Londoners Root, And Doubt For Obama

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[International: London Calling]


Here in London, people are taking a keen interest in the US presidential elections as the nominating contest escalates with 24 States voting tomorrow on “Super Tuesday,” on their choice of who should carry their party’s banner in the fall elections.

Reaction based on random interviews conducted with people on the streets of London show considerable knowledge of political developments in the States--many people are rooting for Senator Barack Obama to make history as the first Black president of the U.S., while others voice their doubt about his prospects.

"I know he is a Black American senator running for leadership of the Democratic Party of the United States," says Robert Williams, 47, a Black married father of two and a civil servant.

"My feelings are really good towards him; he's got a great chance given the stage of the United States at the moment. The economic melt down and all the war in Iraq, I think the appetite could change and he's really great."

Williams believes Obama is the best placed to deliver change. "Mrs. Clinton is part of the Washington Mafia and people are not going to trust her."

He concedes that as an African American, Obama may face challenges he wouldn't otherwise. "I think he's the best chance for a Black man to come and give it a really, really hard shot," Williams says.

"I hope he does. Clinton has a lot of baggage with her which can divide America. Therefore, I hope Obama wins and I hope he gets the support he needs. I'm very glad that the Kennedy's are supporting him which is a massive, massive boost to his campaign."

Some Londoners have considerable expectations of Obama. Sean Humphrey, 21, a South London rapper and song writer believes that Obama's arrival on the scene was destined.

"It's been in our wildest dreams that a Black man could ever run to be the president of such a huge and powerful country," he says. "It is great to see a Black man being given a chance like this. I just hope he goes all the way because he could be our potential savior and give all the Black people who are suffering today all the help that is needed- as well as the white people."

Humphrey went on: "I think that many people may feel that he's not Black enough because he's been raised quite well and not in a rough neighborhood. Before he entered the game, I'm pretty sure he was well aware that his race would have a huge impact on his campaign in terms of how people may treat him. I think he's a very strong driven young man and I admire the fact that he's trying and standing up to everyone."

"America's never had a female or a Black man running for president-and a certain percentage want either one or the other," he adds. "It's anyone's game but I really want Obama to win. I'm sure he'd do a great job because he seems like a very educated man. I'm not a pessimist but I am a realist and something tells me it's just too good to be true."

A Brixton music producer, 18, who would only provide his first name, Reece, has no doubt as to the outcome of the US presidential vote. "I don't think Americans can elect a Black president because he's Black. They don't like Black people. Look what happened that time with Hurricane Katrina," Reece says. "No one gave a damn about the Black people or they would have helped them long time ago."

While Reece believes Hillary Clinton may prevail in the primaries, he thinks she has a lesser chance of becoming president: "I don't know if he can beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic party nomination- there's a lot of competition in it. A White woman and a Black man. But I think it's harder for a White woman to become president."

White Londoners also believe Obama's challenges are considerable.

"I would like to think that Americans could elect a Black president but I think they wouldn't because I think it's still a very highly segregated country," notes Renee Hogan, 26, a school teacher in West London, Ladbroke Grove. "I'd be absolutely impressed if he became president purely because he would be the first Black president which I think shows how far America has come since the civil rights movement in the 60's. For some reason, I believe he will beat Hillary Clinton for the democratic nominations."

Others Londoners like Sharon Norti, 16, who is a Black student from West London says it's all about the math when it comes to Obama's chances.

"I think the Black people will elect a Black president but the White people won't. I think the white people out number the Black people. It could happen. But I'm not really sure," she says, and adds: "I think he's a really strong person to be the only Black person running to become president, and he's got a lot of people backing him."

Other observers of the U.S. political scene from here, like Shania Anderson, 17, a student, believe the presidential politics have already changed Obama. "I think he's a brave man, but I think he needs to be more real," she says, "Because I keep on seeing him, I even saw him on the news today, he was holding a baby and it seemed all too campaigny. I think if he was to be more real and raw then he'd seem more believable. But I guess it's the usual. You always see the president holding a baby-something they all do. He's no different."

Arsema Yemane, 16, a Black student from London observes: "I mean does America want another Clinton or a Black man? It's now about race and sex."

Londoners have also been following the bruising battle between contenders Obama and Clinton and wonder if there will be a price to pay. "I believe he's gathered well both the White and Black peoples' votes," says Tyrone Henry, 31, a retail advisor. "I feel that if Clinton and Obama continue this confrontation, then it could create a division between the Blacks and Whites."

Allimadi is The Black Star News's London based writer.

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