IF ANYTHING, the year 2008 has proven that one’s race or color is not an insurmountable factor anymore, with the election of the first black president in the history of America.

From the get-go of his presidential campaign, Barack Obama has been the target of snide racist remarks from his opponents. One woman in a Republican rally even commented to McCain that she was afraid of Obama becoming president since she thought Obama was a Muslim (Barack’s middle name being Hussein). Others, following this train of thought, said that they would not vote for Obama since he could be “linked to terrorists” due to his heritage.

Both, of course, are false. But this type of statements have shown what the real issue is — how many Americans view Muslims, or even minorities in general. Obama supporter Colin Powell voiced out his disgust on such thoughts, saying that “this is not the way we should do it in America.”

Sadly, many Filipinos living in America have also succumbed to these kinds of racist thoughts, as illustrated in the book Pareng Barack by Benjamin Pimentel. In the book, the author showed how Filipinos see Barack and how they reacted to him becoming president, some of which were negative in tone.

One chapter in the book explored the prejudices Filipinos have towards a black president, as seen through the experiences of a Fil-Am journalist. The journalist recalled how, during the Democratic Party’s primary battle, one Fil-American said “Ayaw ko kay Obama, baka ‘yung White House maging Black House!”

Lessons from the 51st Eucharistic Congress

Such comments might seem harmless and can even be considered a mere joke. However, they show that racism is something inherent in everyone, even to Filipino-Americans who are considered a minority themselves.

At the very least, the people’s prejudice towards Barack Obama was not enough for them to lose sight that Obama is what America needs right now: a calm and collected leader, one who analyzes first before acting.

As Fil-Am author Pimentel puts it, “more Americans are willing to move on, to break ground, to re-imagine the United States and to redefine America.”

And “redefining” its image, especially after two wars on its belt, is certainly what America needs right now. However, the big question now is: Will Obama be able to handle the job of becoming a president? Or will he buckle under the weight of the problems inherited from the previous administration? Only time can tell.


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