How Obama’s Autobiography Convinced One Writer to Vote for Him

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In the spirit of my post on the literature of campaign endorsements, I had to pass this on. Gary Kamiya (with whom I worked) at Salon has made up his mind on Obama after reading his autobio, Dreams From My Father. Biracial himself, Kamiya’s appreciation of Obama’s odyssey to understand himself, and his race, takes us along as the candidate allows himself to transcend that crazy category and move on to full humanity. It’s a beautiful, beautiful piece, as Kamiya’s always are. Should read the whole thing, but here’s a taste:

Then Obama modulates into something like a vision, at once real and transcendent. He imagines the face of Regina’s grandmother, “her back bent, the flesh of her arms shaking as she scrubs an endless floor. Slowly, the old woman lifted her head to look straight at me, and in her sagging face I saw that what bound us together went beyond anger or despair or pity. What was she asking of me, then? Determination, mostly. The determination to push ahead against whatever power kept her stooped instead of standing straight.”

And then, an even larger vision. “The old woman’s face dissolved from my mind, only to be replaced by a series of others. The copper-skinned face of the Mexican maid, straining as she carries out the garbage. The face of Lolo’s mother [Lolo was Obama’s Indonesian stepfather] drawn with grief as she watches the Dutch burn down her house. The tight-lipped, chalk-colored face of Toots [Obama’s white grandmother] as she boards the six-thirty bus that will take her to work. Only a lack of imagination, a failure of nerve, had made me think that I had to choose between them. They all asked the same thing of me, all these grandmothers of mine.”

Finally, the lesson, to be carried forward: “My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t, end there. At least that’s what I would choose to believe.” Through a long and arduous search for blackness, Obama arrived at humanity.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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