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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Having a Kenyan Dad in the '60s

Amidst the lies and innuendo about President Obama’s childhood, something poignant is being lost. I am reading David Remnick’s engrossing biography of Obama in which is found this description of a ten year old Obama entering a new school in Hawaii.

[Obama’s teacher] Mabel Hefty was an earnest traveler. She had spent the previous year in Africa teaching in a village primary school. But when she tried to engage Barry in a high-minded conversation about his Kenyan background (“Do you know what tribe your father is from?”), Obama went silent. One kid made monkey sounds. One classmate asked if his father was a cannibal; another asked if she could touch his hair. He was a curiosity, a source of giddy fascination—the last thing a child wants to be. (pg. 72, paper ed.)

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