A man speaking more than 3000 miles away moved and uplifted me today as a Black woman and gave me hope for the future. He was eloquent, passionate, good looking and fervent in his desire to make history; to show what could be achieved with simple belief and faith in one's ability. His team expected 1000 people to turn up to hear him announce his candidacy for the presidency of the most powerful country in the world, but 15,000 actually made the journey to be part of history, fired by what was possible. I was one of the first to subscribe to Senator Barack Obama's online campaign a few weeks ago, though I am not an American. But I share one thing with Mr Obama, the belief that anything is possible if we just believe it, have faith in it and act upon it. I believe in the power of thoughts to get us where we want to go and Obama has obviously been exercising his thoughts, big time!
As a Black woman in the UK, there are a lot of things I admire about America, though I wouldn't live there, as I love Britain too much. But America certainly has that quality of personal encouragement and the fulfilment of dreams. Being successful might cost you an arm and a leg in financial terms, but there are lots of fellow dreamers who are only too willing to help you to achieve that dream, living vicariously through you to taste their own success too. America's vastness, immense opportunity and huge diversity inspire one to greatness and Barack Obama, a virtual unknown, is the living embodiment of what is possible when the time is right, the belief is high and the stars come together.
Terror and Crime
Britain sadly lacks such dreams and success for Black people. We hear about British Blacks only in negative terms of terror and crime from a tiny minority. No one from minority communities is positively highlighted regularly in the media, as they do with the members of the White majority, because very few minorities are in the media to give it an alternative view and to widen its appeal. But the media merely reflects the rest of British society in its negative treatment of those who are different. If you wish to see the true visibility of minorities in Britain, just cast your eyes around the entourage of the British Royal Family and that of the Prime Minister. The only face you might see which is Black will belong to the odd bodyguard. There will be few Black people of substance in these illustrious circles. But we are in the 21st century and minorities have been here for years. Yet, leadership at these heights, among people who are supposed to lead our Commonwealth, is crucial to unite the nation and to give a strong message of inclusion. A nation divided against itself cannot thrive in any way, it merely implodes from the inside.
Britons talk a lot about our multicultural society, but Black talent stays hidden in its own community, a victim of fear, prejudice, lack of opportunity and sheer exclusion, clothed in invisibility and neglect, while deviance is trumpeted as the only Black and Asian achievement worth noting in the public arena. We are about 25 years behind America in the way we treat our diverse communities, still a very long way from a Black Prime Minister. Is change really possible among such entrenched institutional racism? Perhaps not in my lifetime.
After all, in 2007, the Local Government Association (LGA), based in London and avidly promoted by Mayor Livingston's office, has all 31 of its most senior officers being White, despite having 39% of minority staff working for it! The magnitude of this situation seems to have been lost on the Mayor's diversity team if we can have such a discriminatory situation in place, and posing as normal! This authority (which boasts itself as being "The UK's top government body") represents and advises every council in the UK, councils which serve a multicultural society. Yet not one of its minority workers has been deemed suitable for its highest positions to reflect this diversity. What message of competence is the LGA giving out to talented minorities, despite its office being based in our most diverse capital?
My pessimism is borne out by that incredible example of exclusion. But, like Senator Obama, I audaciously live in hope. My love for the UK and its potential does not permit me to accept otherwise. It would be too depressing.
Good luck, Senator. I have few doubts that when you reach the White House, you will also have changed an awful lot of perceptions about what is possible right across the world. And, who knows, even Britain, and its own minorities, might learn something of value from your courage and audacity. Thank you for sharing your vision in such a definitive way.