Saturday, September 1, 2012

Racism and Barack Obama

Earlier tonight, a Facebook friend posted a quote which he claimed to have been from President Obama's autobiography, "Dreams From My Father". The section he pulled was just a sentence:
"To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets."
His point was to note that for all the knee-jerk defenses of Obama against the idea that he is a "Marxist", here he himself, in his own words, was "carefully" choosing to spend time with the Marxist professors at the University of Chicago. The idea of this being that Obama's philosophies are truly based on Marxism and he's really a closet communist.

In a way, I'd buy it, since the reality of Marxist rulers is not all that dissimilar from the way Obama governs - increasing state control over the economy, passing out favors to cronies, igniting class warfare. I think it's probably very fair to say that Obama has been heavily influenced by Marxist critical theory as so many others who spend (too much) time in academia are. But of course, I have known far more than enough "real" communists over the years to know that they tend to loathe Obama and believe him to be the worst kind of state-corporatist and military imperialist there is. I agree with them.

So for what it's worth, I generally just consider Obama to be a political opportunist with an abysmal understanding of economics and who - like most people - has adopted a mixed bag of bad philosophies from the progressive left.

In any case... Being the actually skeptical individual that I am, I asked if the quote was really from Obama's book.

I haven't read "Dreams From My Father" (I rarely read political books and I certainly don't make it a point to read the ghost-written self-aggrandizements of United States presidents), but I was intrigued, and my friend provided me a link to Snopes.

I don't really know what the Snopes folks thought about all of these writings, but I did discover that the quote is part of a larger passage which, quite honestly, is far more appalling once you put it into context.

Here's a longer excerpt from the book:
"She was a good-looking woman, Joyce was with her green eyes and honey skin and pouty lips. We lived in the same dorm my freshman year, and all the brothers were after her. One day I asked her if she was going to the Black Students' Association meeting. She looked at me funny, then started shaking her head like a baby who doesn't want what it sees on the spoon.

"I'm not black," Joyce said. "I'm multiracial." Then she started telling me about her father, who happened to be Italian and was the sweetest man in the world; and her mother, who happened to be part African and part French and part Native American and part something else. "Why should I have to choose between them?" she asked me. Her voice cracked, and I thought she was going to cry. "It's not white people who are making me choose. Maybe it used to be that way, but now they're willing to treat me like a person. No — it's black people who always have to make everything racial. They're the ones making me choose. They're the ones who are telling me that I can't be who I am ..."

They, they, they. That was the problem with people like Joyce. They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good, until you noticed that they avoided black people ...

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling conventions. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.

But this strategy alone couldn't provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerant. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names."
Yeah. Obama claims that he selected Marxist, feminist and other absurdly liberal stereotypes to be his friends. That's not all that surprising to me, and I don't know whether or not it proves that he believes himself to be a socialist. More than anything, I think it just demonstrates that he was kind of a douchebag who cared more about what his friends said about who he was than about what kind of person he was and what kind of people his friends were.

His method of selecting people to spend his time with - according to this excerpt - seems to have been entirely based on superficial presentation.

I don't know what else I might expect from a politician, or a wanna-be politician, which I suppose would have described Barack Obama at that point. And by now, whole books have been written on the subject of Obama's various reinventions and narcissism, and I don't really have much to add to that I guess, but this whole thing seems pretty disgusting to me.

It gets worse though, as far as I'm concerned.

Obama's view of this woman Joyce is about as racist as it gets, is it not? Here is a woman who doesn't want to be labeled as "black", because she doesn't believe herself to be part of any one race, and in her own words did not like to be told that she couldn't be who she was.

America's current president mocked this notion.

He mocked the idea that a person might not be comfortable being shoved into a racially-defined box. He then does precisely what I suspect she wanted to avoid by avoiding the Black Students' Association meeting: He insults her for even wanting to be thought of as not simply a member of some racial group. How bizarre is this?

Why the hell should she have to choose? Why should she consider herself "black"?

I can't even imagine there being a "White Students' Association" that wasn't immediately banned on the basis of it being claimed as a hate group or some kind of racial supremacy organization... But if there was one, I wouldn't expect Joyce to have joined that. Would you? I certainly wouldn't have made her feel bad about not joining if she didn't consider herself part of the group.

Now, I know that, being a white guy, I have it easy on these things compared to others... but the philosophical problem is what it is. If racism is bad, it's bad because it's a means of judging people based on aspects of who they are which they have absolutely no control over. Is it not? And if that's the case, then picking your friends on the basis of whether or not are not "black enough" for you is just as bad as if I chose friends no the basis of who white they are.

The kind of person sitting in the White House right now, making decisions for all Americans, is someone who not only avoided having friends who weren't black, hip and liberal enough for him... he's someone who actively made people feel bad about not wanting to be defined by their race.

What a great man.

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