Friday, 7 November 2008

Lewis Obama - At Rainbow's End

I like a black Cat that's not trying to be white.

A college canteen... but will the face fit at work?

There have been two cliff hangers in my life recently, two things I desperately wanted to happen… two people I wanted to win. Strangely they have one obvious thing in common, namely their race or skin colour.

In recent years Formula One motor racing, long dominated by Schumacher, has been a bit boring but it’s now had two seasons of close racing, the championship only being decided in the final race. What’s been special for me though has been having someone I really wanted to win, not just because he’s British but because he represents the ‘British Dream’. Lewis Hamilton, an ordinary lad of mixed parentage making it big in motor racing is a superb role model for people everywhere.

And now of a few days later there’s Barack Obama.

After eight dreadful years when the leadership of the one superpower has aggressively done what it could against the best interests of America and the wider world, suddenly the storm clouds seem to be clearing. Obama, our rainbow man, might at last restore our faith in the great country that has given us so much more than McDonalds and Mickey Mouse.

America is a middle kingdom which, if it remains inward looking will, like China two thousand years ago, inevitably decline. Obama is a man of exceptional quality who could guide his country with a real understanding of the rest of the world. Though his colour is skin deep, it is his cultural depth that should enable the US to restore faith in its fine founding principles.

Thai people too will, I hope, take Barack Obama to their hearts despite the colour of his skin.

This is the country where my floor mops are produced by “Black Man”, the leading brand. "Think cleaning, Think Black Man" is their slogan. Just across the road I can buy “Negro” brand hair dye and ‘Darkie’ toothpaste with its top hatted minstrels has only recently been rebranded as ‘Darlie’.

Thailand also has its own brand of internal racism or caste that is quite insidious and wasteful. Beauty is white, but so is your chance of being accepted in a higher position than a labourer and of getting a job beyond the rice fields. I’m told that job application forms sometimes require you to state the shade of your skin.

A family therefore educates the child that pops out whiter than its siblings because she has a chance of a job in a hospital, the civil service or even a bank. The others are not acceptable above the lowest rank of society. Selection of a candidate for a job with a customer interface, especially a female, is thus decided largely on looks. This inevitably discriminates against the people from Isaan, the handsome, broad faced people who just happen to be dark and is even perhaps a part of the current political struggle that seeks to disenfranchise them for being incapable of voting responsibly.

I thus find it so sad that beautiful, honey-coloured Thai girls become pallid ghosts as they powder their faces and apply lightening creams that can cause considerable skin damage. Michel Jackson, what have you done?

The peoples of the world are all colours of the rainbow so why can we not be colour blind?

Which is why I take heart from Hamilton and Obama as their achievements are crucially grounded on their broad cultural backgrounds… because they both won for me and because they so utterly transcend the colour of their skins.


FrogBlogger said...

Wholeheartedly concur. I also admire Lewis Hamilton's reluctance to be labelled an icon of black achievement, but rather an example of the potential of all those, irrespective of background and race, to realise their dreams. Real maturity in someone so young.

Maria said...

Obama´s victory is being celebrated all over the world, for many good reasons. He´s bringing a lot of hope, and ´m sure he will make this world a better place. It already feels a lot easier to breathe, doesn´t it?!

Lloyd said...

I beg to differ, this is something that so many people grand stand upon.

The "poor" brown skinned rice farmers children are NOT segregated because of their skin color, it is because people who are not brought up with a certain level of knowledge simply do not understand much of what makes the world go around.

Blame it on class or poor education but there is a knowledge gap between those with money and those without. The habits of poorer families do not bode well for your average worker, in fact they will only result in the same level of income growth as that of the family of lesser income.

All is good praising someone for what they are yet to do, only time will tell so far there is nothing to differentiate Mr Obama from Mr W Bush except skin color.

FrogBlogger said...

