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 A black man in the White House?

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AuteurMessage
mihou
Rang: Administrateur
mihou

Nombre de messages : 8092
Localisation : Washington D.C.
Date d'inscription : 28/05/2005

A black man in the White House? Empty
03072007
MessageA black man in the White House?

A black man in the White House?
















Senator
Barack Obama has taken a big lead in the competition to raise political
donations for the 2008 White House race. But he has many bridges to
cross if he is to become the first black president, not least
attracting the support of white southerners, writes the BBC's Nick
Bryant.


Black Man in the White House is the title not of some
fashionable new Washington parlour game devoted to the notion, once
unthinkable, of an African-American occupying the Oval Office, but of a
book published in 1963 by E Frederic Morrow, the first black man to
serve as a presidential aide.






A black man in the White House? _42703629_morrow_ap203
Morrow (at back) was treated with suspicion at the White House










Up until his appointment in the mid-50s, black White House employees
appeared either with pristine white towels draped over their arms or
cleaning mops in their hands.

Morrow, a successful PR man, had arrived ostensibly to
help shape policy, not that his boss, President Dwight D Eisenhower,
much valued his counsel.

The former general wanted to attract black support in
key northern battleground states - after all, the Republicans were the
party of Abraham Lincoln - and Morrow was recruited for mainly
ornamental purposes.

Morrow's delight at achieving this striking "racial first" was matched only by the distaste of his new workmates.

White secretaries refused to work with him; and he was
prohibited from being alone in the same room with any female employee,
lest he sexually molest them.

Fifty years on, Senator Barack Obama has a plausible
chance of becoming the occupant, with whomever he so chooses, both of
the Oval Office and Executive Mansion.

Identity search

Before the civil rights era, Washington DC was notoriously unwelcoming to its black residents and visitors.





A black man in the White House? O







A black man in the White House? Start_quote_rb
African
diplomats looked on Washington as a hardship posting, because of the
difficulty in finding landlords who would allow them to rent suitable
apartments

A black man in the White House? End_quote_rb














For black passengers travelling from north to south, Union Station in
Washington was the point of transfer at which they moved from an
integrated carriage to one that was strictly segregated.

African diplomats looked on the city as a hardship
posting, because of the difficulty in finding landlords who would allow
them to rent suitable apartments.

Even black congressmen, Mr Obama's forerunners, suffered many of the same indignities.

Under an unwritten code of conduct, black lawmakers -
there were just two in 1945 compared with 41 today - were barred from
using Congress's barber shops and swimming pool.

Black reporters were barred even from the press gallery.
No wonder Capitol Hill was often called the "Old Southern Home", and
widely viewed as the only place in the US where the south had not lost
the civil war.






A black man in the White House? _42699727_freedomriders_ap203b
Life in the South was strictly segregated when Obama was born









Barack Obama was born in the summer of 1961, the year
that the famed "freedom riders" encountered the brute force of southern
racism as they tried to bring about the desegregation of "Dixie" bus
terminals.

But he was born not in the states of the Old
Confederacy, the cauldron of the civil rights struggle, but in Hawaii.
His parents were Kenyan and Kansan, and his step-father Indonesian,
hence his Jakarta primary education.

His teenage years became a search for identity rather
than a struggle for equality. And in the use, and abuse, of alcohol,
marijuana and cocaine, Barack Obama found a way to "push questions of
who I was out of my mind", he reflected in his 1995 memoir.

Credentials

Mr Obama's true identity remains to this day a subject
of conjecture. The campaign cliche has it that Mr Obama is an African
and an American, though not an authentic African-American.

True, Mr Obama became a community worker in the mid-80s helping Chicago's underprivileged, many of whom shared his skin colour.

But his civil rights credentials pale in comparison to
other black lawmakers, most notably Congressman John Lewis, a
battle-hardened veteran both of the freedom rides and Selma's Bloody
Sunday in 1965, when civil rights protesters were savagely beaten by
police.






A black man in the White House? _42699573_barack_bill_afp203b
Bill Clinton is sometimes known as the 'first black president'









So Sen Obama's highly-publicised appearance in Selma in
March to mark the 42nd anniversary of Bloody Sunday had the feel of a
job applicant looking, at the last minute, to embellish, even rectify,
his resume.

By joining Mr Lewis and other civil rights legends, he
was pursuing a strategy of association aimed at siphoning black support
from Hillary Clinton, the wife of a politician once described by
novelist Toni Morrison as America's "first black president".

Historical irony

But as Mr Obama well knows, there are electoral pitfalls in aligning too closely with the civil rights struggle.

Once known as the "Solid Democratic South", the states
of the Old Confederacy quickly became a Republican stronghold after the
landmark civil rights reforms of the 1960s, when it harnessed what came
to be known as the "white backlash".






A black man in the White House? _42445927_westwing_203ap
Just visiting for the time being










Since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting
Rights Act, it is no coincidence that every Democratic president has
been a southerner: Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton; and, his
disgruntled supporters would argue, Al Gore.

Given the vagaries of the Electoral College, successful
presidential candidates need to pick up states in the south. And, on
the Democratic side, only southern moderates have proved adept at doing
so.
So the historical irony is that to
become a "Black Man in the White House", Barack Obama will ultimately
have to attract southern white support.

In this respect, his challenge evokes the title of
another book, of which he is more intimately familiar: his most recent
autobiography, The Audacity of Hope.

Nick Bryant is the author of The Bystander: John F Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality.

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