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Equality is only skin deep

By Don Allan - posted Thursday, 27 November 2008

The phrase “The world has changed forever” gained prominence when thousands of people died after hijackers crashed two planes into the Twin Towers, New York, a third into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field near Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001. Since then, the phrase has become so common it has lost significance.

The truth is the world didn’t change forever as a result of the crashes, although life did change forever for many families who lost members and close family friends. It changed because, apart from memories, when a family member dies who, during life, had helped give comfort, happiness and pleasure, these things die with them. And not that one would wish this to be the case, but perhaps comfort, happiness and pleasure were restored to some people by the death of someone in the crash.

Why do I think the phrase has lost its significance? It has lost its significance because of politicians constantly using it to describe events that they see as significant, in which they played a prominent role. But that was not what brought the phrase to mind. This happened during the coverage of the recent US Presidential election when every member of the American, and some non-American, political commentariat, short of something original to say, used it when Barack Obama became US President elect.


But had the world changed forever and if so how had it changed and how would the change affect us? As I didn’t know, I asked these questions of some reputedly politically savvy members of Australia’s commentariat.

I was not surprised when the best they could offer were a mantra like re-iteration that the world had changed forever because Barack Obama was an African American. In my naïve political incorrectness I then asked: but why would the world change simply because the American President elect has black skin something that could happen to anyone born with one black and one white parent?

In my continuing political incorrectness, I further asked doesn’t that mean Barack Obama is a half-caste and, if only to add further to my political incorrectness I then asked: if the Republican candidate had also been a white born son of an African father and white mother, and if he had been as intelligent and charismatic as Obama, do you think the result of the election would have been different? I’m still waiting for an answer.

I ask these questions because it seemed to me that during the US election campaign the emphasis in the electronic and press media was on race rather than politics. I didn’t hear anyone say why being an African American would make Obama a good President and why it would help him meet the expectations of all US citizens, not just citizens who think of themselves as African American. Much as I hope he will, I think both groups of citizens will be disappointed.

And if Liberal Americans think that by electing a President whose skin is black will make it easier to change the perception that black people in Africa and elsewhere have of America, they, too, will be sorely disappointed. For example: how many nations in Africa would endorse America as the model of democracy they want for themselves? That apart if they were true Liberals I think they would be better occupied encouraging greater miscegenation among people of all colours.

Sadly I think that, despite the election of Obama, America still has a very long way to go before racial equality, not just for African Americans but other mixed race Americans, is achieved. However, America is not alone in this respect. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, America shares the problem with Australia, China, Japan, India and other Asian countries as well as many countries in Europe and countries where the majority of people do not share either the skin colour of their first peoples or their newest immigrants. And so, while wishing otherwise, I don’t think Obama’s election has changed the world forever. Nevertheless, I hope it helps.

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About the Author

Don Allan, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at:

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