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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Germany's Green Obama breaks barriers - Rami Khouri

A remarkable thing just happened in one of the leading Western democracies: A man of colour was elected to a major leadership position in a society that had often discriminated against his people. I am not speaking about Barack Obama -- I am speaking about the selection of a Turkish immigrant's son as co-leader of Germany's Green Party.

Cem Ozdemir, 42, was elected Saturday, capping a career in the German and European parliaments that started in 1994. In terms of breaking colour and ethnic barriers, this equals or even tops the election of America's first black president, because the nature of European society is so much less pluralistic and culturally, racially and ethnically less egalitarian than U.S. society.

Full integration in Europe, and the political triumph of men and women of colour, will be a much more difficult achievement than it has been in the U.S. because the nature of the societies and the place of minorities in them are very different from one another.

From the start, the American system held out the promise of racial and ethnic equality and opportunity. It was only a matter of time that we would see a black American president, because that land was forged politically in a spirit of equality - regardless of the fact that equality at first was only for land- and slave-owning white males. Blacks have now assumed almost every other major position in America.


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