Ariel Goldberg
Ariel Goldberg

A black man wins the White House

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
– Martin Luther King, 1963

The election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States is indeed a momentous occasion in that country’s history and is a sign for the rest of the world that our loftiest and most exalted dreams can come true.

The words above were spoken by Martin Luther King at a time when racism not only existed in the southern states of America, but was formally acknowledged and written into law. Black and white people could not study at the same universities. They could not eat at the same restaurants or sit in the same bus seats. King’s dream of a nation where his four children “will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character” seemed to be all but impossible.

Forty five years later, a hundred and twenty five thousand people have gathered at Grant Park, Chicago to hear Barack Obama speak.

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America — I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you — we as a people will get there”

His very election is a testament to his own words. From the outset of his campaign Obama has maintained a message of hope and striving for something better. A belief that our greatest dreams are possible. His message has evidently touched the hearts of millions of Americans and moved the soul of that nation. And the hope and change of the American people will begin to spread across the world because, at this very symbolic and significant moment in history, they stand as an example of the power and possibility of change.

Great changes in the world are not made overnight. They are etched out in the fabric of history through a slow and gruelling process, and it is often only possible to appreciate the magnitude and significance of those changes many years down the line when we stop and look back at where we came from.

Forty five years ago black people in America were fighting to be able to eat at the same restaurants as white people. Today, the electorate of America showed that they judged Barack Obama on the content of his character and not on the colour of his skin. Today Martin Luther King’s dream came true.

America is moving forward as a nation and it is a reminder to us all that change is not only possible, but constantly happening. I think his acceptance speech captures the perpetual experience of humanity. The road is long and the climb is always steep … but we are always moving forward and rising to new heights.

I, as a person with nothing to do with America, experience Obama’s hope as a hope for all of humankind and reflect on the change that has happened in America as a change that has happened across the whole world. Quietly moving in the background, often seemingly stunted and hidden … but always there.

  • Sandile M

    It is, indeed, a giant leap for America in terms of race relations. But that society remains, essentially, racist.

    One Obama does not make it suddenly, ‘post racial.’ After all, he will only be ONE black man in the executive power.

    The greatest danger or fear, if you like, is that black aspirations and hopes have been almost wholly encapsulated into the White House. What this means is that through Obama blacks have been coopted and marginalized at the same time.

    As a result, it is going to be increasingly difficult for any black, especially those at the coal face of racism, to say or do anything in their self defence.

    No doubt, this is a great victory for Obama the ‘colourless’ individual and, if you like, the black race as a whole. But celebrations is premature.

    Of course, the man ran a good race. But this is now the beginning. Let us check how far he will have gone by 4 November 2009 to change the face of racism in America and the whole wide world.

    We need to remain cool and keep our thinking caps on, here. It is going to be a bumpy road.

  • Lyndall Beddy

    If his mother is white and his father is black then 50% of his genes are white. How does that make him black?

  • brent

    Ariel and Sandile M, the US is +- 70% white, +-17% Hispanic and +-13% black. Obama has won +- 6 elections over the past +- 10 years (primaries/state/senate/president etc) so white Americans have been voting for him (and many many other black politicians) for many years so this election victory is not all of a sudden.

    Name me one other country where a minority as small as 13% has by a free vote, voted in a minority politician to be national leader. The world is quick to level racism at the US but they are probably the most un-racist mult-culural society in the world – my regular visits there back this statement up.


  • Belle

    Sandile, I have a theory: your Racism is your security blanket. Without it you would be lost and unable to cope in a race-blind world.

    The US election was not just about one single black man being elected to the White House; the more significant number that you conveniently ignore is the millions of whites who voted for him.

  • Lyndall Beddy

    I read a quote by an American senator who said that the USA is conservative in general but liberal in particular. Seemed appropriate.

  • Ariel Goldberg


    The significance of Obama being president is far more than he being just ONE black man with executive power…

    As Brent and Belle have pointed out, his presidency represents the tens of millions of Americans (be they black, white or hispanic) who support him.

    It shows that the majority of America have voted for a candidate based on who that person is without letting his race determine their opinion of him.

    This surely is the ideal towards which all people who have fought against racism throughout history were striving?

    This does not mean that there aren’t any racists in America – just search you tube for some clips and i promise you the mind will boggle at both the racism and the ignorance displayed – but it means that the American nation as a whole is not racist…

    How could they be to elect a member of a minority race to be president?

    I also personally think that you are very wrong about the fact that now that there is a black president it will mean black people close to the racism coal face will not have anything to say in their defence. ie. black people will not be able to pull out the race card when they need to…

    You would only say this if you saw the world in a “us vs them” mentality… and the only thing that will overcome racism, the very thing that Obama has appealed to in all of us so strongly (even if we are not American) is a willingness to drop that attitude and see the common things we share.

    This is just one landmark moment in the gradual elimination of racism in the US (and the world) and even though it is not completely eradicated there already… i am sure that it will continue to follow a pattern of moving toward a non-racial world until it is

    The question you have to ask yourself Sandile is… is your attitude moving you in that same direction or is it holding you back?

  • Ohlson

    Big Thanks