Imagine if Obama’s wife was white, asks African-American author

November 24th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Nov 24 (IANS) In a fresh insight into complex race relations in the US, iconic African-American author and academic Ali Mazrui says Barack Obama would not have been in the White House if he were married to a white woman.Mazrui, ranked by a British magazine as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world, also prophesied that the US will have its first Muslim president in another 40 years.

“If Obama had chosen a white woman as his wife, that would have decisively destroyed his presidential hopes,” the Kenya-born Mazrui, who has lived and taught in the US for nearly three decades and boasts personal equations with leading public figures in the US, told IANS in an interview here.

“That’s because the Americans are not comfortable with the prospect of a White First Lady married to a black president. They are not able to accept horizontal inter-raciality,” said Mazrui, Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at State University of New York.

“The US is used to vertical interraciality. Nobody is outraged when you are born to parents of mixed race. Sixty percent of black people in the US have mixed parentage,” said Mazrui, who enjoys personal rapport with many African heads of state.

The US is home to around 40 million African-Americans who comprise 13.8 percent of the total US population.

“There was a greater acceptance of Obama’s mixed parentage because he did not choose his parents. But he chose his wife,” he said while stressing that Obama’s promise of restoring America’s image and his message of hope combined with his charisma and brilliant Internet-driven fund-raising strategy finally won America.

Providing a rare insight into the unstated complex racial chemistry in the US, Mazrui said Obama was not a darling of African-Americans as they thought neither of his parents were African-Americans. “In fact, Andrew Yang (civil rights leader and a former mayor of Atlanta), went to the extent of saying that Bill Clinton was as black as Barack Obama. Obama was seen as black in colour, but not culturally black.”

“In fact, it worked to Obama’s advantage that he was brought up by a white mother and his Kenyan father did not have much role in his upbringing,” he said.

“Obama was compensated by his wife Michelle who is a quintessential African-American,” Mazrui underlined.

“But eventually African-Americans rallied around in large numbers when they saw he had a good chance to win the White House and thought by voting for him they would set a good precedent and be part of this historic process.”

Mazrui, also director of The Institute of Global Cultural Studies, Binghamton University, and the author of seminal books like “The African Predicament” and “The American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens” was in India to attend an international conference on African resurgence.

He also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his contemporary at Oxford University, and gifted him a signed copy of his latest book “Euro Jews and African Arabs: The Great Semitic Divergence in World History”.

Mazrui is surprised that nobody has commented on another “staggering phenomenon” - the US having a black president before it could have a Jewish president as Jews control crucial levers of power in the US.

“The Jews have outperformed blacks in every field except sports. Now, a black man has outperformed the Jewish genius by winning the White House,” he said.

Interestingly, although the US may have got its first black president, there is no black left in the US Senate after Obama resigned his Senate seat from Chicago, Illinois.

“In the last 100 years, there have been only two black senators, including Obama, So far there have been only five black senators in the 200-year history of the US,” he said.

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