The New Man

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Obama’s victory has been hailed as a victory for America. It is an affirmation that the country lives by the ideals that it was founded on. The vibrant movement that Obama mobilized shows that the government really is of the people. His unlikely ascendancy shows that it is still a land of opportunity – where a middle-class multi-racial kid from a single parent upbringing can rise to the highest office in the land.

For a nation that started out treating black people as sub-human and just 30 years ago criminalized interracial marriages, the transformation is amazing. As an African living in America, I share the euphoria of the black community. Obama is Joshua to Martin Luther King’s Moses. Dr. King led his people through the great struggle. He inspired many and spoke of a future in which the value of a man would be determined by the quality of his character – regardless of race. This is that time and this is the land of his dreams.

In the last speech he gave on the day before he was assassinated, King talked about the promised land:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

It is noteworthy that Obama is not the traditional black revolutionary. He is the “new black man”. Reading his life story, you get the impression that he looks beyond race. Being black is only part of who he is. Franz Fanon spoke of this new man in his advice to the 3rd world revolutionaries:

For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must make a new start, develop a new way of thinking, and endeavor to create a new man.

As an African, I see a different promise in Obama. I don’t think his administration will especially prioritize Africa or give us extra development aid. He already has quite a job cut out for him fixing America. What I do hope is that he will show the next generation of African leaders the value of the New Man. There are many parallels between the black struggle in America and the African struggle. The Americans have overcome by evolving a new man. We need to borrow a leaf from them and move past the fixation with colonialism and neocolonialism, blaming our present on the crimes of past generations. We need to formulate a plan of the future of our continent that does not involve retribution or righting past wrongs. We need our own messenger of Hope.


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