Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why I Cannot Connect with Barack Obama

By: Brenda H. Reed © 2008 All rights reserved.

The first time that I laid eyes on Senator Barack Obama speaking at the Democratic National Convention four years ago, I thought: “He’s the one. He’s the man who can bring all the factions, racial and otherwise, together in this great country, the United States of America.” I wanted to believe. After observing his conduct of his presidential campaign to date, I am no longer sure he is capable or even interested in doing so. I hear his words but I am not feeling that in his heart he connects with “hard-working middle class voters” across this great nation. My hopes that a healing among the races can take place fades with each passing day. I have been asking why and have used my own research and intuitive skills to try to find answers. Perhaps those answers lie at the very core of the man himself and in the discernment of these average white hard-working voters with whom he is discernably disconnected.

When I look at Barack Obama, I do not see a black man. I do not see a white man. I see a man undeniably of mixed race. I see and hear someone who appears somewhat uncomfortable in his own skin while defining himself as a black man and member of the black community. He cleaves to his Kenyan roots while simultaneously downplaying the complete fabric of himself as a man with a significant European ancestry and his white family who lovingly and willingly raised and nurtured him. I must ask: Is it because he does not fully honor the half of himself that is irrefutably white? Or is there another reason? I question whether or not the voters of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Indiana, and other states sense this same separation within Barack Obama own consciousness and heart that I am sensing. Are they, like me, uncomfortable with Barack Obama because he is ultimately uncomfortable with himself? Could it be that until he fully embraces both aspects of himself, the white and the black, that he will never bring around the “hard-working white voters” across America? I would like to know.

I would have preferred to not have to ask these questions, however my inquisitiveness will not allow me to look away. This quest for understanding more about the man, Barack Obama, intensified when a cousin, also an avid genealogist, informed me that we and Senator Obama are distant cousins through our Teague family line who hailed from England, Maryland, North Carolina, and Kentucky during the 1600s, 1700s, and early 1800s. This prompted me to immediately take a closer look at Obama’s family history resulting in my spending two full days researching our mutual family lines. I confirmed that we are indeed cousins, white cousins, distant though it may be, and descend from a father and son who both served this great nation as Patriots of the American Revolution from North Carolina. Our immigrant ancestor, John Teague, arrived on the Maryland shores in 1652 being transported from Bristol, England by Edward Revell, and serving for a time as an indentured servant. Two generations of Teagues worked the land at Teggs Delight in Cecil County, Maryland, and then their descendants removed to Virginia, then North Carolina, then onward to Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Midwest to seek their own fortunes and freedom, being land owners and slave holders along the way. They worked the land. They raised large families. They struggled. They helped build the United States of America. They contributed to American independence from England. Our heritage is as diverse and multi-dimensional as that of most other Americans.

Many Americans have an awareness that Obama descends from a long line of African tribal chiefs from Kenya, but few Americans know about his white heritage – the good or the bad – though it is one that should humble and bring forth great pride in any candidate running for the highest office in the land. Few know that Obama descends from numerous patriots of the American Revolution who fought for freedom or that his family history includes French Huguenots who fled to America for religious reasons; or that he descends from slaveholders in the South and not from slaves; or is related to soldiers who served on both sides of the Civil War; or that he has relations who served in World War I; or that his grandfather and grand-uncle served in the U. S. Army during World War II. I want to know why this candidate for the President of the United States chooses to largely ignore these most important American family roots, patriotic service and rich heritage. Why does he deny his own?

In exploring Obama’s African family, I learned that his paternal Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, descends from generations of tribal chieftains and a Luo tribal king. He worked as a cook for missionaries in Nairobi and as a goat herder. Recruited to fight for colonial power England in World War I, he visited Europe and India, and afterward lived for a time in Zanzibar where he converted from Christianity to the Muslim faith, a tradition since handed down through the most recent generations of his Kenyan Obama family. He was a polygamist Hussein Onyango Obama, upon learning of his son, Barack Hussein Obama Sr.’s impending marriage to a young white American woman named Ann Dunham, instead of offering his congratulations, wrote a letter to her parents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham in Honolulu, seeking their intervention in the nuptials so to prevent his royal African bloodline from being sullied by a white woman. He was also a polygamist with many children.

At the time of her marriage in 1960, the eighteen-year old Ann Dunham was unaware that her husband, Barack Obama, Sr. a twenty-four year old charming Kenyan student attending the University of Hawaii had abandoned his pregnant wife and a young son in Africa to pursue his education. Disregarding the laws of the state of Hawaii, he bigamously married Ann Dunham and immediately fathered his baby boy, our Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., born August 4th 1961 at Queen Kapi’olani Medical Center in Honolulu. The elder Barack Obama, upon completing his undergraduate degree, abandoned his two-year old son and second wife to pursue a doctorate in economics at Harvard University thousands of miles from the shores of Hawaii. Barack Sr. soon took up with another white woman who succumbed to his many charms and followed him to Kenya where she worked as a teacher, became his third wife, and had two children by him. Barack Sr. eventually returned to his first wife, Kezia, by whom he had two more children. He obtained a high level position as Senior Economist in the Kenyan Ministry of Finance while pursuing his womanizing and drinking. He had an unfortunate automobile accident caused by drinking and lost both of his legs, then his job, and subsequently fell into poverty. He formed a relationship with another Kenyan woman, destined to become his fourth wife, who was pregnant when Barack Sr. was killed in a drunk-driving accident in Nairobi while his second-born son, Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., was pursuing his own Ivy League education at Columbia University in preparation to attend his father’s alma mater, Harvard University. Unfortunately Barack Sr. barely knew his son, Barack Jr., seeing him only once after abandoning him in Honolulu at age two.

