June 25, 2009
Obama, the African ColonialBy L.E. Ikenga
Had Americans been able to stop obsessing over the color of Barack Obama's skin and instead paid more attention to his cultural identity, maybe he would not be in the White House today. The key to understanding him lies with his identification with his father, and his adoption of a cultural and political mindset rooted in postcolonial Africa.
Like many educated intellectuals in postcolonial Africa, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was enraged at the transformation of his native land by its colonial conqueror. But instead of embracing the traditional values of his own tribal cultural past, he embraced an imported Western ideology, Marxism. I call such frustrated and angry modern Africans who embrace various foreign "isms", instead of looking homeward for repair of societies that are broken, African Colonials. They are Africans who serve foreign ideas.
The tropes of America's racial history as a way of understanding all things black are useless in understanding the man who got his dreams from his father, a Kenyan exemplar of the African Colonial.
Before I continue, I need to say this: I am a first generation born West African-American woman whose parents emigrated to the U.S. in the 1970's from the country now called Nigeria. I travel to Nigeria frequently. I see myself as both a proud American and as a proud Igbo (the tribe that we come from -- also sometimes spelled Ibo). Politically, I have always been conservative (though it took this past election for me to commit to this once and for all!); my conservative values come from my Igbo heritage and my place of birth. Of course, none of this qualifies me to say what I am about to -- but at the same time it does.
My friends, despite what CNN and the rest are telling you, Barack Obama is nothing more than an old school African Colonial who is on his way to turning this country into one of the developing nations that you learn about on the National Geographic Channel. Many conservative (East, West, South, North) African-Americans like myself -- those of us who know our history -- have seen this movie before. Here are two main reasons why many Americans allowed Obama to slip through the cracks despite all of his glaring inconsistencies:
First, Obama has been living on American soil for most of his adult life. Therefore, he has been able to masquerade as one who understands and believes in American democratic ideals. But he does not. Barack Obama is intrinsically undemocratic and as his presidency plays out, this will become more obvious. Second, and most importantly, too many Americans know very little about Africa. The one-size-fits-all understanding that many Americans (both black and white) continue to have of Africa might end up bringing dire consequences for this country.
Contrary to the way it continues to be portrayed in mainstream Western culture, Africa is not a continent that can be solely defined by AIDS, ethnic rivalries, poverty and safaris. Africa, like any other continent, has an immense history defined by much diversity and complexity. Africa's long-standing relationship with Europe speaks especially to some of these complexities -- particularly the relationship that has existed between the two continents over the past two centuries. Europe's complete colonization of Africa during the nineteenth century, also known as the Scramble for Africa, produced many unfortunate consequences, the African colonial being one of them.
The African colonial (AC) is a person who by means of their birth or lineage has a direct connection with Africa. However, unlike Africans like me, their worldviews have been largely shaped not by the indigenous beliefs of a specific African tribe but by the ideals of the European imperialism that overwhelmed and dominated Africa during the colonial period. AC's have no real regard for their specific African traditions or histories. AC's use aspects of their African culture as one would use pieces of costume jewelry: things of little or no value that can be thoughtlessly discarded when they become a negative distraction, or used on a whim to decorate oneself in order to seem exotic. (Hint: Obama's Muslim heritage).
On the other hand, AC's strive to be the best at the culture that they inherited from Europe. Throughout the West, they are tops in their professions as lawyers, doctors, engineers, Ivy League professors and business moguls; this is all well and good. It's when they decide to engage us as politicians that things become messy and convoluted.
The African colonial politician (ACP) feigns repulsion towards the hegemonic paradigms of Western civilization. But at the same time, he is completely enamored of the trappings of its aristocracy or elite culture. The ACP blames and caricatures whitey to no end for all that has gone wrong in the world. He convinces the masses that various forms of African socialism are the best way for redressing the problems that European colonialism motivated in Africa. However, as opposed to really being a hard-core African Leftist who actually believes in something, the ACP uses socialist themes as a way to disguise his true ambitions: a complete power grab whereby the "will of the people" becomes completely irrelevant.
Barack Obama is all of the above. The only difference is that he is here playing (colonial) African politics as usual.
In his 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father -- an eloquent piece of political propaganda -- Obama styles himself as a misunderstood intellectual who is deeply affected by the sufferings of black people, especially in America and Africa. In the book, Obama clearly sees himself as an African, not as a black American. And to prove this, he goes on a quest to understand his Kenyan roots. He is extremely thoughtful of his deceased father's legacy; this provides the main clue for understanding Barack Obama.
Barack Obama Sr. was an African colonial to the core; in his case, the apple did not fall far from the tree. All of the telltale signs of Obama's African colonialist attitudes are on full display in the book -- from his feigned antipathy towards Europeans to his view of African tribal associations as distracting elements that get in the way of "progress". (On p. 308 of Dreams From My Father, Obama says that African tribes should be viewed as an "ancient loyalties".)
Like imperialists of Old World Europe, the ACP sees their constituents not as free thinking individuals who best know how to go about achieving and creating their own means for success. Instead, the ACP sees his constituents as a flock of ignorant sheep that need to be led -- oftentimes to their own slaughter.
Like the European imperialist who spawned him, the ACP is a destroyer of all forms of democracy.
Here are a few examples of what the British did in order to create (in 1914) what is now called Nigeria and what Obama is doing to you:
America, don't be fooled. The Igbos were once made up of a confederacy of clans that ascribed to various forms of democratic government. They took their eyes off the ball and before they knew it, the British were upon them. Also, understand this: the African colonial who is given too much political power can only become one thing: a despot.
L.E. Ikenga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.