News & Current Affairs

November 20, 2008

Fatal blast hits Bangkok protest

Fatal blast hits Bangkok protest

Protesters react after the explosion in Bangkok, Thailand, 20 November 2008

The pre-dawn blast rocked an area where demonstrators had set up camp

An explosion in Bangkok has killed at least one anti-government protester and wounded more than 20.

The pre-dawn blast rocked an area where demonstrators had set up camp in the city’s Government House compound.

Protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) group have occupied the area since late August.

They are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s government, saying it is too close to ousted former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

The demonstrators said a grenade had exploded near the main stage of their protest site at about 0330 (2030 GMT Wednesday).

The protests have seen some of the worst street violence since pro-democracy activists challenged Thailand’s army in 1992.

Abuse of power?

The PAD has proved a remarkably resilient movement, forcing the resignation of a prime minister and two cabinet ministers, and nearly provoking a military coup.

Anti-government rally in Bangkok on 30/10/08

Anti-government rallies have been held in Bangkok for months

While the protesters have been targeted by small bomb attacks in recent weeks, the latest explosion could herald the start of more aggressive efforts to dislodge them, our correspondent adds.

An alliance of conservative and staunchly royalist academics, activists and business people, the PAD accuses Mr Somchai and his recently-ousted predecessor, Samak Sundaravej, of simply being proxies for Thaksin.

The PAD wants to replace Thailand’s one-man, one-vote system with one in which some representatives are chosen by professions and social groups rather than the general electorate.

Thaksin, Mr Somchai’s brother-in-law, was forced from office in a military coup in 2006 and remains in exile overseas.

The new government says it wants to start negotiations with the PAD. But it is also pushing ahead with controversial plans to amend the constitution – a key grievance of the protesters who see it as part of a plan to rehabilitate Thaksin.

It accuses him of corruption and abuse of power while he was in office, and has suggested he and his allies have a hidden republican agenda – a serious charge at a time when the country is beset by anxiety over the future of the monarchy.

Thaksin was last month convicted in absentia of violating conflict of interest rules, and still faces several other charges.


Are you in Bangkok? Have you seen the protests? Did you witness the blast? Send us your comments

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November 18, 2008

Is Barack Obama black?

Filed under: Business News, Latest, Politics News, Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 2:49 pm

Is Obama black? It depends on who – and when – you ask.

For some of us, the heralding of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States seems a rather uncontroversial claim.

Obama isn’t black. ‘Black,’ in our political and social reality, means those descended from West African slaves
Debra Dickerson

Not so for others. One well-known African American writer, Debra Dickerson, famously objected to calling Obama black arguing that because he is not descended from slaves, he is not of the people properly defined as “black.”

Ergo, he is not black – at all.

The bulk of the people protesting against references to Obama as a black man, however, grant that he is “part” black (by way of his father), but assert that because he also has a white mother it is not “accurate” to call him black. He he is “in fact” mixed-race, they say.

Opposing arguments

My first reaction to questions about the “correctness” or “accuracy” of Obama’s racial classification is to undermine the premise of the question itself. The search for the “correctness” of racial identity presumes that a definitive answer can be found.

Barack Obama and Stanley Armour Dunham

Barack Obama lived for many years with his white grandparents

It presumes that race is a real entity, something fixed, or natural. It seems to deny what scholars have laboured for decades to demonstrate – that the criteria used to classify people in racial categories, the categories used in a given society, and the uses to which those categories are put – vary by place and time. They are, as academics are fond of saying, “socially constructed”.

Yet the predilections of the scholar fail to satisfy those who claim to know what race Obama “is”, for these are really statements about what the speaker thinks he ought to be.

When people insist that Obama “is” black, they point to his self-identification as such, and the assertion that when most people look at him, they see a black man.

VIEWPOINTS
Kimberly McClain Dacosta
Kimberly McClain DaCosta is Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and Social Studies at Harvard and the author of Making Multiracials: State, Family and Market in the Redrawing of the Color Line

Calling him “black” seems to acknowledge the connection between his rise and the struggles of a people.

When others argue that Obama “is” mixed-race, they point to the fact that he has a white mother, not only a black father, and was raised in an interracial family.

Calling him “mixed-race” seems to acknowledge that family, offering a corrective to centuries of denying our tangled genealogies.

De-stigmatisation

What I find most interesting about the question of what racial label to assign Obama, is that we are asking the question at all.

As recently as 20 years ago, the question of Obama’s racial position would be presumed settled before it was even asked.

Mama Sarah Obama

Obama’s Kenyan grandmother, Mama Sarah, will attend his inauguration

In keeping with the one-drop rule – the practice of categorising as black anyone with any known African ancestry – Obama’s identification as a black person would be expected, accepted and unremarkable.

The person suggesting that Obama be classified as mixed-race would quite likely have been met with suspicion or a confused look (“What’s that?”) since for most of US history, in most places, mixed-race identity has not been collectively recognised.

In the last 20 years, however, the collective efforts of mixed-race people in the US to de-stigmatise interracial families and garner public recognition of mixed race identity have been fairly successful (for example, the US government now enumerates mixed race identities).

Stares

Even so, the question whether Obama is black or mixed-race reflects a basic misunderstanding of the experience of those of us who have grown up in interracial families, particularly those of us of African descent, born in the post-Civil Rights period.

Many of us forged a black identity, one that was not at odds with being mixed-race, but arose out of our experiences as mixed people

We (I have an African American father and an Irish American mother) were raised on the front lines of racial change, where the new rules about interracial intimacy often clashed with the old – both in public and in our own families.

The affection we were so comfortable showing our white mothers at home drew stares, and worse, from both whites and blacks in public.

It was in our families where we first felt love and protection as well as the first sting of racial prejudice.

And many of us forged a black identity, one that was not at odds with being mixed-race, but arose out of our experiences as mixed people: from an awareness that the racial dilemma we were born into has its deepest roots in anti-black prejudice.

For us, being black and mixed-race are not mutually exclusive. We have learned to live with the contradictions.

Perhaps it’s time for everyone else to learn to live with them too.

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