Has anyone heard of Ku Klux Klan, a white American legacy and a dark blot on American civilisation? It passed into history a long time ago. Founded in 1866, its purpose was to restore white supremacy in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Known better through its initials, KKK, it preached racism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism and some of its members took part in lynching scores, if not hundreds, of blacks, derogatorily dismissed as ?niggers? and quite a few white men as well, in the largely southern states of America where blacks were a substantial minority. It was the most disgraceful face of the United States of America at one time and had, at its peak, a membership of 4.5 million or some 15 per cent of America'spopulation.
It is a long, long way from the KKK to Barack Obama, who is aspiring to the presidentship of his country. It is even a long, long way from 1957 when, as a correspondent of the Press Trust of India at the United Nations, I went to Montgomery, Alabama, to interview Martin Luther King Jr, at the height of the now-famous bus strike, initiated by a black woman, Rosa Parks. My American media friends at the United Nations pleaded with me to wear a turban, to declare my Indian identity, so frightful were they of any hurt done to me, advice which I declined to take. It was as I interviewed Martin Luther King for over two hours that I was to realise how far behind black were in a society that claimed to be civilized.
It is a far cry from those days half a century ago, to the present times. First, it was John F.Kennedy, a Catholic who was to break the religious barrier; then Henry Kissinger, a Jew, broke the Semitic barrier. Later, it was Colin Powell'sturn to beak the race barrier, to become the US Secretary of State. Since then, Condoleeza Rice, a woman and black, who has taken his place. Now Barack Obama is aspiring for the US Presidentship. Should he succeed in his legitimate, but breath-taking ambition, Obama, surely, would make history. It would make Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Klan'sFirst national leader, turn in his grave, but one can imagine somewhere in heaven, Abraham Lincoln would smilingly give his benediction to his successor at the White House, almost a century and a half later. It only shows what a tremendous social revolution has taken place in the United States. If only Martin Luther King were alive, he would have gone down on his knees to thank Almighty for making his dream come true.
King was opposed to the Vietnam War. Obama has always been opposed to the Iraq War which has taken a huge toll of American soldiers. But will Obama make it to the highest government office in the US? Who can tell? What is Obama? In a recent electioneering speech that made the headlines Obama made his racial origins clear. He said: ?I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived the Depression (of the thirties) to serve Patton'sArmy during World War II and a white grandmother?.I am married to a black American who carries within her, the blood of slaves and salve-owners?.I have brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, uncles and cousins of every race and every hue scattered across three continents and, for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country is my story ever possible?.?.
Obama, as he claims, is half black, half white. He had a non-practicing Muslim father and later, an Indonesian step-father, a Muslim by name Lolo Soetoro. Obama was listed in his school certificate as a Muslim, but, according to those who knew him in his childhood days, he was ?an irregularly practicing Muslim who rarely, or occasionally, prayed with his step-father in a mosque?. Obama grow up in a Third World Muslim country, but later returned to the United States went to some of the best schools in the country, graduated from Harvard, no mean achievement. At 46 he would be, like Kennedy, one of the youngest aspirants to the US presidentship; what is more, he would be the first man to be a US President with ?Hussein? as his middle name. Born a Muslim, turned a Christian in his later years?he is now a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ-Obma is the ultimate in America'salleged vision of a mixture of race, religion and class. As The Khaleej Times recently put it, ?if any one can restore America'srelations with the rest of the world, repairing its battered image across the globe, it is Barack Hussein Obama?. But will he finally make it to the White House? Who can tell?
Right now he seems to be ahead of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party race for presidential candidature. That he has done so well at the primary level indicates a massive change-over in American thinking. It is difficult to believe that a white man will vote for a black candidate for the presidentship, of all positions.
But one has to remember that not only was John Kennedy killed, so was his presidential aspirant and younger brother, Robert Kennedy; murdered also was Martin Luther King. Against this horrendous background, would it be easy for Obama to survive as a President? It takes only one man to do the killing. Perhaps somebody must read Obama'shoroscope, if he has one. In his recent 37-minute ?historic? speech in Pennsylvania, Obama made a relevant point about race. Race, he said, is an issue that cannot be ignored in America. He conceded that in white America, there is anger against blacks, though the anger ?may not get expressed in public, in front of others.? But that anger, he added did find voice in the barbershop and around the kitchen table. It would truly be a miracle were Obama to get elected as President of the only Super Power, in the world. It will constitute a social revolution the like of which has not been witnessed in the white world, be it in America or Europe. Fancy a half white half black, almost a half Muslim half Christian, a half African, half American, getting elected to the presidentship of conservative United States of America! What would that signify? The entire Muslim world is watching. All of black Africa is watching. Indeed, the entire world is watching how the average white American will vote. Should Obama come on top, it would be a victory for liberalism, for equality of race and the irrelevance of religion in politics. But it is all if, if, if. Miracles can?and some-times do- happen, but only when their time has come. Has that time come?