With President Obama’s recent re-election, the White House received congratulatory messages from leaders around the world. But, what are the implications of President Barack Obama’s re-election for people of color and minority populations around the world?
President Obama’s campaign said it was the “the clear choice on immigration,” while Romney might have tried to make English the official language of the U.S. and “turn off the magnets like tuition breaks or other breaks that draw people into this country illegally.” In an interview with José Z. Calderón, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies at Pitzer College, he said, “Certainly the election represented whether we were going to go back to a time before the Civil Rights movement,” which he felt the Romney campaign represented. In contrast to Romney’s platform, Calderón believes Obama’s campaign was “able to build a coalition similar to the one in 2008” and advance the possibilities of an open door for immigrant rights and the legalization of the 12 million immigrants in the United States.
Despite being more progressive and liberal leaning than the United States on many issues, Europe and European integration of minority populations is still an issue. With groups such as The Golden Dawn, an openly racist, homophobic, and nationalist group, in Greece gaining more power within the government, what is the impact of Obama’s re-election? As Professor Jayne O. Ifekwunigwe writes in an opinion piece shortly after the European Union received the Nobel Piece Prize, “Ethnic and racial divisions remain deep within Europe.”
As Iranian-German filmmaker, Negar Taymoorzadeh said, “I think it means a lot in terms of representation of black people in the U.S. as well as globally and I feel like a lot of people are less critical towards U.S. policy because they sympathize with the idea of a black president.” But, she added that personally “it doesn’t mean so much.”
Looking at the United Kingdom, Dharmesh Mistry a British-Indian philanthropic consultant said, “I still think we have a long way to go before we will have a minority in that kind of a role. But the UK context, history, structures are so different that it won’t happen here for a while longer.” Mistry sees Obama’s politics as an example of a visionary leadership.
Shatara Ford, an African American feminist filmmaker, living and working in London for the past 4 years says, “It’s a really good thing that Obama will become a two-term president. Seeing as two-term presidents are more common,” she added that, “in the history books he will be perceived as normal — not some aberration or snap reaction to America’s failing economy.”
Ford also said, “On a symbolic level … just seeing a man of color, son of an immigrant and a global citizen — in the most literal sense, is important for ‘othered’ populations everywhere because physically, he represents them: the other. He also represents them in practice, as what he stands for and his policies (international and domestic) come from a place of shared experience.”
Courtney Moffett-Bateau, from Detroit, who recently completed her Master’s in Transnational Studies and has been living in Germany for the past four years, said Obama’s re-election “shows that the United States is finally ready to allow a person of color to assume a place of authority in the highest form of government.” However, she said, “it is obvious that race politics still play an active role in the American governmental process.”
Speaking with a colleague from China, who preferred not to be named, she said Obama is “the choice of most minority groups in the world.”
In India, I spoke with Mansi Ma, a researcher in Delhi. As she recalls the memory of living in the U.S. in 2008, “I was proud to cast my vote for Barack Obama,” remembering his active role as a community organizer and the feeling of great hope.
As Ma said, “much has changed during the past four years … especially seeing him from a different geo-political vantage point.” Reading about the United States from India, she says, “the president of all the world’s hegemony matters greatly no matter who he is.”
According to Ma, the Obama that came to India in 2010 did not speak of entrenched social inequalities, but of how to generate money for American companies. Ma said that President Obama has “ordered drone attacks in Pakistan which killed hundreds of civilians which I don’t support.”
As Ma says, Obama has “ping-ponged the past four years from a beacon of hope, to ruler of hegemony, to supporting the working class, to killing civilians, to propagating MNC capitalist exploitation, and to saving us from the potential horror of Mitt Romney.”
Janet Son, a Korean-Canadian studying Anthropology in Copenhagen, said, “it’s really inspiring,” She believes, “having a visual representation of a person of color in power is huge symbolically for people all over the world because he is black. Symbolically it [Obama's re-election] has a lot of power.”
Whether or not the symbolism will turn into responsible action on behalf of immigrants, people of color and minority groups around the world remains to be seen.