Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dreams from My Father...

Monday evening, I finished reading President Barack Obama’s autobiographical memoir, Dreams from My Father.  It would be a powerful, important book even if it was not written by the man who is now the first African-American US President.

Before reading Dreams from My Father, I wondered about the degree to which President Obama, being from Hawaii and from mixed race parentage, identified with the African American experience.  After reading, there can be no doubt.  Amerca’s pervasive racism was an ever-present reality in his life and a strong influence in the personal search for identity he writes about.  His work as a Chicago community organizer immersed him in the politics of poverty and racism of that city.  

I particularly recall a passage he wrote about five and six year old children who attended primary school nearly Altgeld, the Chicago South Side housing project where he worked (p. 233):  

“I thought how happy and trusting they all seemed, that despite the rocky arrivals many of them had gone through delivered prematurely perhaps, or delivered into addiction, most of them already smudged with the ragged air of poverty – the joy they seemed to find in simple locomotion, the curiosity they seemed to display toward every new face, seemed the equal of children everywhere....”  

“Beautiful,” Dr. Collier (the Principal) sad.”

 “They really are”

“The change comes later.  In about five years, although it seems like its coming sooner all the time.”

“What change is that?”

“When their eyes stop laughing.  Their throats can still make the sound, but if you look at their eyes, you can see they’ve shut off something inside.” 


Post a Comment

<< Home