Do Clothes Make a Man?

Originally written: Monday, February 25, 2008

What’s an African Garb Got To Do With It?
Yes, Obama’s father is from Kenya, which is in East Africa. His mom obamamuslimdressmn7is a White American. According to the “One Drop Rule”, that makes him Black. This rule is neither scientific nor genetic; it is merely a socially constructed phenomenon in the U.S. On another note, many people have argued that race does not have anything to do with Obama’s popularity thus far in Election 2008. So why has the circulation of pictures of Obama in so-called African garb suddenly become the newest firing points in the Democratic (or is it?) primaries?
Something smells fishy if you ask me and that fishy smell has nothing to do with the Clinton camp.

Identity is both a personal and a social construct. I certainly am not speaking for Obama, but we know that since he is an American by birth, the one drop rule automatically puts him in the Black category. He may choose , like Tiger Woods and others of biracial categories, to self identify with both of his racial heritages. And we should laud and support him, as we should for all persons who are able to find and maintain their self identity.

Therefore, the response from media and, particularly Obama’s camp, about this picture is highly interesting and noteworthy. Many questions are raised in my mind: Is there anything wrong with him not just wearing African clothes but, more importantly, having African roots?
Is somebody or some group insinuating that there’s something negative about these outfits or again, as I state, more importantly, the African connection? Who’s making these insinuations–the persons or media responsible for circulating them or the people responding thereafter to those pictures? My ultimate question, therefore, is what’s the African garb got to do with it?

As I attempt some “answers” to these seemingly simple and innocuous questions, I hold my breath. As much as the U.S. rates herself as the leader of the free world, many minds within this free world are far from being free. I don’t for a minute doubt that if Obama had been wearing some Irish skirts, any eyebrows would have been raised. In fact, he may have gained more Irish American votes, etc., etc. He more than likely would have been applauded for having a foreign/international coalition or something to that effect. I have seen pictures of Mrs. Hillary Clinton in African attire and even though they have now been circulated as a response to the attacks that she started this, I haven’t heard much more on that. That makes me think the African garb in and of itself is not the problem. The issue is in who’s wearing it. Some people just want to make a deal about Obama in those outfits.

Americans, Obama, the media and all who made a big deal of the so-called “Obama in African garb” pictures should be ashamed of their fear and bigotry. Of course, I cannot ascertain the motives of those who released the pictures since these people are largely still in the shadows. I am left to unload my chastisement on those who responded as if these pictures were something to be ashamed of, something to be hidden, something that may cause a set-back to the Obama campaign. Shame, shame, shame.

Of course, I cannot speak for B. Obama. I can only assume that he is and should be proud of his African roots. To those in the media or elsewhere who responded with negativity to this development, it is about time you freed your minds. To my fellow Americans of different creeds, backgrounds and ethnic origins, can we free our minds from such manipulation by these enemies of the electoral process? I know as an African U.S. citizen, I can. I’m sceptical if the rest of you can.

OK. I take that last statement back. So far, Obama has garnered support from all categories of the electorate. So far. That is why the response to these pictures really bothers me. Can the Obama support stay the full course to the polling booths in November? Shame on me for being so pessimistic. Shame on me for facing the reality that even in this free world, some African clothes on Obama can be so negatively construed.


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