Obama on Racism circa 1995

It is always fascinating to find articles and video about Barack Obama from the past. Recently a group called 22-CityView in Cambridge released the video of a reading and book discussion on Dreams From My Father by Obama back in 1995. At the time, he had graduated from Harvard Law School, moved back to Chicago, was working as a civil rights lawyer and had recently married Michelle.

The reading is from what I remember as the most racially poignant part of the book. It takes place when he was 16 and includes the incident when his maternal grandmother was frightened by a black man at her bus stop as well as an interchange Barack had about that with Frank Marshall Davis.

In the discussion after the reading, Obama talks about how he has reconciled the anger he experienced as a teenager and how his faith gave him an optimism about our ability as Americans to deal with the racial divide.

I found this video because it is making the rounds right now on right wing web sites. They grasp in horror at the anger Obama felt as a teenager in reaction to the racism he encountered. And of course they find confirmation of all their wildest conspiracy theories in the fact that he was mentored by an avowed communist – Frank Marshall Davis.

But if you can find the time to watch this video (introduction and reading until 25:10, then Q&A), you will be reminded that this President has had his own unique experience of racism and taken a deep personal journey to not only understand himself, but how his life is part of the greater American story.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.