Letter from America #6. October 11,2011

I began writing my Letter from America to Nairobi friends via the (Nairobi) Star in September at the urging of a dear friend who knew that I (stranded as I was in Chicago) needed to connect with Kenyans in the way I had done for so many years. Below you will find the 6th Letter from America, which I sent to The Star’s editor Paul Koite on October 11:

LETTER FROM AMERICA: Did Obama snub Kenyan Diasporans?

By Margaretta wa Gacheru  October 11, 2011

I love the Internet, especially because it allows me to stay tuned to the latest news and views of Kenyans, many of whom are filled with marvelous opinions and don’t have problems sounding off about what those opinions are.

Some of the most opinionated Kenyans are the journalists. And among them, I must include the editors and headline writers whose job it is to extract the essence of a specific story and put that gist into a few pithy words.

One example of that online initiative was a headline I saw this week in one of our widely circulating publications*:

“President Obama snubs Kenyan Diaspora Conference” the headline read.

My reaction was instantaneous: I went ballistic! First I hit the SHARE icon on my computer, then the F icon for Facebook, and then I let the headline writer have it! I wrote:

“Why claim Obama “snubs Kenyan Diaspora Conference”? Have you no SENSITIVITY to Obama’s political situation in the US where rabid right wingers & Tea Party fascists claim he IS a Diasporan Kenyan, born in Nyanza, therefore in the White House unconstitutionally. So how did he “snub” Kenyans??? He did not! He did the best thing for his political career and for Kenyans as well.”

Kenyans may not be fully aware of how hateful some members of the Republican Party are towards President Obama, not simply because he’s a Democrat who, in theory, stands for many of the policies that Republicans abhor, such as Federal assistance to the poor, the unwell, unemployed, aged and victims of natural disasters such as Katrina.

No, unfortunately there are members of the US Congress who I call “closet KKKers”, and by KKK, I don’t mean the “Kikuyu, Kamba, Kalenjin” coalition which seemed to be such a potentially powerful political alliance for a brief period until recently. I mean KKK, the Ku Klux Klan which was a viciously racist and reactionary organization that came into being right around the time that President Abraham Lincoln emancipated African slaves in the mid-19th century.

The issue of African slavery was at the crux of the American Civil War: The Southern states fought a life and death struggle to keep the institution of slavery intact, since they were reaping incalculable wealth off the sweat and slave labor of Africans who had been kidnapped from their home countries and sold at auction like chattel in the ‘New World’ of the Americas.

The Northern states wanted to abolish slavery and Lincoln was also fighting to keep the Union intact since the Southerners wanted to secede and create their own independent state united around the principle of subjugating Blacks.

The Southern states lost that battle, as most people know. Slavery was legally abolished but it took a Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other great African American leaders to ensure that all people of color enjoy the full range of human rights promised to all US citizens.

The point is there are still a few of those KKKers who never accepted that the South lost the Civil War. They still honor the flag of the Southern Confederacy, and they despise the idea of a person of color, especially one of African descent, being ‘their’ Commander in Chief and President.

Some of the most extreme anti-Obama-ites have been nicknamed “Birthers” because they are adamant that Barack Obama was never born in the US. They don’t examine the impossibility of that claim. They only insist he is NOT ‘their’ president. To them he is nothing other than a “Kenyan diasporan”, someone born in his father’s homeland who somehow came here in the Diaspora.

So given the fact that the Birthers, together with members of Congress like Mitch McConnell, are committed to Obama losing in 2012, they would have pounced on the President if he had honored his Kenyan cousins by attending that conference.

Kenyan diasporans are not the first Africans to complain that Obama seems to be studiously avoiding addressing issues related to Africa. The one exception of course is Libya where Obama made haste to join two European heads of state, Sarkozy and Cameron, to finish off the founder and primary patron of the African Union, Big Man Moumar Gadaffi.

But otherwise, Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place on a daily and hourly basis. The Birthers, Tea Party, Republican Party and closet KKKers are keen to ensure he fails at every turn. So while I appreciate the sentiments of Kenyans who would have liked to see and claim their blood connection to the Son of Obama, still we can all give him a bit of slack, since he is in the thick of a race war that very few people want to talk about.

The American media has bandied about the term “class warfare”, especially now that tens of thousands of jobless Americans are occupying scores of city centers all across the country. But few people are openly admitting the racism is a key factor in the trials afflicting Obama politically. But there it is. We have to respect the man for doing the best he can.

*Daily Nation, October 11, 2011
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