[Viewpoint]American changesIn a few days, the Olympic drama will come to an end. What kind of dramas remain in 2008? Ten days from now, Barack Obama will give a speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for the United States presidency. Two months later, on Nov. 4, the most dramatic contest between black and white in the history of mankind will begin.
Some 145 years after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln emancipated slaves in 1863, the entire world will be watching the U.S. presidential elections, which could produce the first African-American president. According to a Gallup poll a few days ago, Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are tied, as each candidate garnered 44 percent support.
No one knows whether Obama will be elected president. However, we have witnessed a drama already when Obama became a serious presidential candidate. It has been a long journey that started from slavery, progressing through the accomplishments of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Obama.
In early 1790, several hundred African-American slaves were mobilized for the construction of the White House and the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The slaves were treated like animals, and their wages were paid to their owners. This has long been a secret. However, pay stubs issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury to the slaveowners were discovered in July 2000. The White House and the Capitol symbolize democracy, liberty and human rights in the United States of America. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visit these landmarks. It is shocking to all that these buildings were produced by the blood and sweat of slaves.
In 1937, some 140 years after the construction of the White House, Colin Powell was born in New York. Coming from a poor immigrant family from Jamaica, Powell had to work while going to school. He overcame difficulties by dint of his strongest characteristic - diligence.
One summer, he worked at a soda bottling plant, cleaning spilled drinks from the floor. The following year, he was working on the bottling machine. A four-star general, as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff he became the hero of the Gulf War.
He retired in 1993, but he was only getting more popular. In 1995, a year before the 1996 presidential elections, Colin Powell was leading in opinion polls. While the world set its eyes on Powell, he declared in November that he would not run for president.
His wife Alma is from Alabama in the deep American South, where racial discrimination was extreme. She thought that if he ran for president, there was a chance someone would attack him. Only a few days earlier, peace proponent Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish radical.
Instead of running for president, Powell in 2001 became the first black secretary of state in the history of the United States.
Seventeen years after Colin Powell was born in New York, Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1954, a pastor’s daughter. When she was 8, a bomb exploded in a church on a September Sunday morning. White segregationists had set a bomb in the primarily black church, and four black girls were killed, including her friend, Denise McNair. Forty-three years after the bombing, Rice in 2005 became the first African-American woman to become the secretary of state in U.S. history.
Seven years after Rice was born in Birmingham, Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. A foreign student from Kenya and a white American student from Kansas fell in love and a son, Barack Obama was born. When Obama was in elementary school, there was one black female student in his class. The white classmates would make fun of them and tease him to kiss the girl. His skin color tormented Obama. He admitted to drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and trying marijuana in high school. However, now, he is sprinting to the White House.
More than 200 years since descendants of African slaves built the White House, a person of African ethnicity stands very close to the very castle. Colin Powell was concerned about the bullets of white supremacists, and Rice lost her friend to the bomb of the white supremacists. Obama has also encountered difficulties, but he is marching forward.
Four years from now, the Olympic Games will be held in London.
I wonder whether Obama will be able to watch the opening ceremony alongside Queen Elizabeth in the heart of European imperialism, which bound Africans in chains and brought them to the New World.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin