Posted on Thursday, 18th August 2011 @ 01:02 AM by Text Size A | A | A

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by Suzanne Mills

When Barack Obama won the 2008 election, I was living in Madrid, having moved there six months
before from the Caribbean. The mood in the Spanish capital the day after his victory was jubilant: the Spaniards had four years before pulled out of the war on terror and Spain/US relations were tense. With George W Bush departed, the way was cleared for a renewal of old alliances and dalliances.

Spanish women were swooning. Obama had star quality-he was tall, dark and handsome, debonair and charming, and sung of being the future we wanted to be. His slogan, “yes we can,” had
become the mantra of Spain’s football (soccer) team.

Emotionally, I was in a jumble. It felt fantastic to be a black woman that morning in white Spain-black was
suddenly in fashion-de moda. A Caribbean woman of mixed heritage, I shared a special bond with Obama. I thought of my nephews and niece living in the USA and rejoiced for them. I´d grown up in a place whose leaders had always been black or Asian but my brother´s kids were American through and through and this
would be the first time they could truly believe the American dream, that the sky was the limit and you did not have to be white to touch it.

But I did not know who this black Clark Kent was and I had my reservations.  His campaign had been like a slick Hollywood production. Beyond the bright lights, the razzle dazzle and the saccharine script, who was Barack  Obama? We were at an important juncture in US and world history but as a woman I wondered whether this moment should not have been Hillary’s? Who was this man who made females faint and who had come from behind to steal Hillary´s thunder? Most of all, who had brought him into the White House to keep the Clintons out?

I tried to articulate some of these feelings to two women that day, one young, one senior,
and they both shut me up and down.

“He´s a good looking man,” they snapped. “He´s gorgeous.”

I agreed. He´d been the perfect candidate for America´s taste in TV celebrities and media campaigns.

There was one area where our views were not at all dissonant.  We wondered whether Obama would live to see the end of his term or whether a bullet from a right wing, red neck would shatter his skull. The Republicans had been sore losers and booed him the night before, following his overwhelming win.

“The Americans will shoot him,” the women speculated. “He is black.”

Their predictions were not off target. With the presidential election one year away, Barack Obama
has survived murder attempt after murder attempt by America´s extreme right. When
you may ask. Throughout his term. In the new millennium the extremists in the US are not using actual bullets. They have plotted political and character assassinations and they have fired daily pot shots at the American President, aiming for below the belt. Obama´s presidency has brought the racists out of the closet, political guns blazing. When the Tea Party and more conservative Republicans talk about taking back the Whitehouse, they really mean they want to put the white back in it.  Any other colour, is to them, un-American.

Obama is still charming though he´s lost his youth in the past three years. He looks worn. But he´s
not cracking. He´s Mr Unflappable and seems almost naïve at times, making you wonder if he captures the irony of his being the first black to be voted president at this crucial moment in history. It´s almost as if office was handed to an afro American when it would be difficult to rule America and his life was made impossible, with the expectation he would fail so white supremacists could hold him up and say, “See what happens when you give a black man power? The country gets downgraded.”

I wonder whether those two women in Madrid would swoon today.

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