Right from the start
Remember the crucial passage of Barack Obama’s Oration for the Ages on Race where he lumps his still-living 85 year old grandma with Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr.?
“I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
By the way, I told you all about Obama’s grandmother getting hassled by a bum on the street a year ago in my article “Obama’s Identity Crisis” in the March 26, 2007 issue of The American Conservative. Of course, the story Obama recounted in 1995 in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was crucially different from his 2008 speech:
“Obama’s teenage self-consciousness is perpetually crucified by contact with stereotypes about blacks. When his grandmother wants a ride to work because the day before, while awaiting the bus, she was threatened by a black panhandler, he is outraged—at his grandparents. “And yet I knew that men who might easily have been my brothers could still inspire their rawest fears.” In high school, he gets upset when “a white girl mentioned in the middle of conversation how much she liked Stevie Wonder; or when a woman in the supermarket asked me if I played basketball; or when the school principal told me I was cool.”
So, Obama’s grandmother, the most level-headed member of the family, wasn’t in “fear of black men who passed by her on the street,” she was afraid of one “aggressive” bum whom she believed was ready to hit her on the head when her bus arrived.
I also told you the key lesson that Obama left out of his speech:
“The great irony of the book is that so many of the stereotypes about African-Americans and Africans turn out, in his troubling experience, to be true—which doesn’t make Obama happy at all: “I did like Stevie Wonder, I did love basketball, and I tried my best to be cool at all times. So why did such comments always set me on edge?” (When he moves to the South Side of Chicago, he eventually discovers that, like his grandmother, he’s sometimes scared of black males on the street, too.)”
Amusingly, I was immediately denounced in a long article in The Washington Monthly for, among my many other sins, calling attention to Obama’s reaction to the grandmother vs. bum incident:
“But in the book the situation is far more nuanced than Sailer lets on.”
Well, I certainly can’t out-nuance Baroque O’Blarney, especially not when my article summarizing his autobiography is restricted to less than one of my words per one of his pages. Nonetheless, I certainly did a more accurate job of recounting this incident from Obama’s life in 2007 than Obama himself did in 2008!
Indeed, “Obama’s Identity Crisis” would have saved everybody a whole lot of surprise over Rev. Wright in 2008 if they had read my article carefully in 2007. As I wrote a year ago:
“Even [Obama’s] celebrated acceptance of Christianity in his mid-20s turns out to be an affirmation of African-American emotional separatism. As I was reading Dreams, I assumed that his ending would be adapted from the favorite book of his youth, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which climaxes with Malcolm’s visit to Mecca and heartwarming conversion from the racism of the Black Muslims to the universalism of orthodox Islam. I expected that Obama would analogously forgive whites and ask forgiveness for his own racial antagonism as he accepts Jesus.
“Instead, Obama falls under the spell of a leftist black nationalist preacher, Jeremiah A. Wright, who preaches African-American unity through antipathy toward whites. Reverend Wright remains a major influence on the presidential candidate. (The title of Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope, is borrowed from one of Wright’s sermons.) Ben Wallace-Wells notes in Rolling Stone: “This is as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr.”