When Barack Obama, Jr. was six years of age, Ann Dunham Obama, married Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo, an Indonesian also of the Muslim faith who worked for an oil company. Lolo moved Ann and Barack to Indonesia where they added a daughter, Maya Soetoro-Ng, to their family. Soon Ann became aware that her husband was deeply rooted in traditional Muslim and Indonesian traditions and expected her to fall in line. Being an educated, independent woman, Ann divorced Lolo, then returned briefly to Honolulu where she placed her ten-year-old son, Barack, in the care of her hard working white middle-class parents while she pursued her career as a cultural anthropologist based in Indonesia and traveled the world.

Ann’s parents provide an interesting family dynamic and history. Some sources state that Barack’s grandparents, Stanley and Madelyne Dunham, considered themselves atheists with possible socialist leanings. Other’s note their Protestant proclivities while Ann herself has been viewed as either an atheist or an agnostic, depending on the source citing the opinion. Certainly both elder Dunhams had been reared in the Baptist and Methodist traditions. Ann’s father, Stanley Dunham, served in the military during in World War II. Stanley and Madelyne both hailed from Kansas where their families had lived for decades since shortly after the Civil War. Their families descended from some of the early settlers of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Missouri. Following the family tradition Stanley moved his family around the country in pursuit of a better life. When Stanley landed a position in Hawaii as a furniture salesman, the family left Seattle around the time Ann graduated from Mercer High. Stanley Dunham died at age seventy-four on February 8th 1992, just months before Barack married a successful, highly educated black woman named Michelle Lavaughn Robinson, who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and too had benefited from an Ivy League education, graduating from Princeton University and Harvard University Law School. Michelle and Barack were married on October 18th 1992 at the predominantly black Trinity Church of Christ in Chicago where they have been members for twenty years headed by Dr. Jeremiah Wright, known for his emotional sermons and questionable anti-white sentiments, thus bringing the rising young lawyer full circle back into the Christian religious roots of his both his black and white ancestors.

Barack’s grandmother, Madelyne Payne Dunham, now age eighty-six years old, still resides in the high rise apartment building where she raised Barack in Honolulu. She largely raised her grandson and accepted responsibility for his care and well-being, yet we never see her. She had great achievements in her own right. She worked on a Boeing aircraft B-29 assembly line in Wichita supporting the war effort during World War II. She worked in restaurants for a time while getting her education and raising a family. Upon settling in Honolulu she took a job at the Bank of Hawaii, rising from the ranks to become one of its first female vice presidents at a time during the 1970s when race and being a female were detriments to professional advancement. She is an avid bridge player indicative of a keen mind. She watched over Barack’s education and most likely used her hard-earned money to help pay for Barack’s $7,000 per year tuition at the exclusive and expensive Punahou School. Madelyn molded him into a man. She loved him. She gave him the security of a family. She fed and clothed him. She helped guide him on his path. She is proud of her grandson yet she has been kept from the public eye. It has saddened me that Barack Obama rewards his grandmother by speaking of her racial comments and fears, her biases, when he should be eternally grateful to have had her influence and presence in his life after both his father and mother abandoned him for their own pursuits.

A source of consternation for me is in that the American media continues to completely ignore Barack Obama’s white family, yet they show considerable interest in his “African grandmother” Ruth and Kezia Obama, his father’s first wife, who have no blood relationship to him at all. The Chicago Tribune has even reported that the Obama campaign refuses to make Madelyn Dunham available to the media though she is truly the woman behind the man. One reporter has written: “The "segregation" of Madelyn Dunham, Obama's white grandmother, and only real grandmother, has to be one of the cruelest and most mendacious political kidnappings this nation has ever seen.”

What continues to trouble me is my sense that Senator Obama does not fully embrace the half of his being that is white. He holds tightly onto to his Kenyan heritage perhaps believing this will make him more appealing to black voters across the land and that this alone will get him elected president. Appearing entrenched in his privileged prep school and Ivy League education, he appeals more to elite Democrats than the common working man. In so doing puts their needs above those of hard-working class people – people not unlike his Grandmother and Grandfather Dunham, in the very states where his white ancestors struggled to establish their lives and helped build this nation. He does not and possibly cannot identify or relate to the average white man and woman on the streets, though he has an appeal to young idealists, many of whom have never worked a day in their lives and have never struggled for anything. He has demonstrated repeatedly that he cannot relate to factory workers or to our soldiers. I am concerned that he cannot and will not work to better the lives of working class white people and that he will be inclined to work only for the Democratic educated elite in this country and his black supporters.

To be elected and to succeed as President of the United States, our presidential hopeful, Senator Obama, needs both white voters and black voters, educated and uneducated voters, labor and management behind him. I suggest that until Barack Obama can and does accept and honor his white roots, as well as his black ones, that the good people of the numerous states made up of “hard working white people” will continue to view him with suspicion and distrust. They will not vote for him until he essentially votes for them --- for himself -- until he demonstrates with his heart that he truly cares about these people, people from whom he himself originates.

I say to Barack Obama: “Honor your dear Grandmother Madelyne who raised you. Honor your white roots as well as your black ones. If your desire is to truly bring people together, then bring your own whiteness and blackness together by opening up your heart to good people of all races, all socio-economic classes, for the betterment of all. Claim your white heritage alongside your black. Embrace your white pioneer ancestors just as you embrace your Kenyan royal chieftains. Allow yourself to embrace both your whiteness and your blackness so that American can and will do the same.”