Wednesday, 12 March 2008

When Will It Be Our Turn?

This article of mine appears in today's edition of The First Post:

If I had every penny I have seen drop, I would be a very rich man. The penny drops when I happen to mention a particular aspect of my background. Or when people are introduced to certain of my relatives, or see photographs of them. I am mixed-race.

Which brings me to Barack Obama. It is pure chance that he looks the way he does, that he goes through life with dark skin and African facial features.

Born to a white American mother and a black Kenyan father, he could just as easily have looked like a young John McCain. Any full sibling very well might have done. I know: my two brothers and sister are all different in colouring: one was born with blond hair and blue eyes.

What would, say, a white sister have done to Barack Obama's USP? What if he had had nothing more than a Muslim name to distinguish him from all the other blue-eyed boys? Either or both of those things could have happened perfectly easily. They just happened not to.

And then there is Obama's courting of the African-American political leadership.

He had the chance to be a non-white candidate who was pointedly not beholden to the black, Hispanic or any other grievance industry. Those of us whose own non-white backgrounds are also not of the politically noisier varieties might have taken great heart from such a figure. But he bottled it.

Obama is not the first serious black Presidential candidate. He is the first black Presidential candidate who could just as easily have been white. Why couldn't he have been potentially the first ever mixed-race world leader?

When will it be our turn?

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