Lloyd - there may indeed there be an element of truth in what you write, with reference to the issue of lack of education. However with respect, it's rather a bland and superficial assertion, along the lines of one of PAD's arguments during the current dispute, in their demands that the constitution be revised to allow for 'amendments' to universal suffrage (a contradiction in terms, obviously). Yet to my mind, suggesting racism is no more than the quite understandable exclusion of the less worldly-wise is a massive over-simplification. (Perhaps I misunderstand you, but that's the impression I got from your comment). Society (or rather its more privileged upper echelons) gains and has always gained considerable strength from discrimination, maintaining an 'us and them' status quo, and Thailand is no different in that respect. Around the world this manifests itself as class/caste, race, or occasionally gender discrimination, all of which - irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the initial causative factors - develop a momentum of their own that no longer has anything to do with the original cause. Various levels of discrimination were inherent in our species' evolutionary success story, even if they are much less appropriate in contemporary society. This biological programming, combined with the meme effect, give rise to racism and other forms of discrimination today.

This is what I, and most others that denounce blatant examples of racism, are railing against - such discrimination is no longer justifiable in modern society. It goes without saying that we are in favour of better education for certain sectors of society, but that requires a major effort to improve their access to education in the first place. It's pretty clear to me that we don't go out of our way to help the less privileged up the ladder of success. Understandable really - there would be less room on each rung for those of us already there. And who would provide our cheap labour? ;-)

Anonymous said...

political analogies with race a car driver that's new for you

America can once again be a great country since they have A full Lefty, Which may be better than the Full Righty they have in Office Now,

you can never go wrong when you bring the whole Thai Marketing/ Racial Naming thing ..yet once again

mike said...

Lloyd, two differences that we already aware of between McCain and Obama come to mind. First, McCain is Republican, a supporter of Bush; and we all know what that means. Second, Obama's experience of Asia was living there; McCain's ? - bombing its people. I think Obama might have a better world view than his Republican counterpart.

Thai Girl said...

Thanks for your comment, Lloyd.

If you're saying that there's a whole range of reasons that make sure the poor in Thailand remain poor, then I agree with you. This is a hierarchical society with little social mobility. You need education which takes money, you need to come from the right strata of society and you need contacts to get the right job.

If you read my post again, you'll see that what I'm saying is that where all the factors except skin colour are equal, as with two sisters, the darker one has much less opportunity than the lighter skinned one.

I have observed this smoked glass ceiling and seen it in operation many, many times since I first visited Thailand in the seventies. It's a fact of life here! Skin colour really does matter.

As to Obama, he may be far too inexperienced and prove to be a disaster. However, after that aggressive cowboy failed oil man from Texas whose aim is to divide people ('you're either for us or agin us'), his ability to be inclusive and bring people together and the insights his international background should give him is just the sort of leadership the world needs.

I'm encouraged too that the American people have voted for him despite the fact that he has a good brain and has an African father and rejected yesterday's man whose judgment is so poor that he picked a running mate who only recently got a passport and who reputedly thought that Africa is a country and not a continent.

I'm a reaist but I do live in hope.


MarkN said...

I was heartened to see a former law lecturer elected to the Presidency of the United States, and one who feels comfortable as a speaker of polysyllabic words and dynamic oratory. May he give the job of reputation change on all levels a good shake. On related skin issues . . . I have heard mothers in this country lament that their talented daughters, now effectively bilingual and living in foreign countries, are much darker than desired and therefore less beautiful alongside their prized and lesser accomplished sisters. Just as sad as a market that sells deodorant with whitening agent in it. I suppose if you believe that white is beautiful then you need to go the whole way and hit the armpits too. On other sides of the planet people destroy their skin with UV rather than whitening agents. Is everyone simply trying to be someone else?

Just My thoughts said...

you dont really beleive that Palin didnt know that Afica was a continent? all that was hearsay rumors, their are no recordings

she did work as a News Repoter, she is not my Choice for Goverment, but she is not dumb either,

Just because i wouldnt vote for Her Or McCain i am not going to repeat lies about them,

but what ever happens Now, it will be better than the Past 8 Years

i do agree about the color issue, but it not Just thailand, thats every where, i lived in Venezuela and it the same story their, actualy i cant think of a place i been that didnt prefer lighter color skin tones,