on Obama’s shoulders. It would be a tough job and a tall order for someone who appears not to deviate radically from the path being defined by Corporate America, which has brought the world to this crisis in the first place.
Governments of other advanced capitalist countries are also expectant. They are most probably hoping for a change in the bellicose, unilateralist policies of the Bush administration that bullied Germany, France, Russia, and China out of Iraq. Governments of underdeveloped countries, which are client states of the mighty US, are expecting more of the same: no reduction in loans and investments and continuous flow of loans. The Philippines and India are also hoping that Obama would not make good his pronouncements that he would discourage business process outsourcing – as it takes away jobs from Americans – by penalizing companies that do so.
The Arroyo administration has been announcing that it is “business as usual” as far as US-Philippine relations are concerned.
The oppressed peoples of the world, on the other hand, may be entertaining the hope that the incoming Obama administration would be more respectful of human rights, especially since he comes from a minority group and that it has traditionally been a banner issue of the Democrats.
But two recent terms of Democrats – Jimmy Carter (1977-81) and Bill Clinton (1993-2001) – did not reflect any major change in US policy. Carter made human rights a banner call. But never did the US censor dictators and cut military aid to them. The US even covertly supported dictators such as Marcos of the Philippines and Duvalier of Haiti.
The Democrats are now in control of the US Congress but still there are no indications that there would be a major policy shift. With the US in deep crisis, it would be highly improbable that the incoming Obama administration would deviate from the current thrust of the US of asserting and strengthening its political-military hegemony in the world to bully its way into pursuing its economic interests.
As for the Philippines, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said it all when she was quoted as saying that there would be no change in the “development and security” work the US is undertaking in the country.
It would take more than the election of an African-American from the Democrats and some minor reforms and changes to solve the crisis the US and the world is in, and to stop the US, as well as other advanced capitalist countries, from wreaking havoc on the lives of oppressed peoples and nations. It would take no less than a radical rupture from traditional relations governing US domestic and foreign policies, and from the dominance of traditional ideas that claim that the US and other advanced capitalist countries have the right to exploit and oppress the peoples of the world in the name of profit and the free flow of capital.(Bulatlat.com)