In this excerpt below from his book “Dreams from my Father” (page 196 of the paperback edition) Obama explains how racial hatred and scapegoating of whites can provide a beneficial effect for blacks. Such racism and scapegoating is used by black nationalist and Afrocentric groups, such as the Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party and his own church, Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago. Obama is describing a time that was before he joined Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity church. So, it shows that Obama was well-aware of the racial hatred of such groups, before he even met Jeremiah Wright. His conclusion is that such racism may be a necessary evil to improve the condition of the black race.
The same kind of “therapy” also produced a great improvement in the self-esteem of many Germans in the 1930’s and 1940’s. It is a proven technique! Though Obama claims that he does not personally feel good about such racial hatred, one has to take into account that he has a political career to protect. He could hardly say outright that he approves of racism without harming his career. However, he did join Wright’s church, which has a black nationalist doctrine, based on racial hatred and extreme anti-Americanism. Actions speak louder than words.
Obama demonstrates his general familiarity with the racist doctrine of black nationalism by discussing the finer details of the racism contained in the autobiography of Malcolm X and quoting Marcus Garvey, the father of the modern black nationalist mass movement. One of Garvey’s famous quotes, which Obama uses is a call for the black race to rise, “Rise up ye mighty race!” From reading other parts of this book, it is very obvious that Obama understood quite well the basic racist tenets of Black Nationalism at least since he was a teenager in Hawaii. This is to be expected, because he is not unintelligent and was very interested in exploring his black identity. He was fascinated and preoccupied with all things having to do with black culture, including black nationalism. The entire book is about his search since childhood for racial identity.
The doctrine of Trinity Church is based on Black Liberation Theology, which is a more sophisticated, pseudo-Christian version of the black identity theology of the Nation of Islam. Black Liberation Theology was written by a black professor in a seminary, James H. Cone. It is somewhat less direct in its racism and seems designed to be more socially acceptable in order to spread the racist concepts and extreme anti-American bigotry of the Nation of Islam among black urban professionals and black churches.
The theology of the NOI is not orthodox Islam but is branch of a wider black identity cult movement, whose various branches present a facade as Judaism, Islamic or Christian. They are really none of these religions, but closely-related black sects, based on a common, similar Gnostic doctrine, which all hold the black race to be the chosen people or actually God and the white race to be the ultimate evil or the devil.
When an author wants to express a controversial view in a book, but not have it blamed on himself, sometimes he will use a third party to state what they want to say. Rafiq, in this excerpt that follows, has never been identified with a real person and some people think that he is just a literary construct by Obama, which allows him to discuss the racism of Black Nationalism, while attempting to maintain some personal distance for himself. Obama writes in his analysis below that he does not feel good about it, but that racism may be necessary to improve the condition of the black race. This is the wrong conclusion! — especially, for a president of the United States!
When the two of us were alone, though, Rafiq and I could sometimes have normal conversations. Over time I arrived at a grudging admiration for his tenacity and bravado, and, within his own terms, a certain sincerity He confirmed that he had been a gang leader growing up in Altgeld; he had found religion, he said, under the stewardship of a local Muslim leader unaffiliated with Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. “If it hadn’t been for Islam, man, I’d probably be dead,” he told me one day. “Just had a negative attitude, you understand. Growing up in Altgeld, I’d soaked up all the poison the white man feeds us. See, the folks you’re working with got the same problem, even though they don’t realize it yet. They spend half they lives worrying about what white folks think. Start blaming themselves for the shit they see every day, thinking they can’t do no better till the white man decides they all right. But deep down they know that ain’t right. They know what this country has done to their momma, their daddy, their sister. So the truth is they hate white folks, but they can’t admit it to themselves. Keep it all bottled up, fighting themselves. Waste a lot of energy that way.
“I tell you one thing I admire about white folks,” he continued. “They know who they are. Look at the Italians. They didn’t care about the American flag and all that when they got here. First thing they did is put together the Mafia to make sure their interests were met. The Irish—they took over the city hall and found their boys jobs. The Jews, same thing . . .you telling me they care more about some black kid in the South Side than they do ’bout they relatives in Israel? Shit. It’s about blood, Barack, looking after your own. Period. Black people the only ones stupid enough to worry about their enemies.”
