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Dreams from My Father - Preface, Intro & Ch. 1, 2, 3 &am 
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To clarify what I meant by the luxury of enlightenment is that it's very easy to say skin color doesn't matter when (if you are white) have always felt like a native in your own land. When a white person does commit a crime, no one even thinks it's a reflection of his skin color. White people don't worry what other people are going to think when they see another white person on the evening news in a police mug shot. Or how about this, what would a white kid think about his own heritage if he went to school and European and American history was barely mentioned at all -- maybe just a few exceptional names peppered in for a veneer of diversity. Africa is one of the most ethnicly diverse continents on the planet, but because of the legacy of slavery many African Americans can't trace back to their specific country or tribe of origin. So while I agree that skin color is technically just pigment, there's a whole chunk of human history excised by violence and hate that is not really being healed by simply declaring it doesn't matter.



Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:30 pm
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I made a start on this book last night and I have to admit that I am really enjoying it. I was a little wary before I began reading it, because I expected a lot of political PR but I can't say that I've come accross much of that, thankfully.

I'm finding reading about Obama's early life fascinating, knowing who he became. His grandparents obviously had a huge influence on his life and I've liked hearing their stories. His father is quite an enigma and I too am wondering about his continuous abcense... how such a loving father can be apart from his son for so long and barely know him, and go on to have more children. I guess it's not an uncommon scenario in this world.

Reading about Obama discovering his race and what being African American is, has also proved fascinating. He talks of the age that African American kids lose their innocence... the event in their lives which makes them aware that they are 'different' and his account of seeing the photograph of the black man who tried to turned himself white, and the confusion and hurt that came with that was pretty moving.

What I've also learned, is there is nothing about this young boy that indicates that he is going to be President. There is no family history of politics, no free rides. He had the same opportunities as many young people today, which I find refreshing.



Fri Feb 20, 2009 5:00 am
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Trish wrote:
To clarify what I meant by the luxury of enlightenment is that it's very easy to say skin color doesn't matter when (if you are white) have always felt like a native in your own land. When a white person does commit a crime, no one even thinks it's a reflection of his skin color.... So while I agree that skin color is technically just pigment, there's a whole chunk of human history excised by violence and hate that is not really being healed by simply declaring it doesn't matter.

Skin color certainly matters, because humans make it matter. My comment was more in the nature of saying, "Step back from this whole situation and think about it. Does it make any sense at all that we humans would rank each other based on surface skin pigment?" We have done and still do, but there is a sense of unreality about it when you look at it from the outside. Of course, for most of our history this ranking was reinforced by the assumption that skin pigment and facial features corresponded with intelligence. Our knowledge that there is absolutely no basis to such racialist theories has accounted for the lessening of prejudice and bigotry in our time. Barack Obama during his life has been unusually well positioned to experience and evaluate the complete irrationality of racialism.


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Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:04 am
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Oh I absolutely agree with you DWill. Science has shown that those long held assumptions are false. Actually there is technically no such thing as race on a genetic level. We are not seperate species and our differences are literally skin deep. We can explain our tendency to place intellectual and moral value on skin color if we look back to our earliest ancestors who had seconds to size-up a potential threat in order to survive. Understanding this, I hope, means we can realize the folly in that thinking and not resign ourselves to it.



Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:19 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
Obama is not a descendent of slaves. This seems to be a critical factor in his perspective on America's racial politics. He has copped the prejudice from whites, but was raised by a white family, giving him cultural and physical resources to deal with prejudice in a way that is not possible for many blacks. He seems to have an inner confidence and poise that has been either beaten out of many black people or transformed into a set of oppositional values that enable coping but not success. Slavery established such a crushing constant oppression, together with its racist ideology of white superiority, that its effects continue to permeate American society. Trish's comment about the luxury of enlightenment seems to me to refer to the fear many white people have of black crime, and the social divide that continues to separate the races.


Forgive me for being late to respond. I think you raised a good point about not being the descendant of slaves. I don't mean to jump ahead too far here, but the book does explains a bit about the history of Kenya, which was once controlled by the British and that blacks were excluded from government. What of the crushing imperialism and racism that his father would have known? Is it different?



