… Yet Barack decided he needed to be from a “community” and in Chicago all communities are ethnically defined. He became an African American (with capital A’s) maybe not with the purpose of succeeding in politics, but it was likely a necessary condition. …
Barack is highly intelligent, no racist, and too sophisticated to believe even for one second Wrights many idiocies. He has shown poor judjement in some of his associations though, but, in a sense, his (adopted) culture made him do it.
Those are excellent observations!
There are probably a few places in the U.S., like maybe New York, California, and Portland or Seattle, where a mixed-race person could rise politically solely on intellectual and pragmatic strengths. Illinois is probably not one of those locations. This is ironic, historically, because that state was the home of that other tall, skinny, eloquent, racial justice-seeking leader from the nineteenth century, Mr. Lincoln.
I’d guess that political aspirations weren’t the primary motivation for Obama to mold himself into a “capital A” African-American.
Instead, I’d “vote” for a couple of other factors.
1) He fell in love with and married a very bright, strong, and socially motivated black woman from the very African-American south side of Chicago. Her family and their friends became Obama’s day-to-day family and friends. Consequently, his identity ran in that direction.
2) Perhaps even more important was his early life experience and the fact that he is very much his mother’s son.
(See this to see what I’m getting at here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/14/us/politics/14obama.html?scp=2&sq=obama's+mother&st=nyt) Owing to that, he’s surely predisposed to empathize with those whom we might call “the salt of the earth.” Of course, in Chicago, very often the “salt” tends toward the color of pepper.
I’d like to throw in a personal anecdote:
I lived in Chicago, on the Gold Coast and in Wrigleyville, from 1987 to 1995.
On one occasion, I volunteered to speak at a “career day” at a south-side public middle school. Arriving at the school, I was shocked to discover that it was nothing more than the second floor of an old Catholic Church. As I recall, there wasn’t even a sign identifying it as a school (I was late because I drove past it a few times). The entrance to the school was a side entrance to the building. The school HAD NO LIBRARY, nor gym, nor workshops. There was one bathroom for each gender – in the basement. The school was surrounded by long-shackled, rusting factories with all their windows broken.
To make a long story short, it wasn’t too surprising to find that few of the twelve and thirteen year-old, mostly black, students were excited about their “career” prospects, or even about their life prospects.
In his speech, Obama said, “At this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, ‘Not this time.’ This time, we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native-American children. ...”
I’d imagine that lots of white people like, say, those from the Chicago suburbs where many public schools have not just libraries but librarians, Olympic size pools, and football fields, wondered what the hell Obama was talking about. Not me.
Regarding the wrongness of “Reverend” Wright, these statements, among others, were in Obama’s speech:
“On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.
…But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America;…”
Given the entire context of Obama’s life, the facts of American history, and political realities, those statements are enough for me, especially given that the Republican candidate in November will be at least equally beholden to white right-wing religious elements who are at least as insane, and far more powerful, than the wrong-headed gasbag Wright.