Barack Obama, Sr. Ejected From America Due to Racism?

Hello from Port au Prince! DOn’t usually post when on travel – but I got a few free minutes and a good Internet connection!was-barack-obama-sr-eased-out-harvard-and-america-dating-white-women

Was Barack Obama Sr. eased out of Harvard, and America, for dating white women?

This morning, the Arizona Independent,a weekly paper, published the file kept by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (as the agency was then called) on a Kenyan student by the name of Barack Hussein Obama Sr. So far, the file, obtained via F.O.I.A., has mostly gotten attention for further substantiating the obvious: that Obama Sr. fathered a son who was born in Hawaii.

But as someone who has spent a lot of time studying post-colonial Africa—and particularly the fascinating and emblematic story of our president’s tangled lineage—I was most interested in how the file did shed some light on a real mystery, the one that inspired Barack Obama Jr. to write a book about his absent father, one of his earliest steps into public life. Why did the president’s father leave his son, and eventually America, returning to Hawaii for just a single childhood visit?

I think the file proves, fairly conclusively, that racism drove the president’s father from the United States. I went back and forth a bit with Ben Smith (whose blog post brought this file to my attention) over whether “racism” is really the right word for the bureaucratic attitudes and actions these documents contain. There’s no use of slurs or harsh language, certainly. What I think the documents reveal, though, is a subtle, institutionalized conspiracy that in a way seems more insidious than overt cross-burning racism, because almost surely none of its participants thought of their actions as discriminatory at all. In that sense, the file is an instructive artifact, not just of our president’s biography, but of our nation’s history of conflicted attitudes about race, foreign cultures, intermarriage and sex.

Hard as it may be to believe today, it seems clear from a close reading of the the file that the president’s father was driven from this country because of his messy personal life. And reading between the lines, it’s not hard to see a subtext of miscegenation.

First, a little historical background: the elder Barack Hussein Obama arrived in the United States in 1959, via an exchange program known colloquially in Kenya as the “Tom Mboya airlift,” after the politician who sponsored it, a Luo tribesman of his. (These sorts of ethnic connections matter in Africa.)

During his first year of studies at the University of Hawaii, Obama took a Russian-language class where he met Stanley Ann Dunham, the president’s mother. The earliest non-routine memo in Obama’s file is a 1961 memo in which the I.N.S. is warned by a foreign student adviser at the University of Hawaii (a “Mrs. McCabe”), who informed the authorities that Obama had married Dunham. Further, the informant noted that he had been “running around with several girls” and had been “warned about his playboy ways.” He had been confronted by school officials about another wife he had back in Kenya, from whom he claimed to be customarily divorced.

I have no intention of arguing that the elder Obama conducted himself honorably in his relations with women. However, having lived in East Africa, his explanation rings familiar to me. Even today, it is common for a well-traveled young person like him to have a first wife back in his home village. We call this “polygamy;” they see it as moving on with life.

First marriages fizzle out in Africa, as they do everywhere else. The difference is that culturally, legal divorce is very frowned upon: It’s viewed as shirking financial and familial responsibilities. Epidemiologists, who have studied this cultural pattern because of its impact on the spread of H.I.V., often say that Africans tend to have “concurrent” relationships, while Americans have “consecutive” ones. That’s a wild generalization, but the point is that Obama Sr. would not have viewed his first marriage back in Kenya as something disreputable. It clearly became worthy of investigation to school and immigration officials, though, after he started fooling around with white women.

After the 1961 report about Obama’s marriage to Dunham, the I.N.S. resolved to keep eye on him. Polygamy is not a charge meriting deportation, the memo notes, adding that “If the subject were convicted of bigamy we might get a deportation charge but not before.” But it recommends that Obama be “closely questioned before another [visa] extension is granted—and denial be considered.” This sets the tone of the rest of the file, throughout which the issue of his American wife back in Hawaii keeps popping up.

The birth of Obama’s mixed-race son—the one who would go on to be president—is duly noted, and then things go quiet for a couple of years. During this time, the president’s parents separated and Obama Sr. went to Harvard to study for a graduate degree. The relationship went on as a long-distance proposition for a little while, though it was over by Jan. 1964, when Dunham filed for a divorce that Obama did not contest.

The same month as the divorce, another note appears in Obama’s file. There seems to have been some kind of affair with a Kenyan exchange student (the file indicates a high school student, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a minor—African children often started school quite late in the 1950s and ’60s). The Unitarian Universalist Service, which had sponsored the woman’s scholarship, is up in arms about the relationship and an unpermitted overseas trip. “The suspicion exists,” says a memo, “that she may have gone to London for [redacted].”

We don’t know what the couple was suspected to have done, but since this was a decade prior to Roe v. Wade, we can guess. A related memo reports that an informant considers Obama to be a “very slippery character.”

Maybe he was. But again, what the I.N.S. really wants to know about is the elder Obama’s situation with his wife back in Hawaii. The authorities get in touch with Harvard and ask officials there to press him on his marital status. Obama tells the school that he is separated from Ann Dunham, who is reported to be now living in the Philippines. (Though that’s what the report says, it’s inaccurate: Dunham was still residing in Hawaii in 1964, where she met her second husband, who did eventually take the family to Indonesia.) (More)

Botswana’s President – Ain’t Gonna Marry No Big Fat Woman!

Botswana’s President: No Short, Fat Wife for Me

Botswana’s most eligible bachelor is looking for a wife, but he’s not interested in any short or overweight ones—like the country’s minister for local government. “I don’t want one like this one,” President Ian Khama said at a political party meeting. “She may fail to pass through the door, breaking furniture with her heavy weight and even break the vehicle’s shock absorbers.”

