Sunday, August 19, 2007

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT . . . BARACK OBAMA . . .

What I like about Barack Hussein Obama extends beyond his charisma, his candidacy or his politics. I read his first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, well before he announced he was running for our nation's highest office. Matter of fact, I can remember saying in the book club in which I belonged at the time, "If there is to be a "Black" president in my lifetime, if will more than likely be Barack Obama."

My favorite section in Dreams From My Father is one entitled, "Origins." In it, Senator Obama speaks candidly about his family, his unique upbringing and his feelings about his racial/ethnic heritage. While writing about his college years, he mentioned a young woman he called, "Joyce." He described her as a "good-looking woman who had green eyes, pouty lips and honey-colored skin." He talked about the day he asked Joyce if, by any chance, she planned on attending the upcoming Black Students' Association meeting.

He said Joyce looked at him funny, shook her head and told him, "I'm not black. I'm multiracial." Then she went on to tell him about "her father, who happened to be Italian . . . and her mother who happened to be African and part French and part Native American and part something else." Then Joyce, who Obama described as being on the verge of tears at that point, went onto tell him that Black people were always trying to make her choose, while White people were willing to treat her as a person.

What Obama conclued about the experience, made me smile, if only because I've often thought/felt the same when I've encountered people like Joyce . . .

In Barack Obama's own words: "That was the problem with people like Joyce. They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded good, until you noticed that they avoided black people. It wasn't a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street . . . Only white culture could be neutral and objective . . . Only white culture had individuals. And we, the half-breeds and the college-degreed, take a survey of the situation and think to ourselves, "Why should we get lumped in with the losers if we don't have to?" (From Dreams From My Father, pages 99-100)

In part, what I like about Senator Obama is that he appears to have made a conscious decision to cast his lot with those perceived as "the losers." It amuses me that so many (both Black and White) appear to take issue with Obama's choice to identify himself as an African American and align himself with the African American community. One has only to read his book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance to understand that Obama fully appreciates all of the various elements that helped make him who he is. In fact, I'd dare say, even more so than his African father, the book is about how his White, mid-western bred mother helped shape and influence his African American identity. I view how Barack Hussein Obama has elected to define himself as both an act of love and one of defiance.

For me, the real beauty of Obama is, one, that he readily and proudly embraces ALL that he is, as well as ALL to which he is connected--his White American mother, his Black African father, his White relatives from Kansas, his Black relatives from Kenya, his Indonesian step-father, his half-White, half-Indonesian sister, his South-Side of Chicago reared African American wife and their two little girls. And two, Obama steadfastly refuses to embrace a solely negative and stereotypical view of what it means to be Black . . . African American . . . or . . . a person of color.

(Written while listening to Lupe Fiasco's "Kick, Push"; "I Gotcha"; "He Say, She Say"; and "Day Dreamin'" from the cd entitled Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor).

6 comments:

Michelle Davis Petelinz said...

Among other things, what's interesting to me is how some in the Black community question Barack Obama's "blackness" since he "didn't come up in the struggle" of racism in the 50's and 60's in America. You're so right; he embraces all that he is, which I suppose is threatening to those who can only embrace or identify with the 'negative and stereotypical view of what it means to be Black'. It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out.

Lori said...

Michelle,
Yes, all of the on-going questioning of Obama's "Blackness" is such a sad and unnecessary diversion. We can joke all day about Bill Clinton being the first Black president, but when a real contender comes along, we get cold feet . . .

Sheila Wilcox said...

I enjoyed reading your opinion Lori. We did his novel, The Audacity of Hope last night, and it was an interesting conversation. All of us enjoyed his book. I have his first novel but I have yet to read it.

Lori said...

Hey Sheila,
Thanks. I hope you don't mind me making one small correction though--both of Obama's books were works of non-fiction as opposed to novels. I know what you meant though. Just don't want to confuse others (smile).

What's your book club reading next? I just might have to make time to join you.

Sheila Wilcox said...

September we're doing "After" by Marita Golden. It's about the afteremath of three family when a Black cop pulls over another Black man and shoots him as he retrieves something from his waistband (a cell phone). It takes place in Prince George's County, Maryland. I don't know the date, but we meet on the 3rd. Tuesday.

Lori said...

Shelia,
It's been a while since I've read any of M. Golden's work, but she is someone I've enjoyed reading in the past. I'll email you to get the rest of the details. Thanks!