Wed, 22 Jun 2011 Feature Article

Obama is a Victim of His Own African Success Story

Obama is a Victim of His Own African Success Story

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Recently, President Barack H. Obama has come under a barrage of criticism for not focusing America's foreign policy well enough on the African continent. A Washington Post article titled “First Lady's African Trip Resurrects Criticism of President on African Issues” (6/18/11), for instance, claimed that since he became the first African-American to be elected president of the United States, Mr. Obama has added very little to policy guidelines established by the Clinton and the Bush II administrations.

Mr. Obama and his supporters promptly counter that Africa constitutes a remarkable chunk of his $ 63 billion Global Initiative program, with emphasis going beyond the traditional band-aid approach to HIV/Aids assistance to focusing on a more comprehensive agenda for his fatherland.

Whatever be the case, the fact of the matter is that President Obama has faced and continues to face a sort of racial hostility that none of his immediate white predecessors faced, and which may well have palpably impacted his policy towards Africa. The first time that one encountered such hue and cry was during the 1988 U. S. presidential primary of the Democratic Party, when the Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson appeared to pose a quite formidable challenge to then-Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. Discussants on several British Broadcasting Corporation talking-heads began to wonder what a Jackson presidency would mean, in terms of American assistance and relationship with its traditional Western-European allies.

The unspoken implication then, of course, was that a President Jackson was apt to economically ignore Europe for Africa, the land of Mr. Jackson's ancestry, pretty much ignoring the genetico-cultural reality of a President Jackson as a bona fide human product of the modern American Republic with a mixed racial and ethnic identity. Indeed, it was during this second attempt at the U. S. presidency that the Carolina native and then Chicago-resident Rev. Jackson made his most memorable speech on the fuzzy question of race and African-American identity.

Back then, beaming somberly from the podium of the Democratic Party Convention at New York City's Madison Square Garden, the former basketball scholarship recipient declared: “There are two types of blood coursing through my veins; one is African and the other is European. I am, therefore, an African-American, a bona fide creation of the United States of America.”

The runner-up of the 1988 Democratic Party's presidential primary went on to observe that it was the preceding reality of history that had willed his indelible “African-American” identity. Of course, had he desired to strive for a more dramatic effect, the charismatic executive chairman of the National Rainbow Coalition might well have also added that there was, indeed, a third and often muted strain of Native-American blood coursing through his veins.

But even as the foremost Americanist scholars would readily attest, until quite recently, the United States was routinely envisaged as a bi-racial polity of a master-race of people of European descent, on the one hand, and African-descended citizens, on the other.

Whatever the shortcomings of his foreign policy vis-à-vis the African continent, what needs to be borne in mind is the fact that though he was almost totally raised by the white distaff side of his family, President Obama has never been forgiven by many a conservative white Republican Party hack for having had a Black-African father he even barely knew. Thus although he was born and bred in Hawaii, where his Kansas-native maternal grandparents had immigrated sometime during the 1950s, the first biologically half-African POTUS (i.e. President of the United States) continues to be viciously dogged by fabricated claims of a continental African birth which, in effect, implies that he is legally not qualified to be elected President of the United States of America. Such fabricated claims persist almost three years into the Obama presidency. The latter state of affairs is, of course, solely predicated on the close kinship ties that Mr. Obama has cultivated with members of his father's Kenyan family.

For me, though, what is equally significant to observe is the fact that the most vocal African-born critics of Mr. Obama's purportedly lackluster African policy who are resident here in the United States, many of them for two decades or more, have yet to rally, civil-rights style, in support of the legitimacy of the Obama presidency.

Needless to say, the preceding observations are compounded by the fact that Mr. Obama inherited a ramshackle American economy the likes of which has never been witnessed since the Great Depression of the 1920s. Couple the preceding with a double-digit rate of unemployment which seems to be getting worse by the day, and it becomes quite understandable that Mr. Obama would not have enough time to focus on the, admittedly, harrowing affairs of a people who are by no measurable means his primary constituents.

Further tack onto the foregoing, the energy- and money-guzzling war on terror, and it ought to be amply clear by now that unless he is granted a second term of office, there is pretty little that President Obama can do, besides simply stabilizing an apocalyptic situation by transforming it into one of a normal crisis.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of “The Obama Serenades” (, 2011). E-mail: [email protected].