Khama says he’s been too busy running the country to find a wife and has sent his aides to search for one. Critics speaking under condition of anonymity have denounced his remarks as sexist, and inappropriate for the leader of a country known for its short and heavyset women. Khama’s status, however, as both president and chief of Botswana’s largest ethnic group means he won’t likely face any public criticism over his attitude about women, ABC notes.

I’m not sure all is lost, Mr. President… But I’m not sure a Western President could have gotten past that statement!

Recent Miss Botswana Contestants

 

 

 

Growth in Number of Interracial Marriages Slows

Until 1967, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia struck down the last of the anti-miscegenation laws in this country, interracial marriage had been illegal in 16 states and was widely considered a social taboo. The folowing diagram is from a PEW Research Study done in 2002/3 illustrating the attitudes of different age groups -

Interracial marriage still rising, but not as fast

WASHINGTON (AP) — Melting pot or racial divide? The growth of interracial marriages is slowing among U.S.-born Hispanics and Asians. Still, blacks are substantially more likely than before to marry whites.

The number of interracial marriages in the U.S. has risen 20 percent since 2000 to about 4.5 million, according to the latest census figures. While still growing, that number is a marked drop-off from the 65 percent increase between 1990 and 2000.

About 8 percent of U.S. marriages are mixed-race, up from 7 percent in 2000.

The latest trend belies notions of the U.S. as a post-racial, assimilated society. Demographers cite a steady flow of recent immigration that has given Hispanics and Asians more ethnically similar partners to choose from while creating some social distance from whites due to cultural and language differences.

White wariness toward a rapidly growing U.S. minority population also may be contributing to racial divisions, experts said. Continue reading

Stella Got Her Groove… And Died!

Those of you old enough, or hip enough to have heard “Mom’s Mabley” (real name Loretta Mary Aiken) – might remember he standard opening line -

“The only thing an old man can do for me is to get on a bicycle and bring me a message from a young man!”

Moms, Pigmeat Markum, and Red Foxx were a staple of the “Chitlin’ Circuit”.

Turns out Mom’s was wrong…

Now all you ladies out there on those “Computer Dating” sites in your 40’s and 50’s checking that box for those 20 somethings…

Better take note!

Women marrying a partner seven to nine years younger increase their relative mortality risk by 20% compared with couples where both are the same age. But the relative mortality risk of a husband who is seven to nine years older is reduced by 11%. Source: Sven Drefahl

Marrying a younger man increases a woman’s mortality rate

Women who are seven to nine years older than their husbands have a 20% higher mortality rate than if they were the same age

Women with much younger husbands may die younger on average because they experience more stress, Drefahl speculates.

The secret to a longer life is to marry someone the same age, at least if you are a woman, researchers say.

Marriage generally improves life expectancy, but the age gap between a couple affects the life expectancy of men and women very differently.

Marrying an older man shortens a woman’s lifespan, but having a younger husband reduces it even more, the study found.

The findings, drawn from the medical records of two million Danish couples, suggest that the best a woman can do is marry a man of about the same age. Continue reading

Single black women should end the blame game

Hat Tip - The Grio

This is part of an opinion piece by Dr. Boyce Watkins dealing with the falling marriage numbers in the black community. For the whole thing – go here.

Watkins points out that while black men have been assigned much of the blame, the reality is that black women share much more of the blame than is typically assigned to them. He questions the “common wisdom” – even that voiced by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder…

Having recently gone back on the market myself, I have to admit to one huge pet peeve. Trying to make an introduction and speak to an attractive black woman can be a minefield – no matter how politely approached, or well accoutered a guy is. Sisters are experts at the shoot down. Now – that’s not a one way thing, in that I’ve certainly seen some low class hardheads come with some pretty crude crap, after being shot down with a crude intro, and maybe that, in part – poisons the market. However, that iron wall shuts down conversation at any level.

Second, no guy in his right mind wants anything to do with a woman describing herself as a “Diva”. Don’t need a “Queen” either. And any guy who thinks he’s going to be a “King” in a household with any woman worth her salt deserves what he gets, which is almost always a lot of frustration. Maybe if a few more folks valued the concept of partnership instead of primitive ego gratification?

To Dr. Watkin’s critique -

I often wonder if there is more to the black relationships story than that. Here are some thoughts to consider:

1) Whites aren’t staying married either, so this is not just solely a black issue. The next time Barack Obama gives a speech about black men “behaving like little boys” because they don’t live with their children, I would love to see him give that same speech to the millions of divorcees in white America. Given that roughly 50% of white marriages end in divorce, we can’t presume that black people create the only dysfunctional families in America. All of America is turning away from marriage, and that’s just a fact.

2) Are men the only ones to blame here? When I watched the beautiful women on the ABC special who felt that they could never find a husband, I heard some of my educated, fully employed male friends say, “I’d marry any one of them right now!” Over the years, I’ve seen many women pass over good men who would make excellent husband/boyfriend/baby daddy material. (Sorry, I hold no ill will toward baby’s daddies – I only care about love, not labels). Continue reading

Those Eligible Black Women

Professional black women remain single much longer than their white counterparts. Is it the shortage of eligible black men due to dysfunctions in the black community – or are black women’s standards impossibly high? This is an interesting discussion by 60 Minutes Atlanta, with Steve Harvey -

The Obama Marraige

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