US election: Slavery is still an issue





'Don't even dare think about it – and don't dare say it out loud. But if it happens, pinch yourself." Those were the words of an African-American friend last week about the prospect of an Obama victory.

Still, Barack Obama has defied all efforts to slow the momentum of his campaign. When a family illness removed him to Hawaii, Michelle, his smart and sassy wife, effortlessly took over.

But this past week a new kind of headline has followed her: the question of her slave ancestry. This ought not to be surprising – most modern African-Americans are descended from those armies of Africans transported across the Atlantic in slave ships. But what has added spice to the debate is the link between Michelle Obama's ancestral plantation in South Carolina, and the family who later owned the property. One of their descendants is Anderson Cooper, CNN's star anchorman. It's the perfect media tie-up – made, not in heaven, but in slavery.

Slavery and its toxic by-product, racism, have not figured overtly in this presidential campaign. But, like the ghost at the banquet, they lurk in the background as the much-discussed "Bradley Effect", a reference to Tom Bradley, an African-American who lost the 1982 race for governor of California despite being ahead in polls.


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