That was the truth as Rafiq saw it, and he didn’t waste energy picking that truth apart. His was a Hobbesian world where distrust was a given and loyalties extended from family to mosque to the black race — whereupon notions of loyalty ceased to apply. This narrowing vision, of blood and tribe, had provided him with a clarity of sorts, a means of focusing his attention. Black self-respect had delivered the mayor’s seat, he could argue, lust as black self-respect turned around the lives of drug addicts under the tutelage of the Muslims. Progress was within our grasp so long as we didn’t betray ourselves.
But what exactly constituted betrayal? Ever since the first time I’d picked up Malcolm X’s autobiography, I had tried to untangle the twin strands of black nationalism, arguing that nationalism’s affirming message-—of solidarity and self-reliance, discipline and communal responsibility—need not depend on hatred of whites any more than it depended on white munificence. We could tell this country where it was wrong, I would tell myself and any black friends who would listen, without ceasing to believe in its capacity for change.
In talking to self-professed nationalists like Rafiq, though, I came to see how the blanket indictment of everything white served a central function in their message of uplift; how, psychologically, at least, one depended on the other. For when the nationalist spoke of a reawakening of values as the only solution to black poverty, he was expressing an implicit, if not explicit, criticism to black listeners: that we did not have to live as we did. And while there were those who could take such an unadorned message and use it to hew out a new life for themselves—those with the stolid dispositions that Booker T Washington had once demanded from his followers—in the ears of many blacks such talk smacked of the explanations that whites had always offered for black poverty: that we continued to suffer from, if not genetic inferiority, then cultural weakness. It was a message that ignored causality or fault, a message outside history, without a script or plot that might insist on progression. For a people already stripped of their history, a people often ill-equipped to retrieve that history in any form other than what fluttered across the television screen, the testimony of what we saw every day seemed only to confirm our worst suspicions about ourselves.
Nationalism provided that history, an unambiguous morality tale that was easily communicated and easily grasped. A steady attack on the white race, the constant recitation of black people’s brutal experience in this country, served as the ballast that could prevent the ideas of personal and communal responsibility from tipping into an ocean of despair. Yes, the nationalist would say, whites are responsible for your sorry state, not any inherent flaws in you. In fact, whites are so heartless and devious that we can no longer expect anything from them. The self-loathing you feel, what keeps you drinking or thieving, is planted by them. Rid them from your mind and find your true power liberated. Rise up, ye mighty race!
This process of displacement, this means of engaging in self-criticism while removing ourselves from the object of criticism, helped explain the much-admired success of the Nation of Islam in turning around the lives of drug addicts and criminals. But if it was especially well suited to those at the bottom rungs of American life, it also spoke to all the continuing doubts of the lawyer who had run hard for the gold ring yet still experienced the awkward silence when walking into the clubhouse; those young college students who warily measured the distance between them and life on Chicago’s mean streets, with the danger that distance implied; all the black people who, it turned out, shared with me a voice that whispered inside them-“You don’t really belong here.”
In a sense, then, Rafiq was right when he insisted that, deep down, all blacks were potential nationalists. The anger was there, bottled up and often turned inward. And as I thought about Ruby and her blue eyes, the teenagers calling each other “nigger” and worse, I wondered whether, for now at least, Rafiq wasn’t also right in preferring that that anger be redirected; whether a black politics that suppressed rage toward whites generally, or one that failed to elevate race loyalty above all else, was a politics inadequate to the task.
It was a painful thought to consider, as painful now as it had been years ago. It contradicted the morality my mother had taught me, a morality of subtle distinctions between individuals of goodwill and those who wished me ill, between active malice and ignorance or indifference. I had a personal stake in that moral framework; I’d discovered that I couldn’t escape it if I tried. And yet perhaps it was a framework that blacks in this country could no longer afford; perhaps it weakened black resolve, encouraged confusion within the ranks.
Desperate times called for desperate measures, and for many blacks, times were chronically desperate. If nationalism could create a strong and effective insularity, deliver on its promise of self-respect, then the hurt it might cause well-meaning whites, or the inner turmoil it caused people like me, would be of little consequence.