Sun Feb 22, 2009 8:04 pm
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I have head critics refer to Obama as not being a 'true' African American because he did not descend from slavery. That irritated me. Yes, his ancestors were not brought in chains to the US and kept as slaves, but it seems that all Africans, and thus African Americans, have been affected by European Colonialism in some way. I don't feel that his father being from Kenya, and Obama not being a direct decendant from slavery, makes him any less of an American, or an African American. And I don't think it makes him any less qualified to identify with the African American people. He lived and worked amongst these communities for much of his life. He has experienced people's prejudices first hand.

I got the impression that his father was one of the luckier Africans. He showed an extroadinary intellect and ended up studying in Hawaii (where he fathered Barack) and then at Harvard. He did face some struggles with Kenyan government departments later on in his life though. The most racism that he would have encountered, I thought, would have come from his time in the US. It seemed like the same prejudices that many parents had towards their daughters dating African Americans, extended to him. But despite that he seemed to have prospered during his time in the US.
I don't think that he did the right thing by his kids a lot of the time, but that's not a race issue.



Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:37 am
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Post funny story everyone can relate to
I cracked up in Chaper 3 when his father is going to speak to his class and Barak is mortified about his past "embellishment" about his fathers life.

What kid hasn't done this? Especially a kid that is trying hard to fit in. It is nice that he didn't get outed and indeed was elevated in popularity due to his father's visit. Nonetheless, I think he learned a lesson.



Sat Feb 28, 2009 1:00 pm
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Hi Everyone:

Well, it seems that I have come in quite late. I just started the book. I was actually awaiting Bad Money, but it has not arrived as yet.

I have just finished reading the preface. It is well written; however, I did feel some discomfort as he disclosed some negative attributes about his grandfather, specifically, about his assumed motives.

I was taught to honour my parents, and that may the source of my discomfort. Perhaps Obama’s grandparent had a similar tradition, which could explain why they chose not to speak ill of Obama Sr (at least in the preface).

I look forward to reading Chapter 1.



Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:09 am
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There was an interesting chapter from one of Jared Diamond's books, I can't remember which, that mentioned black people have a different mental capacity than Europeans. A greater capacity for survival, and whatever constitutes that, such as finding your way home without a map, running long distances, intelligence(yep). This is due to the selective requirements of their environment, where they had to rely much more on their survival skills.

Europeans, on the other hand, have been selected for resistance to disease. It's an interesting take, but I think it fails to consider the vast stretch of human history where Europeans weren't crammed together and susceptible to plagues. But then, I guess just a couple of plagues is enough for evolution to rear its head.



Wed Mar 18, 2009 12:25 pm
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Hi Interbane:

I believe the following based on my experience. Perhaps you can identify the areas where we disagree.

1. Every human has the same mental capacity; including the pygmy whom anthropologists claim is the most primitive of human beings, perhaps belonging to an earlier evolutionary age.

2. Every human being will score poorly if tested on a subject with which they are not familiar.

3. Every human being who is distracted by fears for their safety and hunger will find it very difficult to concentrate on learning new information.

4. The visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles can be found among all races of humans in similar ratios.

Therefore, why do the statistics show that Black’s appear to score lower in the US? Can it be that US students in areas with Black majorities must contend with more distractions resulting from poverty and crime? Can it also be that the schools lack the resources to cater to all of the learning styles? These are valid concerns, however, they pale in comparison to the greatest problem.

The greatest problem Black youth face worldwide, is their attraction to the well marketed Rap Culture with its glorification of violence, drugs, and promiscuity, that has effectively corrupted a generation of Black youth.

So, in my opinion, it has nothing to do with mental capacity, but everything to do with environment.



Wed Mar 18, 2009 2:06 pm
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Bska: "I believe the following based on my experience. Perhaps you can identify the areas where we disagree."

You want me to look through the items you posted and see if I can find anything I disagree with? :hmm: Okay, but I wasn’t trying to make a point with my last post.

1. Every human has the same mental capacity; including the pygmy whom anthropologists claim is the most primitive of human beings, perhaps belonging to an earlier evolutionary age.

Your assessment of the mental capacity of the pygmy is not based on your experience, it is subject to scientific studies and conjecture. Also, not every human has the same mental capacity. There are some humans born with mental retardation.

2. Every human being will score poorly if tested on a subject with which they are not familiar.

I disagree here. There may be subjects which some people need not be familiar with in order to test well.

3. Every human being who is distracted by fears for their safety and hunger will find it very difficult to concentrate on learning new information.

