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MainStream Media Won't Ask Obama Those Nasty Paul-Type Questions. But Shelby Steele Could!
This month, we've seen the mainstream and opinion media avert their maidenly eyes in horror from a few paleolibertarian un-PC wisecracks disrespecting race rioters etc. that once appeared in GOP candidate Ron Paul's decade-and-a-half old newsletters.
But, in contrast to the diligence with which archives containing Paul's dusty newsletters have been scoured for shocking witticisms, a man with a far greater chance of being President, has been given almost a free pass:
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).
Practically no one in the press even bothered to read closely Obama's illuminating 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father. For example, although Obama devotes most of pages 274-295 of Dreams to his first meetings with the man who would become his "spiritual advisor," Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., the candidate's intense 20-year relationship with this memorable gentleman only began to draw even modest attention last week.
I've focused on Obama, not out of any particular bias for or against him, but because he is both more interesting and more misunderstood than the typical White House aspirant.
Too many whites treat Obama as a blank slate upon which to project their hopes. George Will, for instance, is infatuated with Obama because he fantasizes that the half-black half-white Obama is "transcending" race, that the candidate shares Will's emotions:
"Obama seems to understand America's race fatigue, the unbearable boredom occasioned by today's stale politics generally and by the perfunctory theatrics of race especially."[Misreading Obama's Identity, December 30, 2007]
But Will, like so many white commentators, just hasn't noticed that the apt subtitle of Dreams from My Father is— A Story of Race and Inheritance. Race and inheritance—geddit?
Ironically, Will's hope for a man bored by race is more embodied in Obama's estranged half-white half-brother Mark, a Stanford graduate in physics, whose preference for Shakespeare and Beethoven over the culture of the Kenya where he was born, on Obama's account, perturbed the future presidential candidate, who had nothing further to do with him.
Only A Bound Man, the perceptive but mostly ignored book about Obama by conservative literary critic Shelby Steele—who likewise has a black father and white mother—explains who Obama really is. (See my Washington Times review of Steele's book here.)
Remarkably, much of Obama's campaign image—the "postracial" man, the God-fearing Christian, etc.—is debunked in Obama's own books. Indeed, Obama's potential Achilles heel is that he has such a gift for self-expression combined with so much introspective self-absorption that he can't help revealing himself to the few who invest the effort to read carefully his polished and subtle, but also fussy and enervating. prose.
The bottom line: Obama's 1995 memoir reveals a preppie from Hawaii obsessed with the same question that 62,000 mostly turgid articles have asked about him: Is Obama black enough?
(Why Obama being "black enough" would be in the interest of the 7/8ths of the electorate that isn't black has never been explained—but that's hardly surprising because the MSM hasn't even entertained it as a question).
This question has tormented Obama since he was a child. The psychological trauma helps make him a more interesting personality to contemplate than, say, his now-vanquished rival Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor. Richardson's unusual life story (raised in Mexico City, with three grandparents being Mexican and the other a wealthy WASP) would seem to be at least as relevant as Obama's famously exotic background. Yet, nobody paid Richardson who is now out of the race, any attention. That's partly because Americans find Hispanics less interesting than blacks—and partly because Richardson is a hack, while Obama is something more refined and unusual.
Unfortunately, Obama's actual politics aren't terribly unusual. As Steele points out, "For Obama, liberalism is blackness." To be black enough is tied up in Obama's mind with being liberal enough. As someone raised by whites far from the black mainstream, Obama lacks the freedom to be politically unorthodox enjoyed by men of such iconic blackness as James Brown and Wilt Chamberlain, both of whom endorsed Richard Nixon in 1972.
Still, what does it profit a pundit to explain to the world who the would-be President really is? In recent weeks, Obama's supporters have, with much effectiveness, denounced virtually any criticism of their candidate as "racially insensitive."
Thus CBS News claimed on January 11, 2008:
"Racial Tensions Roil Democratic Race
"Comments from Clintons on Obama, MLK Jr., Have Infuriated Some African Americans
"A series of comments from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, her husband, and her supporters are spurring a racial backlash and adding a divisive edge to the presidential primary as the candidates head south to heavily African-American South Carolina. The comments, which ranged from the New York senator appearing to diminish the role of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement—an aide later said she misspoke —to Bill Clinton dismissing Sen. Barack Obama's image in the media as a "fairy tale"—generated outrage on black radio, black blogs and cable television."
Hillary hilariously found herself hoist upon her own petard of political correctness for saying Obama "hasn't done the necessary spadework."
And we all know what that means!
When veteran Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen pointed out last week that Obama's long-time "spiritual mentor" Rev. Wright had last November 2 awarded his "Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. Trumpeter Award for Lifetime Achievement " to Nation of Islam supremo "The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan," he was widely denounced as a racist…"he" being not Obama or Wright or Farrakhan, but Cohen—for being the first journalist to mention this gala bash at the Chicago Hyatt Regency, a mere ten weeks after it happened!
