Centuries back, the United States of America was viewed by the rest of the world for the prevailing bias, injustice and inequality on the basis of skin colour. The nation had White traders oppressing Blacks from Africa by enslaving them in 1619. It was a time when the very existence of black skin meant being humiliated by the ‘Whites Only’ boards. It is painful to realize that laws prohibited Blacks from accessing public facilities, including restaurants, toilets, parks, hotels, and stores. They were not allowed to use taps used by the white skin, and had limited access to public transportation.
The system of segregation denied Blacks of voting rights as well. Albeit slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, yet they were not given the fundamental right of voting till 1964. The voting was a kind of privilege only given to Whites that time round. Sham literacy tests, violence and intimidation were the tools used by White administration to keep Blacks away from the polls, thus keeping them out of American community in the literal sense. They were forced to stay voiceless in the issues related to their own existence.
But things have changed for good since then. Today, we are the fortunate witnesses to the time whereby a young man, who is a son to the mother from Kansas and father from Kenya - has hit success at primaries and caucuses to gain the position of a Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.
Obama’s nomination is very significant for the construction of Black identity in the US. It is underlined by the support extended by the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Obama. Notably, she and the Illinois Senator share the same skin colour, but do not come from the same political party. Moreover, her Republican background did not stop Rice from praising Democratic Obama's nomination as a pioneer moment for equal rights after over two centuries of struggle.
"But what I would understood as a Black American is that Black Americans loved and had faith in this country, even when this country didn't love and have faith in them, and that's our legacy," Rice added, expressing the pain felt by Blacks in contemporary US.
Obama’s popularity gained another mile when he was endorsed by chat show queen Oprah Winfrey. "I've never taken this kind of risk before, nor felt compelled to stand up and speak out before because there wasn't anyone to stand up and speak up for," Winfrey said, who was convinced that Obama can bridge the gap between Whites and Blacks in the US.
The rise of Obama, Winfrey and Rice is the offshoot of the civil rights movement that brought legal equality to Blacks. It was that movement that forced the ‘White’ government to instill money in Black communities for their advancement.
According to the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 71 percent of Whites and 76 percent of African-Americans perceive Obama’s nomination as an indication to broad-based accomplishments for Blacks in the US. It also opens the window of hope for an increased percentage of Black voters, who now dream about their children in the White House.
His nomination is sure being seen as a momentous shift in the US politics. According to the US media, majority of the populace share the view that Obama’s ascension indicates the general progress for African-Americans. However, another poll does not indicate any major shift in the opinions apropos of the status of race relations. As per a June Post-ABC poll, race relations in the country were seen “excellent” or “good” by only a small majority, whereas about two-thirds of African-Americans think Obama’s candidacy would help race relations. However, Whites do not seem to be too pleased with the idea, the poll suggested. However, that does not stop Obama and his supporters from moving forward, in any way.
In a meeting with the Delaware delegation, Obama’s running mate, Sen Joseph R Bidden Jr announced, “He’s (Obama) going to make you proud. I am honoured to be…helping to make sure…that the first African-American – the first guy who looks at things from a perspective like no one I’ve worked with…gets to the President of the United States.” The pride issue helps White voters to decide their preference while voting. The new Washington Post-ABC News poll suggests that 59 percent of the Whites, who favoured Obama, think that the African-American has made them proud. Meanwhile, his Republican opponent, Sen John McCain, is chosen by 57 percent of those who think that Obama has not affected their level of pride by being the first African-American nominee.
By and large, the progress of the Blacks in the US symbolises one of the most epic struggles of a minority race in the history books. Handing over the complete charge of the nation to a Black clearly reflects that the American people “insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time”.
The time has come when the Americans can put aside the burden of race, as Obama's nomination hints at the beginning of the new America which was once foreseen by the King.