Metamorphosis of American Black Politics- The road to White House
The pledge of allegiance one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all was officially declared by President Roosevelt in 1942, yet its manifestation in reality was to be witnessed.
In 1954, the court ordered the segregation of races to be phased out with "all deliberate speed". However, this ruling, never gained momentum. On December 1, l955, Rosa Parks, an African American, refused to get out of her seat on a public bus to make room for a white passenger and a police officer arrested her. "Why do you push us around?" she asked. For Rosa Parks, the Mother of the modern civil rights movement, there was always- a white world and a black world. ‘People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true.’ ‘I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for.’ ‘I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.’ On the day of Park’s trial, 35000 handbills were distributed asking every black to stay off the buses. The Montgomery bus boycott was an important milestone bringing forth the injustices of African Americans. In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr himself describes it as an action where ‘the cup of endurance runs over and the human personality cries out, ‘ I can take it no longer’. The young Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, Jr. was inspired by Gandhi's success with non-violent activism, King visited the Gandhi family in India in 1959. Gandhi's nonviolent techniques helped King's campaign to correct civil rights laws implemented in Alabama. Standing tall on the shoulders of Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Web DuBois and others, King's appeal to Christian brotherhood and American idealism transformed people and geared them to pursue a "dream". The famous "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered in 1963 in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Barrack Obama was born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, hundreds of miles away from the Civil Rights Movement in America. The civil rights movement had begun a decade before Obama's birth.
In the same summer of Obama's birth, the "Freedom Fighters", a group of young, black and white activists from the North, started the famous "freedom rides" in which they boarded buses and headed south, determined to stay in their seats and challenge the white status quo. Obama was just two years old when the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr made his "I have a dream" speech at the march on Washington. By Obama's seventh birthday, both King and Malcolm X had been assassinated, and Congress had moved to protect black people's right to vote, a right that Barrack could exercise only 11 years later. At around the same time, Rev Jesse Jackson was at Martin Luther King's side when he was assassinated. These were the images of emerging black leaders and the fatal end to their efforts for civil rights available to the young Barack Obama. Obama's mother, a white, eighteen-year-old at the University of Hawaii, married its first African student. He left his wife and two-year-old Obama behind to pursue a Ph.D at Harvard. After his return to Africa, he saw ten year old Obama only once. He died when Obama was in his early twenties. Raised by his white maternal grandparents, married to an African American woman and a longtime member of the “Black” church, Obama identifies himself as an African American despite his mixed racial origins. In the words of Lerone Bennett, Jr., "Everything has changed in black-white America; and yet nothing has changed". Black descendants can be from kings, queens, or scholars of Africa as also those who were brought by force as slaves. Till date, social and political equality is yet to be obtained.
‘I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.’
A black candidate running for presidency was far unheard of in the 50s, being biologically black is no substitute for committed work to uplift Black America. And rightly stated by Obama, it should not matter if it is a white or a black who makes the change, it is the commitment to the cause and the volition that really matters.
‘There is not a liberal America and a conservative America - there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and latino America and Asian America - there's the United States of America.
Enlightened black stalwarts have paved the way through hard strife and inequality and have left behind for Barack Obama a rich legacy where today a black can stand as Presidential candidate on equal footing with all his white contenders.
The Americans are on the crossroads of choice- race or trust in the man who is going to mould the future of their country?
‘If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists - to protect them and to promote their common welfare - all else is lost.’
The bills for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of l965 were introduced by President Lyndon Johnson, who stated, "Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice."
If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.