Let’s not blame Obama

Published: July 13, 2012
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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

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.