Anyone who has read Barack Obama’s autobiographies knows that our 44th president has had a lifelong obsession with discovering (or creating?) a racial identity for himself. He is very candid about this in his Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, his first—and more honest—memoir; indeed, Dreams is nothing more than a recounting of this odyssey, an epic journey that begins within the midst of the contradictions and ambiguities of the overwhelmingly white world in which Obama was raised and that culminates in the clarity and coherence of black Africa.
Obama, that is, is black by choice, and like any convert, he is animated by zealotry to establish himself as a “True Believer.” If he labors under any self-delusions, they are no less the products of his choice than his “blackness” itself, for it is from Obama’s painful self-awareness that his guilt over his unfamiliarity with “the black experience” in America is begotten: the conspicuous absence in his blood line of American slaves; a black father who abandoned him when he was but a small child; the white grandparents who raised him; his upbringing, not in the “ghettos” or “hoods” of America’s “inner cities,” but the plush islands of Hawaii; the private educational institutions that he attended all throughout his life, from elementary school to law school; and the preponderance of friendships with mostly white kids growing up are among the circumstances that conspire to incessantly provoke Obama to prove his “authenticity” to black America. This singular focus on convincing himself and others of his authentic blackness explains Obama’s aching need to recast the events of his own life, both its past and present stages, in the light of an imaginary “racism” that allegedly informs them; yet it also accounts for his conduct from before and after he was elected president.
Obama’s decisions to: become a “community organizer” in the “ghettos” of Chicago; join the church of Jeremiah Wright—an ally of Louis Farrakhan who Obama claims to have regarded as a “spiritual mentor—and remain a member in good standing for over twenty years; attend Farrakhan’s “Million Man March”; work closely with ACORN, a corrupt organization responsible for extorting from banks loans for aspiring “low-income” (read: black) property owners; and, in spite of conceding his ignorance of the facts of the situation, express sympathy for his black friend, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., while castigating the white police officers with whom Gates had an encounter, are just some of the deeds that reflect Obama’s burning desire to achieve security in his “blackness.”
Yet there are other, more subtle actions that our president has taken that could very well be just as driven by this desire. For the time being, we can leave to one side Obama’s signature policy position on “Health Care Reform,” his nationalization of significant swaths of the banking and automobile industries, and his attempts to design energy policy around the fiction of “Global Warming,” all of which promise to effect a massive redistribution of resources from “the haves” to “the have not’s,” from whites to non-whites, from Americans and Westerners to non-Americans and non-Westerners. Such policies are “reparations” by other names and Obama knows it, but the engagements (or disengagements) that betray his fervor to prove his “blackness” have none of the grandiosity of these.
Whether it is his near obsequiousness regarding Islamic nations; his steadfast refusal to secure the southern border and comparably steadfast resolve to insure that neither Arizona nor any other border state realize that goal; the coolness of his reception of such traditional, Eurocentric American allies as England and Israel and corresponding affection for an assortment of Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries; his reluctance to grant General Petraeus’s request for tens of thousands of additional American soldiers in Afghanistan; his complicity in the left’s smear campaign of the Tea Party as “racist”; his irresponsible and baseless insinuations that Arizona’s latest efforts to address the violent ravages of illegal immigration are the function of nothing other than “racist” and “anti-immigrant” sentiment; his appointment of various leftwing radicals to positions in his cabinet and the Supreme Court; his Justice Department’s decision to refrain from prosecuting not just thugs from the New Black Panther Party who had been caught on video intimidating and threatening white voters who would dare to vote for John McCain over Obama, but, according to one of its attorneys, any black defendants accused of victimizing whites; his frequent golf outings and other holidays—including his wife’s much publicized extravagant vacation to Spain; and his choice to mark a radical departure from a cherished American tradition of presidents appearing at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day last year to honor the dead by sending his vice-president in his stead are, I contend, the equivalent of “code words,” acts designed to convey to “people of color” around the world that the Obamas are in solidarity with them.
In his first memoir, Obama says that he stopped “advertising” his mother’s race when he was still a young boy of twelve or 13, for he feared that in so doing, he would “ingratiate” himself to whites. Think not that this fear has eased. In fact, it is likely that it has only intensified, for even with his unrivaled sophistical skills Obama could never persuade himself that he doesn’t owe his current position to the white vote. The country remains, much to the left’s chagrin, predominantly white. If Obama loses enough white support, which he already has, his prospects of getting re-elected are nil. He needs whites, and so he is desperate to alter the growing perception that he is biased against them (thus, the readiness with which Obama urged the termination of Shirley Sherrod when her derogatory comments concerning a white farmer first surfaced), yet this need is outflanked by his need to perceive himself, and to be perceived by others, as “authentically black,” and so he is hypersensitive to giving the impression that he needs whites.
I am convinced that my analysis of the Obamas is on target. But even if my speculations should run aground, is it really that unfair to ask whether, with the Obamas, all of this doesn’t ultimately boil down to a “black thing?”
Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.