Barack Obama, villain or hero?

When it comes to places, the affection that I have for my hometown, Lagos, is matched only by a sort of nostalgia that I harbour towards Tampere, the Finnish city I’m from, which shapes many of my memories but in which I’ve never lived.

Yet, my being Scandinavian feels like a secret. Not from anyone, I write about it here quite often, for instance, but from Finland itself. When I am in Tampere I take pleasure in my visit inwardly. I go for long walks alone. During such walks, I imagine my feet kissing the earth which is “mine” and I wander in the echoes of Finnish poetry. Without Finns meddling into my “Finnishness”, or lack of it for that matter, I can appreciate Finland for what it is – a country of wondrous natural landscapes, exciting mythology and a palpable sentiment of kaiho (longing).

What I am doing with my Finnish identity is bargaining. If life were a services contract mine would say Finnish** (**terms and conditions apply). The same goes with my Nigerian “contract”, of course. Bargaining. Negotiating. Winning here, loosing there. I quite possibly find myself in London to avoid too much haggling, it’s hassle-freer to be Scandinavian-African here.

Obama is bargaining too. It can’t be easy being the first black president in a traditionally, stubbornly white-patriarch empire.

In a sense we all are bargaining with our identities and it’s a complex, messy business full of paradox.
However, paradox, as I wrote on my facebook page a few days ago, leads to discussion and dialogue is always progress.

Yet, much of the commentary on Barack Obama is black or white, no pun intended, and this is dangerous. It disengages with paradox and therefore progressive conversations. It views Obama either as a warmongering imperialist villain or as a heroic symbol of racial hope and equality. We need more nuance in our conversations about this historical character. In return, a holistic approach gives validity to both the work of Obama’s that we may appreciate and that which make us shudder.

Who knows what the next four years of Obama’s presidency will bring. Of course it’s reasonable to predict continued hegemonic, military advances around the globe. It’s simultaneously also plausible that Americans will see stricter laws on gun ownership, forward-thinking action on gay rights, fairer immigration laws and dare one hope for engagement with racial and ethnic injustices? What do you think the major issues in American foreign and domestic policy will be?

More than anything, I think it would be great if Obama’s second term reveals much more of the bargaining that he has to do to fulfil his role as US president. No doubt it’s that precise negotiating that awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize and that also enables him to sleep at night despite US drones killing innocent people. We should avoid a one-sided narrative so that the complexities can emerge. We should aim to make the best of the historicism in his presidency, after all who knows what in the world we might need to deal with next.


  • Bert

    Dear Ms Afropolitan,

    I have a question for you.

    As I told you before, I am a Belgian, my fiancee is from Nigeria and we have a little boy boy together and all of us are living in Belgium

    I’m curious if there are books of movies or anything about Afro-Europeans, as there is now even “mass entertainment” about AfroAmerican history. Could you help me to find some relevant and interesting information about Afro-European history?

    Kind regards,

  • MsAfropolitan

    Hi Bert,

    Did I already share with you the website Afro Europe It’s a good place to hang out.
    Unfortunately no books about Afro-European history immediately come to mind. Is there a particular angle you’d like to read about or more generally speaking? African American culture has for long served as a dominant culture reference for African heritage people everywhere but I think that the literature is picking up gradually. I know of a couple with an Afro-Scandinavian anthologies and of course the Black British literature is relatively abundant where you have writers from Paul Gilroy to Zadie Smith who’ve written about race in British contexts in different ways. If any others come to mind I’ll make sure to get in touch.

    Hope your family is well :)

  • Super Sis

    RE: The meeting at the White House with African-American leaders and Pres. Obama (Feb. 2013)


    This meeting is a positive sign that at least there is high level discussion of the many problems in the Black Community. In order to get things done, we have to create plans and find the resources to do them. Considering the TEA-PUBLICANS in Congress are trying to cut off all funds that help unemployed, working people, the poor college students, children, and the elderly…. there is a big challenge before we can expect “magic to happen for Black folks.” The GOP does not even want to give poor mothers and children food stamps.

    Pres. Obama’s committment to fighting CLIMATE CHANGE is one possible avenue for job creation. We also have to get some of our WEALTHY BLACK CELEBRITIES…the pro-athletes, rappers, preachers, etc. involved in putting some money into various non-profits, job training services, youth programs, etc. There are programs already doing good work…but they need some money. There are educators who offer seminars, books and materials…but they need to see more distribution of their goods into the schools, youth groups, etc.

    And of course, it was not long (not even a day) after this meeting took place…that the “negro Obama critics” started making snide, foul comments about this meeting…claiming “nothing got done.” It’s the same bunch that was ranting that…”Obama does not care about Black folks…” — and one of their leaders was at a forum yelping about…. “Obama does not deserve to put his hand on the MLK Bible.” But when you check to find out what those critics are doing to help anybody… the answer is: NOT MUCH…but blowing hot toxic air. Seldom a dirty word is said against the TEA-PUBLICANS and their foul actions against creating jobs or helping the poor. These ‘negro critics’ yelp about what Pres. Obama does or does not do for Blacks… while they are some of the biggest promoters of the foul antics of gold tooth rappers and celebrities who don’t do pooooo….to help anybody.

    Some of them could take one of their gold bling-bling necklaces off and pawn it and donate that money to a good cause…like “anti-gang programs”…or buying some books for youth groups…or sponsoring field trips for the schools.

    THEY TOO NEED TO QUIT COMPLAINING AND RAPPING and get busy doing something to solve these problems.

    * Suggested books = JOINING HANDS….. and… LIBERTY’S LEGACY ….and….

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