Afro- Latinos : Reflections on Obama Win and Expectations

Ong3.gifEarlier this week, VivirLatino published a letter from an Indigenous community in Colombia to President Elect Obama.

One point that we, and other blogfriends have been trying to make ever since the start of the very long road to the White House, was that the way race and racial politics are talked about and analyzed needs to change. There was a clear reason why being Black and Latino was viewed as two mutually exclusive realms of being. One Afro Colombiano writes about his own hopes, expectations and thoughts post the Obama win.

Aiden Salgado writes:

I believe that the triumph of this African American man needs to be looked at very carefully because there is a risk of falling into Obama-itis and into thinking that Obama is superman and that he can solve all of our problems overnight. Ladies and Gentlemen, if Obama has any urgent task, it is to sweep up the mess that Bush has left throughout the world. In order to do so, he can start with the war in Iraq, with supporting a peace process in the Middle East that doesn’t involve backing the aggressions of Israel against their neighbors, and he should pull the U.S. government’s unconditional support for policies of the Colombian government and President Álvaro Uribe Vélez which have been violating human rights.

Related is a series of posts up at The Unapologetic Mexican, featuring the words of African-Americans, specifically their perspectives on Obama. Today’s featured post is from an Afro-Latino educator and blogger Jose Vilson. Jose writes:

My biggest reason for voting came in the form of 30 or so students in a classroom in Washington Heights of New York City. All of them are considered English language learners, all of Latin@ descent, and all from immigrant populations. Their engagement in this political race has surprised and inspired me. Their worst and best ideas about politics comes to the fore, and while some of the ideas are certainly prejudice (”White people vote for McCain” won’t stand the test of time), I also see a great opportunity to help develop better-informed citizens and participants in a still-exclusive fraternity.

You can Jose’s entire post over at UMX.

You can read the entire letter from Aiden Salgado after the jump.

Barack Obama: Many Illusions for One Man Alone
By Aiden Salgado

It is true for everyone that on November 4th of this year
we experienced a success of global proportions not just because an African American man has arrived to the White house, but also because of the moment in which he has arrived. He has made it to the White House precisely at the moment in which the ship of capitalism wanders aimlessly in the middle of the ocean like a Titan with no captain. So Obama has become the President-Elect of the most powerful country in the history of the world at a time in which his country finds itself with the worst International relations in history due to its
imperialist appetite.

For many African descendents, we celebrate the arrival of
this man to the White house as it challenges the idea that Afrodescendents don’t have the professional or intellectual capacity to lead. As a symbolic historical event, we must applaud. It is also healthy as it represents the rejection of the bellicose policies of the Republican Party lead by George W. Bush, who deserves the title of the most hated president on the planet.

Still, our great joy for his electoral triumph can’t be enjoyed without
reflection. We can’t let this time pass without interrogating the certain things in this election such as: Did citizens vote for
Obama or against Bush? Did they vote for Obama or against the war? Did they vote for Obama or against the economic crisis? These types of reflections are pertinent because I have seen a large number of people with a lot of different illusions about and expectations of Obama, who in the end is only one man who must represent the capital of the large corporations in the United States. He is a man whose hands are tied by existing economic and social structures without too much space to maneuver. Indeed as President of the United States, the most important responsibility that he has now is to change the image of his country around the world.

For Africans and their descendents, on the one hand, the figure of Obama presents various challenges, on the other, his win gives us the chance to demonstrate to all humanity that we are capable of assuming
responsibility, but it also presents an opportunity to develop a work
agenda that benefits us. The irony in all of this is that if Obama messes up, it will be used as an excuse by racists to foment their illness of racism and discrimination and they will be able to say “look, they had the chance and look at the results”. On the other hand, if he ends up doing a good job and actually is able to bring benefits to people of his ethnic group, but without profoundly
changing the economic and social model of the United States, his win could also serve to de-mobilize African Americans who may be
actively working to achieve a better world.

In addition, there are many illusions being formed about
the economic crisis, a crisis which many analysts believe is just beginning. The media is selling us the image that Obama can solve the crisis, while we understand clearly that it is complicated for people who generated the crises to find the solution to it. What is also clear is that this does not depend on just one man, it also depends on state policies, not just the politics of individuals.

I believe that the triumph of this African American man needs to be looked at very carefully because there is a risk of falling into Obama-itis and into thinking that Obama is superman and that he can solve all of our problems overnight. Ladies and Gentlemen, if Obama has any urgent task, it is to sweep up the mess that Bush has left throughout the world. In order to do so, he can start with the war in Iraq, with supporting a peace process in the Middle East that doesn’t involve backing the aggressions of Israel against their neighbors, and he should pull the U.S. government’s unconditional support for policies of the Colombian government and President Álvaro Uribe Vélez which have been violating human rights.

On the domestic level, he needs to win back the trust of
the American people, wake them up to the inexistence of an internal
enemy created by Bush in his fight against terrorism. Also, he should assure that Americans are guaranteed basic rights regardless of what ethnic group they belong to, he should end racial discrimination against African Americans and offer a different world for African American youth, many of which seem to have no other future but in the prison system.

To ask more of Barack Obama is to fail to understand his
origin and his political position. We shouldn’t expect him to make a
huge shift to the left as it is much easier to jump from the left to the right. Those of us who think about constructing a better world in which human life is valued over capital, must do what we have to do. We shouldn’t expect Obama to be the messiah.

Aiden Salgado
From Palenque, still a rebel and maroon

Image Via / AfroColombiano Yambambo

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One comment on “Afro- Latinos : Reflections on Obama Win and Expectations
  1. Salgado’s letter should be read by many….so it’s wonderful that it you posted. Those reflections really need to get people thinking…..for certainly there were many more new and different reasons to vote this election than at any other time in history.
    I recently had a conversation with a group of people who I was sorry to see failed to see the bigger picture. They don’t realize that before Obama is going to quench important yet lesser pressing issues, he is to clean up the chaos that “Sir Bush” so lovingly showered up the nation….and upon the world.
    I have to remind everyone and agree whole heartedly as Salgado does so eloquently in his letter…..that the most urgent issue he is to undertake with all his energies and complete faculties is to clean up the mess in the Middle East.

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