The biracial Sage Steele, a sports anchor on ESPN, took public issue with Barack Obama’s self-identification as “Black” on the recent census and was rewarded with a suspension.
“Well, congratulations to the president, that’s his thing,” said Steele. “I think that’s fascinating considering his black dad is nowhere to be found, but his white mom and grandma raised him, but OK. You do you. I’m gonna do me.”
Steele may have been a victim of bad timing. Her comments came just as Obama was rolling out a young-adult version of his bestselling 1995 memoir, “Dreams from My Father.” In the interlocking world of American media, she may have stepped on some seriously sensitive toes.
“I’ve always believed that the best way to meet the future involves making an earnest attempt at understanding the past,” writes Obama in the young-adult version’s sanctimonious introduction.
Obama’s choice of the word “earnest” here where “honest” would have been expected may very well betray a guilty conscience.
As even Obama’s literary admirers have come to understand, “Dreams” is a thoroughly dishonest book. He tells the young readers that in his memoir, he addressed a “set of unresolved questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? How do I belong?”
What he does not tell them is that he had no interest in honest answers. In the final version of “Dreams,” as finessed by others including terrorist Bill Ayers, Obama set out not to find the truth but to craft a marketable political identity.
An essential part of this strategy was to establish that a Hawaiian-nurtured, Ivy-educated son of a white mother was every much a victim as a poor black guy in Chicago.
The fact that his doting white grandparents had raised him in comfort – even sent him to Hawaii’s most exclusive prep school – made the sell all that much harder.
To pull this off, Obama had to turn his memoir into a grievance narrative. He wallowed in every slight, real or imagined, as he solicited the readers’ outrage.
A tennis coach touched his skin to see if the color rubbed off. A white kid alluded to his outsider status. His mother romanticized the black experience. His grandmother got rattled by a large black panhandler.
Shelby Steele was the first to call out Obama’s strategy for what it was. In his 2008 book, “The Bound Man,” Steele, himself biracial, saw Obama’s undoing in his desperate attempt to seem “authentic.”
For Obama authenticity means sharing in the sense of black victimization. Wrote Steele, it “commits him to a manipulation of the very society he seeks to lead.”
In his 2010 Obama biography, “The Bridge,” New Yorker editor David Remnick had to concede that many of these slights were “novelistic contrivances.” Obama, he wrote, “darkens the canvas” and “heightens whatever opportunity arises” to make a point about race in America.
Fanboy Remnick excused Obama his fictions because Obama was going “after an emotional truth.” Yet even he called “Dreams” a “mixture of verifiable fact, recollection, recreation, invention and artful shaping.”
Biographer David Maraniss, author of the 2012 “Barack Obama: The Story,” said much the same thing, claiming Obama portrayed himself as “blacker and more disaffected” than he really was.
Wrote Maraniss, “The character creations and rearrangements of the book are not merely a matter of style, devices of compression, but are also substantive.”
In reviewing Maraniss’ biography, Ben Smith, then with Buzzfeed, “counted 38 instances in which [Maraniss] convincingly disputes significant elements of Obama’s own story of his life and his family history.”
Many of these, perhaps most, created or exaggerated racial slights. To have others accept him as an African American, Obama had a lot of exaggerating to do.
In his heavily researched 2017 biography, “Rising Star,” civil rights historian David Garrow finally stripped Obama’s “multicultural ideal” of all its romance.
According to Garrow, “[T]he young couple never chose to live together at any time following the onset of Ann’s pregnancy.” The mom left Hawaii as soon as the baby was old enough to travel, and Obama Sr. may never have even seen the child.
Garrow quoted approvingly one unnamed scholar to the effect that Obama Sr. was no more than “a sperm donor in his son’s life.”
The three Davids – Remnick, Maraniss and Garrow – are all Pulitzer Prize winners and members in good standing of the literary establishment. They came to their conclusions about the extended Obama con slowly and reluctantly.
Steele made the mistake of saying out loud what had been theretofore confined to books that almost no one read. “If they make you choose a race, what are you gonna put? Well, both,” said Steele.
Not Obama. To stay relevant, in his lengthy 2019 memoir, “A Promised Land,” he never once referred to himself as “biracial.” Steele obviously did not get that memo.
Jack Cashill’s latest book, “Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply,” is now widely available. See www.cashill.com for more information.
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