Barack Obama: America’s aborning racial rainbow
America’s calvary has always been race relations.
They exterminated Native Americans or put them in reservations, which are really concentration camps if you think about it. Blacks were enslaved and a Civil War fought to free them. Japanese-Americans were put in camps after Pearl Harbor heralded America’s entry into World War Two.
Poor Italians and Irish were caricatured as white trash and gangsters. Filipino ‘manongs’ endured race riots in California. Separate but equal was the law of the land into the 1960s.
Even after Barack Obama became president in 2008, he was subjected to indignities all his white male predecessors never experienced. I could never get away from the prism of how white America would treat its first mixed race President. Obama, after all, is half-white.
He is a "Muslim" (like there’s anything wrong with that). He is different. He is a socialist (again, even though a lot of Americans have no idea what a socialist really is.). He was not born here. Birthers came out of the woodwork like termites.
The racial undertones of the abuse heaped on Obama seemed to simmer and bubble just beneath the surface, occasionally breaking out like hives.
But the country has changed and the pace is accelerating.
A generation ago, the country was still about 80-85 percent white. That has now dropped to around 70 and in another generation should be closer to 60%.
Latinos are on their way to becoming a quarter of the population, maybe more, and Asian-Americans will be rising from 3 to 10% of the population by 2050. Officially, there are nearly 2 million Fil-Ams in this nation. In reality, the number is probably double that.
Obama is a harbinger of the increasing racial and cultural diversity of the United States. When I arrived here in 1998, it was unthinkable that a black man would become President of the United States.
Those who used to live on the margins of society are becoming more politically potent with every passing day.
Obama’s victory means that America must come to terms with the fact that a nation which was mostly white for a large part of its history is now at the cutting edge of turning into a multi-racial rainbow society.
A nativist, race-baiting rear guard action by hardline whites will try desperately to prevent that. You can hear their drivel from Rush Limbaugh or Fox news.
Obama’s signature legacy of universal health care will now be fully implemented in 2014. Like Social Security, its full benefits will make it impossible to dismantle after he leaves office four years hence.
That legacy will be extended if Obama appoints 2-3 Supreme Court justices in the years ahead and possibly change the conservative leanings of the ultimate arbiter of American life, the Supreme Court.
It is hard to see the changing texture of a people on a day-to-day basis. But change is a constant of the United States. It may come in fits and starts, but the push by people here to listen to their better angels and work for a better America is palpable and strong.
The victory by Obama now opens the door for another barrier to be broken. It is time to elect a woman Commander-in-Chief here. That should be Hillary Clinton. I cannot see anyone on the Republican side better qualified than she.
Another is immigration reform. A Republican party smarting from a second consecutive drubbing for the presidency will need to link up with Latinos and minorities if it were to remain relevant in US political life.
That should provide them motivation enough to come to grips with immigration reform unless they let the wing-nuts on the right scare them into dropping the ball.
Obama’s decisive win is a victory then for the aborning future of America. He can now push aggressively on his vision of an increasingly racially diverse country where opportunity should be open to all and not just fat cat blowhards like Donald Trump.
The steady hand that Obama has shown on foreign policy is much appreciated by the country’s partners, allies and even its rivals and enemies. One can only shudder at the clueless proclivities that Mitt Romney has shown on foreign affairs. Just take a gander at how he put down the London Olympics.
The philosophical and ideological battles over the direction of the country will continue to rage.
America will not be completely transformed at the end of his term in 2016. But the United States is a better country for the 8 years Barack Obama will serve as its president. - Rappler.com
(Rene Pastor is a freelance journalist who worked with the news agency Reuters for nearly 23 years. He is a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University and is completing his Masters in International Affairs at the New School in New York. Rene is also a lecturer at Middlesex County College.)