If anyone criticizing Obama the Political Candidate is reflexively demonized as a racist, how then will anyone be allowed to criticize Obama the Head of State?
After Obama is elected, his supporters will inevitably claim that the ever-fragile self-esteem of 40 million oppressed African-Americans is utterly dependent upon the perpetuation of the good name of the First Black President. So, any verbal denigration of President Obama will bring down cries of "Racist!"
And that's the most intimidating epithet imaginable today.
Now that I think of it, anybody accused of "denigrating" President Obama will be presumed guilty until proven guiltier.
Just stare hard at the word "denigrate" until you can see that it is a secret white racist codeword.
(I thought I was making up a joke here, but a Google search reveals that in the recent Hollywood movie The Great Debaters, the hero, played by superstar Denzel Washington, explains "the racist etymology of the word 'denigrate.'" So, don't use "den --" … I mean, don't use that word, or you might someday find yourself blacklisted. Oops, I meant whitelisted.)
Recently, however, a highly sympathetic investigation by prominent leftist literary essayist Jonathan Raban into Obama's much touted "Christian faith"—a piece of the candidate's image crucial to his electoral viability—revealed much about the Wright-Obama connection.
Raban's article, The Church of Obama: How He Recast the Language of Black Liberation Theology into a Winning Creed for Middle-of-the-Road White Voters, appeared in the U.K. in The Guardian on 1/5/08 and in the Seattle Stranger alternative paper on 1/9/08.
In 2004, senatorial candidate Obama told Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times [Obama: "I Have a Deep Faith, 4/5/04]:
"'I am a Christian… So, I have a deep faith,' Obama continues. 'I'm rooted in the Christian tradition… '"
To support those claims, he cited his close relationship with his pastor, Rev. Wright:
"Still, Obama is unapologetic in saying he has a 'personal relationship with Jesus Christ.' As a sign of that relationship, he says, he walked down the aisle of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in response to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's altar call one Sunday morning about 16 years ago. …
"These days, he says, he attends the 11 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity in the Brainerd neighborhood every week—or at least as many weeks as he is able. His pastor, Wright, has become a close confidant."
So, exactly what is Obama, religiously?
- No, Obama is not a Black Muslim
Obama was intrigued enough by the Black Muslims to recount respectfully in Dreams (pp. 179-181, 195-200) long conversations with an ex-jailbird renamed Rafiq al Shabazz who became Obama's ally in Chicago during the 1980s in their mutual business of extracting money for blacks from the taxpayers.
And Obama occasionally bought Farrakhan's newspaper The Final Call. He understood the logic of the Black Muslims cultivating hatred of whites to unite blacks.
But he dispassionately rejected Black Nationalism as economically and politically impractical. In the final analysis, the Black Muslims are losers, and Obama, with his two Ivy League degrees and boundless ambition, is a winner.
What's striking about the pages devoted to Farrakhan (pp. 201-204) is the lack of moral outrage at the chief beneficiary of the assassination of Obama's hero, Malcolm X. Ben Wallace-Wells wrote in Rolling Stone that Obama has "as openly radical a background as any significant American political figure has ever emerged from, as much Malcolm X as Martin Luther King Jr."
Malcolm X broke with the Black Muslims and their belief that whites are intrinsically evil following his pilgrimage to Mecca, where he saw orthodox Muslims of all colors worshipping together. In response, Farrakhan wrote: "The die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape, especially after such evil foolish talk about his benefactor, Elijah Muhammad. Such a man as Malcolm is worthy of death…"
Not surprisingly, Malcolm was soon murdered by Nation of Islam hitmen. Elijah's moderate son Wallace Muhammad left the Nation of Islam for orthodox Islam, leaving Farrakhan as Elijah's heir. (In an ironic postscript, in 1998 Farrakhan appointed one of Malcolm's three convicted assassins, Norman 3X Butler, now out of prison, to head the mosque that Malcolm had once led.)
- And, no, Obama's definitely not an orthodox Muslim
…although he spent two years as a small boy at a Muslim public school in Indonesia. This highly intelligent man's personality is complex, but anyone familiar with his memoirs would realize there is little in him that would incline him toward mainstream Islam. That faith is too racially universalist to fill the hole in Obama's soul, his hunger for "race and inheritance" left by his father abandoning him when he was two.
Obama says in Dreams that he was proud that his late Kenyan grandfather had converted to Islam because he saw it as evidence that he was anti-white. Sadly, during his visit to Kenya in 1988, he was distressed to discover that Onyango had worked for many years as a domestic servant to British colonialists, and that he had gotten rich by introducing white ways on his farms. As Obama listens to the third wife of his polygamous grandfather tell the old man's story, he writes (p. 406 of Dreams):
"… I, too, had felt betrayed. … I had also imagined him an independent man, a man of his people, opposed to white rule. There was no real basis for this image, I now realized—only the letter he had written to Gramps saying that he didn't want his one son marrying white. That, and his Muslim faith, which in my mind had become linked with the Nation of Islam back in the States. What Granny had told us scrambled that image completely, causing ugly words to flash across my mind. Uncle Tom. Collaborator. House n*****."
