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Yes, we can – yes, we will

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Even as I join in the congratulations to US President-elect Barack Obama and in the celebrations of his victory, let me also, on behalf of all of us who harboured such doubts, offer my sincerest apologies to the American people for doubting their resolve to overcome the subjective hurdles and send Mr. Obama to the White House. True, those doubts are two to three years old, having been largely dispelled by the brilliant campaign of the soon-to-be US President.{{more}} Centuries of prejudice and racial discrimination, spiked by the irregularities which gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2000, had made me, and many others, skeptical of the chances of a person of colour emerging. Wrong we were. It’s not just “YES, WE CAN” but “YES, WE WILL.”

For the doubting Thomases, perhaps we should have delved more deeply into the history of the immigrant nation which is the USA of today. The same nation which spawned the genocidal settlers who decimated the native population and much of its fauna, which gave rise to the slave owning class and succour to the Klu Klux Klan and Jim Crow discrimination, which facilitated the dominance of the racist Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms in the US Congress; that same nation also gave birth to the likes of Abraham Lincoln and the Kennedy brothers. Such are the contradictions, though we often lose sight of the positives. Obama’s triumph is a timely reminder of the need for balance in our thinking.

Secondly, there has never been an election outside national boundaries which has so fired up the people of the Caribbean. In my travels through the region over the past year, I have yet to encounter, personally, any Caribbean citizen opposed to Obama’s candidacy. Doubts about his suitability, questions about his possibility for success, yes. But no fundamental opposition. His victory is welcomed right across the board, among red, yellow, blue and green not to mention the black. Now if we can be so united on such a major issue; if on Obama, ALL AH WEE IS ONE, what’s our problem in finding common cause with our own situation? Whatever we might wish of Obama, he is no saviour, yet we are willing to all line up behind him for a perceived greater good, for a common cause. In this world of financial failures, steep price rises, recession, hunger and hardship, there must be a bottom line for the vast majority of us. Can we find it?

Never before in the history of our region has there been such interest in a US Presidential election. The information and communication technology made it possible, but the interest goes deeper than these tools of facilitation. How can we channel that interest into global and regional matters which have great bearing on our well-being and future? For after the euphoria of Obama’s swearing-in, such matters as US policy on trade and co-operation with the Caribbean, immigration and visa policy, drug trafficking and bananas will have to be decided upon by his administration. How will we engage him and the Democrat-controlled Congress? Will those political parties in the region who got sucked in, mistakenly, into an alliance in the right-wing Caribbean Democratic Union (CDU), affiliated to the Bush-Mc Cain Republican Party, still cherish that alliance, or be realistic about burying those relics of the Cold war?

This is a new ball game, but neither Obama nor the rest of us Black People has won as yet. Obama has won the right to take strike, but the bowling has a formidable line-up and he will need all the support in the field if he is to succeed. Expectations are high but it will not be up to Barack alone to deliver. If we can view him realistically as the catalyst of change that we must work assiduously to bring about, rather than a messiah who at one stroke will solve all our problems, then we will be much better placed to benefit from his tenure in the White House. That is why, “YES, WE CAN,” not “I can,” is the theme of his Presidency. Here is a big opening, of which we should take advantage, to shore up the new President when he seems to falter, to steady him if he tends to deviate, to point to new vistas and horizons, new goals and targets.

Obama’s victory is a victory for us all. An earth-shattering event with tremendous implications for the future of Blacks, Americans, the oppressed and the visionaries. As we savour the victory, let us work to ensure that it redounds to the benefit of all who are interested in peace, progress and human development. Obama can only succeed if we play our part in making it happen.


Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.