Saturday, 10 January 2009

A house that slaves helped build

So concludes David Remnick's article in the current edition of the New Yorker. He refers to the White House. The article also draws parallels between the African emancipatory and equality struggle and that of the situation in the Middle East. He makes a reference to Obama's American Israeli Public Affairs Committee speech in March of last year where the president-elect compared his own journey through the wilderness to settle on his own sense of identity with that of Exodus and the search for a Jewish homeland. Remnick makes the apposite point that actually the issue in the Middle East is a struggle between two competing searches for a homeland.

Obama will be comfortable with this notion of shared and competing grievances. In his 'more perfect union' speech focusing on the history and reality of race relations in the USA, he acknowledged the grievances of the white working class.

That struck a very different chord to most voices on this issue. Martin Luther King also began to stray onto that territory as early as 1955; it became articulated more clearly in his Poor People's Campaign from 1967 until he was assassinated.

This language of mutual respect and understanding is a fundamental bedrock to any long term political solution in the Middle East. Perhaps both the Israeli political establishment and Hamas should read the history of the African-American freedom struggle?

In the meantime, an African-American enters the White House that slaves helped to build as President. After the Bush years, it is a house that must be re-built.

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