Let’s not blame Obama

Published: July 13, 2012

At a friend’s birthday bash recently, I came across Ammar Ali Jan, an activist and history teacher from Beaconhouse University, who had a very thoughtful outlook towards racism in America.

“The real problems in America have always had socioeconomic roots. They always have. These debates on race and racial profiling are only attempts to shroud the harsh ground realities. They are only distractions from real problems,” he said.

What Jan suggested cannot be ignored. But the fact that racial profiling is at its peak in America cannot be ignored either. Otherwise, who would’ve thought how America is still coming to grips with its first black President? Here’s why: As per a study by the Los Angeles chapter of United Way and National Urban League, conditions in south LA are dismal even after twenty years after the riots. Another report, The State of Black LA, found that African Americans in LA County are still more likely to experience widespread homelessness, high school drop-out and mortality rates.

Furthermore, the American Psychological Association (APA) acknowledges that discrimination and marginalisation of racial and ethnic minorities are barriers to escaping a lower socioeconomic status. In fact, the report asserts that minorities are more likely to receive high-cost mortgages. For example, 53% of African-Americans and 43% Hispanics pay higher cost mortgages, in contrast to the 18% of Caucasians.

Contrarily – and surprisingly, too – things look better for the ethnic minorities of Pakistan. The national and Punjab assemblies have recently adopted resolutions to carve out a separate unit of Southern districts based on the demands of a majority of four million Seraiki speaking people who claim their districts to be the least developed and socially deprived in the province of Punjab. But one wonders why haven’t these assemblies adopted resolutions to carve out a separate unit of Sindhi, Hindko, Persian and Balochi speaking majorities of their respective provinces?

They never wanted to include Bengali language in the school curricula ever since Pakistan happened. We can at least take heed from this painful example in history, and avoid another bloody massacre in the process of acknowledging the autonomy and rights of the oppressed. It is quite evident that Pakistanis are refusing to take heed. Instead, they are actually giving a green signal to yet another series of bloodbaths.

Would you not agree? Who cares if countless women and children die in the drone attacks if there is no political will to question or object to it? At the same time, who cares if there is no leadership with enough political will to question or to object to the incessant power and water shortages in Pakistan? Which one should come first? You do the math.

While Pakistan sits after its recent resolution regarding the Seraiki minority, teachers, students and administrators in Arizona are protesting against last year’s ban on Mexican American Studies from the district school curriculum. The district attorney issued a directive for the removal of selective books that were used in the curriculum. The list of banned books is extensive, and mostly includes those by important Hispanic authors and activists. Not only this, officials “confiscated” seven books from classrooms that deemed to promote ethnic resentment during school hours. Among them were several best-selling classics including ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ by Paulo Freire and ‘Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years’ by Bill Bigelow.

It makes perfect sense to see a debate surge around racism, the discriminatory legislations based on racial profiling and skewed immigration laws, Islamophobia, ban on ethnic studies in schools, and the subsequent anti-terror policies targeting American Muslims and other ethnic minorities as barriers to socioeconomic equality in America.

On the foreign policy front, Obama has bombed Afghanistan more than any other American president. There is no doubt that under the Obama regime, the number of annual drone attacks in Afghanistan exceed the drone attacks that have occurred during the entire Bush regime.  Let’s just admit it, Obama has the celebrity prowess that is very similar to John F Kennedy’s and we are not referring to their skin colour here. Kennedy, too, was a democrat and a reformist. However, racists will have trouble agreeing with this odd comparison, of course.

Obama has been true to the democratic ideals and expectations of his predecessors, while also taking clever measures to resolve America’s economic problems. He is a proponent of LGBT and women rights. In fact, he is the first president in American history to endorse marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Progress depends upon sane and rational human beings, rather than cultural schizophrenics fuelled by nationalist apologies and inferiority complexes. We are surrounded by them like barbed wires. To begin with, it is mandatory to have a holistic approach towards the history of racism so that we are at least sure of what it takes to undo the faults of an average Pakistani. Real power lies in the people, not in isolation.

Let’s not blame Barack Obama. Obama works at the White House. Let him do his job.


Fakhra Hassan

A self-identified feminist based in Lahore, she is working on completing her first novella and tweets as @fakhraahassan (twitter.com/fakhraahassan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    I managed to get through reading this, but just. Its like a six piece jigsaw puzzle that has not been assembled correctly.Recommend

  • Imran Con

    “Here’s why: As per a study by the Los Angeles chapter of United Way and National Urban League, conditions in south LA are dismal even after twenty years after the riots. Another report, The State of Black LA, found that African Americans in LA County are still more likely to experience widespread homelessness, high school drop-out and mortality rates.”
    That doesn’t contribute to your conclusion. What isn’t mentioned is some of the most violent gangs reside there. They aren’t friendly with even white criminals. Their discernible traits are being African American and what they wear. The profiles are real, by their own creation. They have “gang colors” on their clothing. The wrong color being worn is enough to get a person shot whether or not they’re in the gangs. It’s actually quite accurate, too. People not involved with that scene are literally afraid to wear those colors. If you see someone wearing it, you don’t really even need to give it much thought before reaching the conclusion.
    Some things made to sound related that aren’t. I’ll give you some “inside” information gained from actually living in the US: don’t bother with race related topics and statistics. A great deal goes unsaid because they don’t want to offend anyone. The only skin color that is fair game for negativity is white in the media. People in the public eye are seriously afraid to offend other races even if it’s the truth. One racism accusation is one lost job, and anything not flattering somehow manages to get passed of as racism anymore. You don’t have to actually be racist. Just insensitive. If I was a media person and said what I did, there would be people calling it racist and if asked why, it would be because I grazed a reference to an unflattering stereotype. Not because I said anything hateful.Recommend

  • Qaisrani

    4 million Saraikis??? Are you kidding me???Have you ever ben to Saraikistan before??
    Similarly donot compare Saraikistan’s case with other ethnic minorities case.They deserve their province at any criteria formulated whether backwardness,socio political exploitation.Just take recent 20b bus metro project in Lahore.Recommend

  • rex

    Yeah it’s all Bush’s fault! Recommend

  • Ahmed

    I honestly don’t understand the point you are trying to make with this article. Is your point that minorities are doing better in Pakistan than in the U.S.? I think the majority of us would disagree.
    Are you saying Obama bombing Afghanistan “more than any other American” is a bad thing or a good thing? Why even bring in his stance on LGBT rights (admirable as it may be) into the next paragraph? What does that have to do with us Pakistanis letting him do his job?

    I think this article needs a serious rewrite/clarification before we can respond to whatever kind of point you’re trying to make. Kind of astounded that Tribune would let something so convoluted get published in the first place.Recommend

  • http://www.idjump.com Idjump

    I really disagree with this article and the writer post.
    Obama is the real terorist who was command their army to kill many muslim people on afghanistan. Who know which muslim country will be broken by usaRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    Does the author know that obama is not all that black but dark tanned since his mother was white. Also Obama claims from his mother side to be an Irish. This is the worst which can happen to anyone. The good news from the CNN is that he is personaly approving the targets for DRONES. Sherry Rehman is of the opinion that they are illegal and this surprised Miss Amanpoor of CNN,

    Rex MinorRecommend