Sunday, November 02, 2008

Something to learn from the US?

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that in 1963. Yet forty-five years later, as Americans go to elect their forty-fourth president on Tuesday, the biggest factor influencing people's choice seems to be the colour of Barack Obama's skin. It seems very very strange to see the most powerful democracy in the world forget everything about the candidates' policies or their past records and concentrate primarily on race. While in India, I had a misconception that "black" was a politically incorrect word to refer to people. Well, that, as I said, was a misconception. All the magazines and TV channels here are conducting pre-poll surveys like "What percentage of white women over thirty will vote for Obama?" or "How many black voters will vote for McCain?" Time Magazine even ran a cover showing Obama's face painted white.

I am new to this country and in no way competent to understand the nuances of American politics and the policies of the different parties. I personally have no idea who is better for USA (or for the world) - John McCain or Barack Obama. But considering the fact that US is the most powerful nation on earth, there must be some logic in the way voters choose the most powerful person of that nation. I have never seen any prime ministerial candidate's race or caste or religion become the major issue in an Indian election (BJP tried that against Sonia Gandhi last time, but they lost). Since America is successful, maybe it's time we took a page out of their book and decided our next prime minister based on his/her race or caste or religion rather than the party agenda.

By the surveys here it seems Obama is going to win after all, but that's only because of the economic crisis. Before that, it was assumed that Obama was going to lose because of racism, and McCain may even make it now. This post is not about supporting one candidate over the other - I don't have the knowledge needed for that. This post is meant to make people ponder about how progressive America really is, and if we Indians should backtrack on our paths and become a little 'less progressive' about equality of people. Maybe racism has its good points after all, because the citizens of the most powerful country in the world can't all be stupid!

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