The Russian Obama

Because any black person who makes unlikely political runs can't really be anything else...

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From The AP via The Grio:

SREDNYAYA AKHTUBA, Russia (AP) -- An African-born farmer is making an improbable run for office in Russia, inspired by President Barack Obama and undaunted by racial attitudes that have changed little in decades.

Joaquim Crima, a 37-year-old native of Guinea Bissau who settled in southern Russia after earning a degree at a local university, is promising to battle corruption and bring development to his district on the Volga River.

In Russia, a black man running for office is so unusual that Crima is being called "the Russian Obama."

"I like Obama as a person and as a politician because he proved to the world what everyone thought was impossible. I think I can learn some things from him," Crima said, sitting on his shady verandah in this town of 11,000, where he lives with his wife Anait, their 10-year-old son and an extended clan of ethnic Armenian relatives.

In truth, Crima's quest to become head of the Srednyaya Akhtuba district is highly unlikely, not least because he lacks the political capital and connections to make it happen. He faces the reality of being a black man in Russia, a country where racism and racial stereotypes are deeply ingrained.

"They are often taunted on the metro and in the market,'" said Lydia Troncale of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, a nonprofit organization that works with African immigrants.

Crima gets along well with his fellow townspeople, but to play it safe he is accompanied almost everywhere by his muscular brother-in-law.

Last December, a black American exchange student was stabbed and badly wounded in Volgograd, the nearest large city, in what was believed to be a racially motivated attack.

Crima, who came to Russia in 1989 and holds a degree from Volgograd State Pedagogical University, believes he has what it takes to fix problems in his district, where some residents still lack potable water and use outhouses. Unpaved streets, where goats graze, turn to mud after a rain.

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