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.