Young Barry Obama—the name he went by until he decided to use the more alien Barack—fully believed his mother’s ludicrously inaccurate portrayal of his father: “The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader—my father had been all those things.” He imagined Obama, Sr. standing over him, saying “you do not work hard enough, Barry. You must help in your people’s struggle.”
A reporter managed to track down some of Barry Obama’s Indonesian schoolmates, and learned that he had been badly treated because of his race: “He was teased more than any other kid in the neighborhood—primarily because he was so different in appearance.” He was sometimes attacked by three Indonesian kids at once, and on one occasion they threw him into a swamp. None of this is mentioned in Dreams from My Father; discrimination by Malays does not fit into Mr. Obama’s literally “black and white” worldview.
When he was ten, his mother sent young Barry back to Honolulu to live with his grandparents. About a year later, she left Lolo and took the daughter she had had with him back to Hawaii. Some time thereafter, she and the daughter returned to Indonesia—though not to Lolo—and again left Barry with his grandparents. She worked in various development-related jobs in Indonesia and died in 1995 of ovarian cancer.
We are particularly well informed about Mr. Obama’s years in Hawaii, Mr. Sailer writes, thanks to the many journalists who selflessly volunteered to spend the winter of 2007-8 on expense account in Hawaii hanging out with his old friends.
In Dreams, Obama’s Hawaiian years are portrayed as a long nightmare of racism. His ordeals included a curious fellow student asking to touch his kinky hair, a woman asking him if he played basketball (a racial stereotype, you see), and his grandmother’s fear of an aggressive black beggar. The beggar provided the basis for Mr. Obama’s notorious “throw grandma under the bus” speech of March 18, 2008, in which the candidate equated his grandmother’s entirely rational fear with Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s anti-white screeds.
Shortly after his grandmother told him about the beggar, a black friend explained to him that whites were right to fear black strangers: “that’s just how it is, so you might as well get used to it.” Mr. Obama’s reaction to this common-sense observation? “The earth shook under my feet, ready to crack open at any moment. I stopped, trying to steady myself, and knew for the first time that I was utterly alone.”
Much of the appeal of Mr. Obama’s depiction of himself as a victim of racism, notes Mr. Sailer, depends on readers’ ignorance about Hawaii. It is the most racially diverse state, and has the highest degree of racial mixing. Many residents are the product of several generations of mixed marriages. Such racial discrimination as occurs is often against whites. Mr. Sailer reports a “charming local custom of calling the last day of school ‘kill Haole day,’ on which white students are traditionally given beatings.” Such circumstances go unmentioned in Dreams from My Father, since they do not fit the story Mr. Obama wishes to fashion from his experiences.
(American Renaissance, Vol. XX, No. 2, February 2009).