Obama writes extensively about his struggle to come to terms with being a black man whose African father returned to Kenya when he was 2, leaving him to be raised by his white Kansas-born mother and grandparents in Hawaii. He describes an identity crisis arising from his realization that his life was shaped by both a loving white family and a world that saw in him the negative stereotypes frequently ascribed to young black men. He recounts a search of self that took him from high school in Hawaii to Columbia University, and then to the streets of Chicago as a community organizer.Most of the talk thus far has been about the confessions of drug use -- not just marijuana, but cocaine. I don't see him losing a lot of votes because of that. But presumably, people will now pick over the book looking for other sorts of character flaws. Is he paranoid? Militant? Anyone making such insinuations -- not Hillary, surely! -- will have to worry about what they say about the one doing the insinuating.
"We were always playing on the white man's court . . . by the white man's rules," he writes. "If the principal, or the coach, or a teacher . . . wanted to spit in your face, he could, because he had the power and you didn't. . . . The only thing you could choose was withdrawal into a smaller and smaller coil of rage.
"And the final irony: should you refuse this defeat and lash out at your captors . . . they would have a name for that too. Paranoid. Militant."
January 3, 2007
"Dreams From My Father" was written 11 years ago, after Obama was approached by a publisher interested in his success at Harvard Law School. It's "not the kind of book you would ever expect a politician to write,"one GOP consultant says. I think it's a good thing if he revealed himself as a real person back before everything had to become a political calculation. (Or was it a political calculation, even then, just an unusual and sophisticated one?)