Sunday, October 12, 2008



OCTOBER 11 2008


In Summary
American journalist retraces the journey of race and prejudice from the days of slavery, and notes that one drop of black blood coursing through one’s veins can still mean a lot

With America at the threshold of a new frontier in which a black man could be elected the next president of the country, the tale of black America has become of more interest to people around the world.

While Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has been accused by his opponents of holding celebrity status the likes of blonde brats, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, their stories are not remotely similar.

Obama, while bi-racial and raised by a white-mother from Kansas and his white grandparents, grew up black in America.

In America, since the time of slavery, one drop of black blood coursing through a man’s veins makes him black, no matter the shade of his skin.

With a Kenyan father, Obama fits that bill.

The Illinois senator and I are from the same generation with only three-years difference in our age. We know the same America. We saw the same things, watched the same television programmes, lived through the same times. We know the same things about what it is like growing up black in America.

What that means is what it has always meant especially for black men.

As famous black poet Langston Hughes said in his poem Mother to Son, about a mother telling her son how rough life can be for blacks in America; “Life ain’t been no crystal stair.”

I too grew up black in America and while my personal experiences with the cruelty of racism in America have been limited, I’ve been surrounded over the years, by black American men who have been literally slapped in the face with the oppressive evils of racism, American style. Some of that racism was subtle, and some was overt.

Some of it occurred on the threshold of other racial change in the country, such as, the 1965 law that protected African Americans’ right to vote. And some of it occurred just a year or two ago.

My older brother, for example, was the first among the first few African Americans to desegregate the elementary school we attended growing up in Long Island, N.Y.

It was the mid-1960s, the time of the Vietnam War, and civil rights protests. The time of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

The time when black people rioted in the streets of major cities burning down their neighbourhoods to draw attention to social injustices across the country.

We grew up middle class and lived in a nice home in a quiet tree-lined suburban neighbourhood. My dad was a stationary engineer, my mother a teacher.

Because he was the only black student in the school other students chased him home every day hurling rocks at him.

Teachers decided a black child couldn’t keep up with the white children so my brother was labelled dumb.

His second grade teacher turned his classroom desk upside down, dumping all its contents to the floor in front of the entire class every day just to humiliate him.

He had the IQ of a genius but was forced to attend the school for children who are retarded.