On October 14, 2007, few months after Barak Obama announced his candidacy in the US Democratic presidential race, a biographical article appeared in Britain’s Sunday Times Magazine about Dr. James Watson, the American molecular biologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, saying he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa as all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really.” He went on to say, “Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when “testing” suggested the contrary. He claimed genes responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade. Dr. Watson’s statement was not a coincidence. Rather it was the harbinger of a slew of negative attacks directed at candidate Barack Obama.
Many in the media denigrated his middle name, Hussein, because it is of Muslim origin linking him to Muslim fundamentalists. They dismissed his candidacy on the basis of his racial identity. Is it a coincidence that at a time when Islam and the West are at loggerheads, a man with a Hebrew name, Muslim name and African name will arise preaching the gospel of unity of all people? Or could it be the fruition of Martin Luther King Jr. prophesy, “that one day America will judge a man not by his skin color but by the content of his character” for the position of the President of the United States of America?
The night Barack Obama stood to address the world on his victory as the first African American to win the US Presidency; he was standing against the backdrop of hundreds of years of a racist belief that blacks are inferior to whites. It did not begin with Dr. James Watson. It began when the decision was made to go to Africa for slaves to provide free labor for the development of the new world. This notion of blacks as inferior to their white counterpart reached its apogee when European governments led by Great Britain embarked on a vigorous campaign to promote the virtues of colonialism by denigrating the natives of the colonies and claiming that the savages needed to be civilized by the ‘white man’.
Public displays of indigenous people were held for scientific and leisure purposes. Between 1877 and 1912, approximately thirty “ethnological exhibitions” were presented at the Jardin zoologique d’acclimatation. “Negro villages” would be presented in Paris’ 1878 and 1879 World’s Fair; the 1900 World’s Fair presented the famous diorama “living” in Madagascar, whiles the Colonial Exhibitions in Marseilles (1906 and 1922) and in Paris (1907 and 1931) would also display human beings in cages, often nudes or quasi-nudes. Nomadic “Senegalese villages” were also created, thus displaying the power of the colonial empire to all the population.
In the U.S., Madison Grant, head of the New York Zoological Society, exposed Pygmy Ota Benga in the Bronx Zoo alongside the apes and others in 1906. At the behest of Grant, a prominent scientific racist and eugenicist, zoo director Hornaday, placed Ota Benga in a cage with an orangutan and labeled him “The Missing Link” in an attempt to illustrate Darwinism, and in particular, that Africans like Ota Benga were closer to apes than were whites.
Yes. It is against this backdrop that, Barack Hussein Obama, against all odds won the election to become the first African American US President and to fulfill Dr. King's dream and also quell the notion that his name, ancestry, community, culture, faith, family, heritage, legacy and intellect is inferior to that of any other race or ethnicity.
This is why it takes a village to name a child...