- So is Obama a believing Christian, as he claims on the campaign trail?
Eh, not so much ... Raban writes in The Church of Obama:
"Obama is cagey, in a lawyerly way, about the supernatural claims of religion. Recounting a conversation about death that he had with one of his two young daughters, he wrote, 'I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn't sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang.' So I think we can take it that he doesn't believe—or at least doesn't exactly believe—in the afterlife or the creation."
The underlying reality, Raban surmises, isn't very exciting. Obama believes, more or less, in nothing. He is, argues Raban, a "scrupulous agnostic."
Indeed, while Obama's 1988 "conversion" is dramatically described on p. 295 of Dreams, I can't find it coming up again in the last 147 pages of his autobiography, most of which takes place later that year in Kenya. Apparently, his conversion didn't make much of an impression on him.
Fine, but then what has Obama been doing at 11am Sunday morning for the last two decades at Rev. Wright's church? And why, out of all the churches on the South Side of Chicago (and Obama met dozens of ministers during his race organizing years), did Obama choose Rev. Wright?
And who is Rev. Wright?
Obama actually spells out his motivations for joining a church in his book: His political work was suffering because the more respectable sort of South Side blacks didn't trust anyone who was unchurched. And a black church offered him a feeling of racial community that he had long dreamt of.
But why Rev. Wright's? After all, there is no shortage of black churches on the South Side.
The answer is that Wright goes easy on the religion stuff and heavy on the anti-white paranoia and far-left politics. Raban says:
"Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., apostle of black liberation theology, delivers magnificently cranky sermons on how the "African diaspora" struggles under the yoke of the 'white supremacists' who run the 'American empire'…Under a universal tyranny of 'corporate greed and rampant racism', AIDS flourishes ('it runs through our community like castor oil'), so do gang-bangs, murders, injustices of every kind. Slavery is here and now, and Fifth Columnists, traitors to their own kind, are all about us—like the black Republican Alan Keyes and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. On the issue of affirmative action, recently visited by the court, 'Uncle Remus—I mean Justice Thomas—nodded his Babylonian head in agreement before pulling off his Babylonian robe and going back home to climb into bed beside his Babylonian wife.' (Thomas's wife is white.)"
Wright's church offers what is essentially a racial religion. Obama's celebrated acceptance of Christianity in his mid-20s turns out to have been an affirmation of African-American psychic separatism.
As I was reading Dreams, I assumed that his ending would be adapted from the favorite book of Obama's 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.
But that doesn't happen. In fact, Rev. Wright's church is about the last place that it would happen.
Raban goes on:
"To become a virtual congregant at Trinity United (via www.tucc.org) is to enter a sleight-of-hand world of metaphor, in which the manifold trials of the Children of Israel at the hands of emperors and kings are transformed by Jeremiah Wright into the self-same sufferings of African Americans today."
With its Old Testament emphasis and hostility toward the majority, Rev. Wright's church is a photographic negative of the Dutch Reformed Church that was a cornerstone of apartheid South Africa. Bethel University's website on South African Christianity explains:
"The Afrikaners saw strong parallels between themselves as the people of God, and the Biblical nation of Israel as the people of God. As a result, their theology tended to focus heavily on the Old Testament as a model, rather than the New Testament. For historical reasons the Afrikaner community has felt itself to be an embattled minority struggling to be obedient to God while faced with hostile forces all around … This sense of threat … has led the Afrikaner churches to develop racist and exclusivistic responses, and to defend those responses theologically."
Thus, Wright ostentatiously endorsed Farrakhan two months ago, saying:
"His love for Africa and African American people has made him an unforgettable force, a catalyst for change and a religious leader who is sincere about his faith and his purpose."
But Farrakhan's love doesn't extend to all African-American people.
In 1995, Qubilah Shabazz, a mentally troubled woman was arrested for hiring a hit man to rub out Farrakhan. Her troubles may have originated on Feb. 21, 1965, when as four-year-old girl, she watched three Nation of Islam members fire 16 bullets into the body of her father, Malcolm X.
What exactly does Obama make of all this? We have his autobiography and it paints a picture far different that his campaign consultants are spinning. Perhaps Obama has changed, possibly after his demoralizing rejection by black voters in the 2000 Democratic primary for a South Side House seat.
But, we don't know—because nobody has dared press Obama on it.
When no white media personality has the courage frankly to question a leading candidate for President for fear of being fitted with the Scarlet R, the country has a serious problem.
Fortunately, there is one thinker protected by having an identical racial background as Obama.
My suggestion: the candidate should be challenged to sit down for a televised 90-minute interview with Shelby Steele.