After the Jury’s verdict on Zimmerman case, President Obama gives Odinga a few lessons on post-racial America he can use After March 4
By Dikembe Disembe
Race, or white racism in American context, is like tribalism, or Kikuyu tribalism in our country’s context. It is a wicked problem; one that has led to loss of lives, destruction of properties, displacement of whole populations and disenfranchisement of huge regions in our country. Tribalism is what is at trial at The Hague.Tribalism is the very foundation of this Uhuruto government. If it smells like a skunk then it is a skunk. Period!
But in a country where personality politics override deep-rooted institutional practices which allow checks and balances, the events surrounding Trayvon Martin murder case can be starkly contextualised millions of miles away from the Hawk, and placed closer to the Shield, the Lion and the two Spears. We are lucky, however, that we can still only ‘imagine’ this whole saga unfolding in our country. Let it never be!
Raila Odinga Vs IEBC and others is Â our century’s case. I will not delve on the substance of the case. I have ‘no capacity’ to do so, but, I will delve on ethnic relations which arose out of the case. By now, you all know that we are not moving on. We have nowhere to go! In our current circumstance, no one has the rare chance to bend the arm of history once more than Raila Odinga, but he must be too must be seen to have learnt something. Obama, his cousin now controlling the largest democracy in the world, has a few lessons.
Just how many times should Odinga ‘personally’ talk about the IEBC and the last election? In how many forums? Using how many words? How are the words and sentences framed? The medium-oral or spoken? These questions role down to one thing: in this century, politics is an art of the moment. It is a snapshot. It is so instantaneous that a single word, a single statement, just one rebuttal or suggestion, has the potential to bridge the ever widening divides after March 4 or continue escalating the ethnic emotions still attached to that ruling.
President Obama, a cautious politician with a symbolic history on his back, found himself at catch 22 after Trayvon murder. An African-American youth haunted and gunned down by a ‘white hispanic’, who at first, was not charged, and then finally acquitted after 18 months of trial, has continued to generate one of modern Americas most racially divisive issue: Racism. White Racism.
Despite the widespread outrage by the black community and liberals in the United States over the manifest selective application of the law; President Obama has spoken about Martin’s murder, only four times! The latest being yesterday. How many times has Odinga personally spoken about the Supreme Court or the IEBC and the two institutions’ handling of the last polls? In all these instances, how consistent has his message been?
When Obama yesterday spoke about Martin’s murder in an impromptu White House Press meeting, his comments left no doubt in the minds of Americans, not just African Americans or liberals, on the present situation of race relations, and on laws which exacerbate racial tensions in America. He did not just ‘bash’ the white community for what happened. He did not single out an institution to ridicule. He made a statement which reflected who he was (African American) and what he was (President of the United States of America).
Here lies the next lesson for Odinga. How can he use his experiences, from the Nyayo House torture dungeons to the political acme as Kenya’s Prime Minister to bring a new discourse on the ‘situation’ of ethnic relations PARTICULARLY among his Luo tribe and the Kikuyu? What has changed in ethnic relations between these two tribes since independence and what should change? How did the animosity Â start and how should it end, and WHO should end it? What has been the passage of time in Odinga’s life that we who were born after the fallout can learn?
Obama, reflecting on his own race, Â put the murder closer to himself: “Trayvon MartinÂ could have been me 35 years ago”, said the president of THE United States. In a sombre reflection, he continues:
â€œAnd when you think about why, in the African American community at least, thereâ€™s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think itâ€™s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that â€” that doesnâ€™t go away.â€
If President Obama can share the experiences of the continued persecution of African Americans, then surely, surely, Raila Odinga too can narrate the ‘life and times’ of the Luo community. He remains relevant today because in him, a whole community is still soul-searching.
Finally, POTUS said something else; more important than all. He realised the young generation doing something about race relations in America. Something hopeful. He noted that his “daughters and their friends were better than they are, better than they were”, on the the question of race relations.
Can we say that my generation are better than the Odinga generation in ethnic relations? Those of us in the “sweet twenties”? Can we say that our schooling and travels, which have taken us outside our predominant Kikuyu neighbourhoods or Luo strongholds, has reduced our tempered our perceptions of others? Can we use lessons from these cultural mixes to teach our parents anew?
These are hard issues, wicked problems, deeply-rooted feelings. Ethnic relations in our country requires an Odinga to confront because so long as he remains alive, he symbolises these trials!
Now, I am not mindless of cynics. I am not saying Odinga speaking on ethnic relations in Kenya will solve all the socio-economic and political issues, like economic redlining and political zoning which only the Luo know better. I am not saying these will end; but I am cognizant of this little fact: It will begin a dialogue, a soul-searching.https://www.kenya-today.com/opinion/rascim-in-usa-the-jurys-verdict-on-zimmerman-case-president-obama-speech
Dikembe Disembe is a socio-political commentator and currently on an academic exchange Â programme at Miami University, USA.