Britain's equality chief: Obama will only prolong America's racial divide

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Trevor Phillips, Britain's most influential black figure, has warned that the election of Barack Obama as US president would prolong rather than end America's racial divide.

The chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission accused Mr Obama of "ruthless cynicism" and said he would not be "the harbinger of a post-racial America" if he becomes the country's first black president.

Mr Phillips' surprise attack on the favourite to win the Democratic Party nomination comes in an article for Prospect magazine published today. Mr Phillips dismissed attempts by the Obama camp to hail their man as a "new JFK", predicting he could emulate the "charm, skill and ruthless cynicism" of Bill Clinton.

Mr Phillips believed there were two types of influential black figures in America, both of whom keep race at the heart of US life -- "challengers", whose ambitions are limited to winning piecemeal concessions for blacks, and "bargainers", who do not make an issue of "white racism" if whites do not play the race card against them. He described Mr Obama as a "natural bargainer".

"In truth, Obama may be helping to postpone the arrival of a post-racial America and I think he knows it," Mr Phillips wrote. "If he wins, the cynicism may be worth it to him and his party. In the end he is a politician and a very good one: his job is to win elections." He backed the argument of Shelby Steele, who said in his biography of Mr Obama: "If he fulfils the hopes of whites, he must disappoint blacks – and vice versa."

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