During college, Obama disapproved of what he called other “half-breeds” who gravitated toward whites instead of blacks. And yet after college, he once fell in love with a white woman, only to push her away when he concluded he would have to assimilate into her world, not the other way around. He later married a black woman.
Such candid racial revelations abound in “Dreams [from My Father],” which was first published in 1995, when Obama was 34 and not yet in politics. By the time he ran for his Senate seat in 2004, he observed of that first memoir: “Certain passages have proven to be inconvenient politically.”
Thus, in his second memoir, “The Audacity of Hope,” which was published last year, Obama adopted a more conciliatory, even upbeat tone when discussing race. Noting his multiracial family, he wrote in the new book: “I’ve never had the option of restricting my loyalties on the basis of race, or measuring my worth on the basis of tribe.”
This appears to contradict certain passages in his first memoir, including a description of black student life at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
“There were enough of us on campus to constitute a tribe, and when it came to hanging out many of us chose to function like a tribe, staying close together, traveling in packs,” he wrote. “It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.”
He added: “To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists.”...
Harris-Lacewell said such expressions of distrust toward whites will not hurt Obama in the Democratic presidential primaries, which are dominated by liberal voters.
“To win the Democratic nomination, he's got to get a part of the progressive, anti-war, white folks,” she said. “And those white folks tend to be suspicious of any black person who wouldn’t be suspicious of white people.”...