I’m not sure that ‘every’ human will be prone to this fear paralysis. Perhaps most people, and even then there are some that would only find it merely difficult, not very difficult, to learn new information.

4. The visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles can be found among all races of humans in similar ratios.

Are such styles able to be accurately tested without any of the problems that plague IQ testing? If so, show me the test results and I’ll agree with you.

Bska: "The greatest problem Black youth face worldwide, is their attraction to the well marketed Rap Culture with its glorification of violence, drugs, and promiscuity, that has effectively corrupted a generation of Black youth."

I won’t disagree here, it sounds reasonable. Although I’m wondering why you’re asking if I disagree with any of your above statements. I’m happy to look them over for the fun of it, but my previous post about skin color correlating to intelligence would offer nothing but the barest of relations to any of the problems we see today. It would simply be a matter of intellectual interest.

Bska: "So, in my opinion, it has nothing to do with mental capacity, but everything to do with environment."

What is this “it” you speak of? Are we debating something? On a side note, to say it has ‘nothing’ to do with mental capacity is to discount a person’s mental capacity completely. It may not be the largest factor toward “IT”, but is a factor.



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Hi Interbane:

You started your post by appearing to agree with Jared’s assertion that the observed differences in achievement in various cultures can be explained principally by environmental factors. However, you then ended by referencing evolution, perhaps as a factor in explaining the observed evidence. I do not think evolution is a factor. Therefore, I was attempting to identify the point at which we were diverging, so that we could discuss the matter. However, since you were not “trying to make a point” in your initial post on this subject, perhaps you could expand on the evolutionary comment.

For completeness, let me comment on your last post.

1. Let us simply agree to disagree, since I believe that even those diagnosed with “mental retardation” have the same mental capacity as anyone else; they are just able to express it differently. Their decisions to choose to forgive, love, and help others are rarely if ever considered in comparative assessments.

2. I do not understand your logic here. If a person is unfamiliar with a subject, and scores well when tested, then either they have guessed at the answers, or they were familiar with the subject. What other option(s) is (are) there?

3. Let us simply agree to disagree, since it can be argued that those who are able to learn under stress do not actually fear for their safety.

4. The teaching to accommodate other learning styles has been in the formal school system for over a decade with verifiable results. Google ‘learning styles tests’ for further information.

Regards.



Wed Mar 18, 2009 6:21 pm
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Bska: "You started your post by appearing to agree with Jared’s assertion that the observed differences in achievement in various cultures can be explained principally by environmental factors."

Actually, both mine and Jared's assertions as I understand them are evolutionary. My reference to the environment was that the environment has characteristics which determine natural selection. The environment that lead to evolution of resistance to disease for Europeans, for instance, was that of a crowded society.

Bska: "1. Let us simply agree to disagree, since I believe that even those diagnosed with “mental retardation” have the same mental capacity as anyone else; they are just able to express it differently. Their decisions to choose to forgive, love, and help others are rarely if ever considered in comparative assessments."

What I meant by mental retardation is actual damage to a large portion of the brain. A person with a very large percentage more brain has more capacity. There may be the rare exception where mental capacity isn't directly proportional to brain size, but I challenge you to find that exception.

For the rest of your points, the way you worded your claim was that every single human being on Earth fit into your proscribed parameters. I was simply making the point that it's almost an impossible claim to support, since if even one person falls outside those parameters, your claims fall through. For example, if the subject for your second claim is philosophy or math, there may be people who are inclined toward that subject without having as much education on it. Again, I'm speaking merely of those who would fall outside your parameters.



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Post my take on the book
sorry i haven't been more active in this one. I've been crushed at work, but to quote a former president "the long national nightmare is over"!

I'm loving this book. I can't believe he actually wrote it, in this day of ghostwriters. I guess part of it is because of who he was at the time. A guy who had graduated Harvard Law. Why does he need a ghostwriter?

I shouldn't be so surprised that an attorney is so articulate, but I agree with the other comments that I was expecting this to be more political. I'm glad it's not. It's giving me perspective on being black in America that I didn't glean from 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' or other civil rights period works.


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Post Re: Dreams from My Father - Preface, Intro & Ch. 1, 2, 3 &am
I've found that the revelation that Bill Ayers wrote the book, instead of Barack Obama, makes me feel like the whole book is merely an "invention"--a re-interpretation of history, notes, and memories, from a non-participant. Not worth more comment.


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