Barack Obama should feel obliged to steer the war on intolerance

Who might not say that Barack Hussein Obama is the most spectacular of the many outcomes of a historic investment made into Kenya’s education by Tom Mboya, Julius Kiano and certain American individuals of all races, including Bill Scheinman, Frank Montero, Harry Belafonte and Jack Kennedy?

This extraordinary thought comes to the fore especially as today’s American leader prepares to pay Kenya a special visit. It is that, in at least his biological provenance, the occupant of the top seat in the District of Columbia (DC) of the world’s only remaining superpower is specifically Kenyan.

I know it because, in 1959, I was a beneficiary of that initiative. And so, from it, “One lesson learned remains to me / The woodspudge has a cup of three...” That poetic couplet, which I take from Dante Gabriel Rossetti, teaches me that, however powerfully it may be embedded in the social mind, no human folly is everlasting.

For although the folly of ethno-racial bigotry has frequently degraded mankind’s thinking and action ever since we elbowed our way into the evolutionary landscape, mankind often eventually rises to reassert its humanity. In his book, The Human Zoo, the sardonic English zoologist Desmond Morris has a good depiction of how it originates and develops.

Luckily, for me, my parents never entertained any pinheaded thinking of that kind and I went to a high school – the celebrated Alliance in Kikuyuland – which was decidedly multi-ethnic. From Alliance – thanks to the Mboya initiative – I went to Roosevelt University in Chicago’s “Loop” in the United States.

But Caucasian arrogance and savagery was still rampant in that trans-Atlantic country. In most ways, Barack – if I may chum up with the young man (since he is only my son’s age) – was the most important by-product of the Mboya “experiment”. And it is full of lessons for a country like ours, which is completely bogged down in the quagmire of tribe.


No, Obama’s triumph had no antecedent. Obama would become the first non-white person to be nominated by a major political party in a race for the White House. That such a large number of Caucasians eventually voted for Barack may suggest that the Caucasian community had, in the meantime, doffed the straitjackets of the Aryan Spiessbuerger.

Sure, racism still stalks the American society as relentlessly as the “pythons of hunger” that stalked Acholi society (in Okot p’Bitek’s ballad Song of Lawino. From the transnational media, we still hear of Caucasian skinheads, completely unprovoked, setting fire to black homes and churches.

That is why Barack Obama cannot rest on his laurels. Against ethno-racial bigotry, a whole Armageddon remains to be fought and won. In Kenya, the country of Barack Hussein Obama’s own father, deep inside black Africa, deep into the 21st century, many white individuals still behave like Jim Crow.

That is why – as with the Caucasian author of the remarkable book Black Like Me – the first non-white beneficiary of a drastically changed Caucasian mood among America’s electorate should feel obliged to use his authority to intervene somehow to help his father’s native society to wage a decisive battle against similar scourges.

But I can hardly mean that Barack Obama has a superpower right to order our own President about. Indeed, I would turn drastically against Uhuru Kenyatta if he and his lieutenants behaved with genuflection in front of the American leader simply because he brandished the greenback and tried to cow them with a few nuclear warheads.

But blood is always thicker than water. That is why, from Barack Obama’s Oval Office, Kenyans expect only a Daniel in the judgment seat and a cornucopia of economic goodies with no strings attached.

Kenyans verily think that, up his sleeve, President Obama secretes some magic with which to immediately help lift the vast mass of his Kenyan cousins from their debilitating political and economic troubles.

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