by Chris Stevenson
People keep telling me not to expect President Obama to make it to tommorow’s Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. I’d like to believe otherwise but I know better. “It may ruffle feathers” is the going reason. I add that Obama is already ruffling feathers (and plucked a few of them) at the Summit of the Americas by shaking hands and joining the Hugo Chavez Book club as well as hinting at ending the 50-year-old Cuban Embargo. How worse could it be by boarding AF1 and making a bee-line to Geneva, Switzerland? A whole array of issues was broken down to me; how Obama’s handlers (there’s that word again) need him to free up millions of Italian mob dollars frozen in Cuba since Castro’s takeover (for that matter 4 more days can’t hurt), how the Jews don’t officially have a state so America’s participation would be viewed as anti-Semetic since some of the matters discussed will deal with dialogue against them.
Imagine a black head of state boycotting a racism conference, yet such was expected of him when he was elected. Remember during his victory when some called him the first Jewish US President? Again imagine a black man boycotting a conference on racism, a black head of state essentially not being permitted to attend a conference specifically designed to end something largely started by the very nation he leads. In the past the US denied granting Haiti participation and now we have a black President and he denies himself.
Back in 2001 then-Secretary of State Colin Powell fully and understandably intended to go, and was initially granted permission by then-President Bush. But someone informed Bush about the implications and he changed his decision. This is the 4th such meeting of world nations and one nation has prevented full participation of it by kicking and screaming when the finger is pointed toward them; the Israeli’s and the American Jewish lobby. One nation has prevented and is still preventing a full representation of blacks and that’s the US.
Bush’s reason to stop Powell from leading the US delegation to the ’01 UN Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa is based on unsuccessful attempts by the US to remove what would be percieved as anti-Israeli language AND an insistence to openly discuss slave reparations. Strange but true, especially when you consider the purpose of the conference; to examine the effects of racism and set benchmarks for progress.
Nowadays whenever a race issue lingers for a ridiculous amount of time, other reasons for the delay will be invented, articulated and eventually believed. It seems the one common thread that will thwart a positive outcome after the conference will be the US, Israel, and Europe. Of course Powell still should have gone in 2001 and it will take an African American leader with big cojones to leave his meeting at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and venture to a another meeting and officially discuss ending something the country he leads is largely responsible for; racism. Obama needs to be that man sometime in between today and Friday.
Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist, his articles also appear in the Buffalo Challenger, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org