Archbishop Desmond Tutu has an essay in today’s Washington Post about the Obama victory:
Against all this, the election of Barack Obama has turned America’s image on its head. My wife was crying with incredulity and joy as we watched a broadcast of the celebrations in Chicago. A newspaper here ran a picture of Obama from an earlier trip to one of our townships, where he was mobbed by youngsters. It was tacitly saying that we are proud he once visited us.
Today Africans walk taller than they did a week ago — just as they did when Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994. Not only Africans, but people everywhere who have been the victims of discrimination at the hands of white Westerners, have a new pride in who they are. If a dark-skinned person can become the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, what is to stop children everywhere from aiming for the stars? The fact that Obama’s Kenyan grandfather was a convert to Islam may — shamefully — have been controversial in parts of the United States, but elsewhere in the world, Obama’s multi-faith heritage is an inspiration.
. . .
Obama’s election has given Americans the message that hope is viable, that change is really possible. He galvanized huge numbers of his compatriots across the board, particularly young people who had become disillusioned with politics. He drew huge numbers of volunteers and raised record amounts of money, not just in donations from the wealthy but in relatively small amounts from many so-called ordinary people. Judging by the reception he received in Berlin earlier this year, he has given the world similar hope.
The renowned African scholar Ali Mazrui has pointed out that Obama could never have gotten as far as he has without an exceptional level of trust on the part of white Americans. In this, his achievement is similar to what Nelson Mandela had achieved by the end of his presidency; Mandela’s party may never have drawn a majority of white votes, but he has come to be revered by white as well as black South Africans as the founding father of our democracy.
Mazrui likens Obama to Mandela in other ways, saying that both men share a readiness to forgive and show “a remarkable capacity to transcend historical racial divides.” Both, Mazrui says, are “potential icons of a post-racial age which is unfolding before our eyes.”
Such a post-racial age for me has the characteristics of a rainbow. We are in a different time now than when I first spoke of a rainbow nation, describing the South Africa that Mandela led for the first time in 1994. But my vision for such a place remains. It is a place where people of each race and cultural group exhibit their own unique identity, their own distinct attributes, but where the beauty of the whole gloriously exceeds the sum of its parts.
Read it all here.