Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Barack Obama's Dual Triple Heritage

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Barack Obama's Dual Triple Heritage

Article excerpt


There has been a significant increase in the number of publications on Africa-U.S. relations in recent years (Arthur, 2000; Schraeder, 2000; Adebajo, 2004; Mazrui, 2004; Kaba 2004, 2005a; Barnes, 2005; Nyang, 2005). By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, a positive relationship or partnership appears to have developed between the people of Africa and the people of the United States. The Barack Obama phenomenon appears to be part of the result of this new friendship between the people of Africa and the people of the United States. (Kaba 2004, 2005ab, 2006a). For example, in an article entitled "Kenya-U.S. Relations: the Urgent Need to Manage Kenya's Migrant and HIV/AIDS Brain Drain", Kaba (2006a) presented several examples showing that the people of Kenya and the people of the United States have a positive friendship that goes back decades, and that Barack Obama's Kenyan heritage was among the examples presented.

Barack Obama (2004) also mentioned a small part of the long term positive relations between Kenya and the United States when he wrote that his father won a scholarship "...on the eve of Kenyan independence, he had been selected by Kenyan leaders and American sponsors to attend a university in the United States, joining the first large wave of Africans to be sent forth to master Western technology and bring it back to forge a new, modern Africa" (p.9).

Mazrui (1986) explains Africa's triple heritage as including the convergence of three civilizations (1) Indigenous African or Africanity; (2) Islam; and (3) Western or European, which includes Christianity. In this paper, I will take it further by attempting to explain this triple heritage concept through the life history of Barack Obama and its association with the new positive Africa-United States partnership. This will be done through what I call Barack Obama's Dual Triple Heritage. The first part of Barack Obama's Dual Triple Heritage is through ethnic or racial ties. The second part of Barack Obama's Dual Triple Heritage is Religion.

This paper examines these two parts of Barack Obama's Triple Heritage and how they are connected to both the Old World (Africa, Asia and Europe) and the New World, especially the United States. The paper will attempt to argue that Barack Obama has the potential to contribute to world unity in four major ways (1) unity in the United States; (2) Africa and the United States unity; (3) unity of a federal African Union; and (4) East-West unity. Let us now start with the racial/ethnic and geographic similarities between Africa and the United States.

Racial/Ethnic Similarities: Africa and the United States

Racially/ethnically, Africa as a continent is as unique as the United States as a country is unique. Africa is the continent cited by scientists as where human originated, before going to populate the world. Indeed, scholars have even pointed to the home region of Barack Obama's father (East Africa) as where the first humans who left Africa to colonize the world left from (Diop, 1991:11). According to Diop (1991), "All the other races derive from the Black race by a more or less direct filiation, and other continents were populated from Africa at the Homo erectus and Homo sapiens stages, 150,000 years ago" (p.11). And according to Major (1996), molecular evidence shows a unanimous consent that humans originated from Africa:

   ... Africans show far more genetic variation than non-Africans 
   (i.e., Asians, Europeans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, et 
   al.). Molecular biologists explain this greater variability by 
   suggesting that African populations have had the most time to 
   accumulate mutations and diverge from each other. Africa, then, is 
   supposed to represent the ancient cradle from which all other 
   populations have emerged (p.73). 

As a result, it is argued that people of all racial/ethnic groups can trace their ancestry to Africa. …

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