Senator Obama’s Impact Globally

In the International Herald Tribune, Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of education & history at New York University, offers an opinion piece from Accra, Ghana, on how Senator Obama’s campaign is playing out globally. Some popular-culture data indicate much (credit: nova3web) excitement throughout much of the African diaspora about a son of Africa being a possible president of the powerful United States:

There’s a new hit song in Ghana this spring. You hear it everywhere: in bars, restaurants, shops and taxicabs. It has a catchy rhythm, a melodic chorus, and a loud note of praise for an American presidential candidate. The song is entitled simply “Barack Obama.” Recorded by the Ghanaian reggae-rapper Blakk Rasta, it celebrates Obama’s ascendance as a “great sign” for black people everywhere.

Beyond Africa popular culture and other data indicate similar excitement:

It joins a host of other pan-African musical tributes to Obama, from Jamaica and Trinidad to Cameroon and Kenya.

He adds a comment on the fears of many people of African descent about Senator Obama’s welfare in a country where, as we noted in a previous post, white supremacists are organizing dramatically as a result of Senator Obama’s nomination:

But the Ghanaian song adds two starkly negative chords. Over the rat-a-tat-tat of simulated gunfire, it cautions Obama about white racists who could harm him.

Given the growth in supremacist organizations, this is a realistic concern, yet it gets much more attention overseas than in the United States. Why is that? In addition, Zimmerman points out yet more complications down the line for support for Senator Obama, as certain political views become much more visible in the African diaspora. The Ghanan song next

warns that [Obama’] entire nation faces doom on Judgment Day, because of “legalizing abortion in America.”

Zimmerman asks a rhetorical question about whether this song’s writers, and much of Africa, is yet aware of Senator Obama’s strong support of abortion, as well as of gay rights. Zimmerman notes that in most of Africa abortions are banned by law. In addition,

in most African countries, all homosexual activity is illegal. In Kenya, the birthplace of Obama’s father, gay sex is punishable by five to 14 years in jail.

Zimmerman ends by wondering if a majority of Africans will continue to be excited about Senator Obama’s nomination once his political campaign gets more attention there.

These are complicated issues indeed. It is interesting how much this presidential election in our hyper-accentuated cyber and media age has shown the very close connections of peoples across the globe, with much more international concern over this election and the U.S. presidency than ever before.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq certainly has contributed in major ways to increased global interconnectedness, as has the declining economic power of the United States and its increasing dependence on Asian economic powers and on other non-European (for example, oil) countries. Now, too, the serious nomination of the first person of color ever for the top political office in the United States, indeed in any Western country, has made this country yet more an un-detachable and dependent part of the international world political-economic system. Stay tuned.


  1. adia

    Ironically, I suspect the Republican machine will try to turn Obama’s international support into a negative. I think they’ll try to return to the Bush arguments that we don’t “need” international support to do “what’s best for Americans,” and will suggest that Obama’s global popularity suggests he’ll be too broad-minded and concerned with our standing in the international community (read: weak) when it comes to doing what’s best for Americans, similar to the charges they leveled against Kerry in ’04. However, since this support is coming from countries that are not majority white, they will also be able to use this support to “otherize” him further.
    I really don’t envy Obama and cannot imagine the strain he must be under. I wonder how long he’ll be able to stand up to continuous pressure without either cracking or compromising. In some ways he’s already made (relatively) minor concessions–the speech denouncing black fathers w/o acknowleding the difficulty of being a black father in such a gendered racist society being one example. I worry that bigger concessions are down the road. And I actually think his support for gays/lesbians could be a key area where he may capitulate, as he supports “civil unions” but won’t go so far as to endorse gay marriage.

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