I finished Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. In my latest reading, Obama talked about introducing Michelle to his family—-on both his father’s side (in Africa) and his mother’s side (in the U.S.). Barack’s white grandfather thought that Michelle was quite a looker, and his white grandmother considered her to be a woman with good sense!
What I want to focus on in this post, however, is a discussion that Barack had with Dr. Rukia Odero, a friend of his father and a former teacher of his half-sister Auma. In my last post, I talked about Obama getting in touch with his African roots and the catharsis that was for him. In my latest reading, Dr. Rukia mentions another side to that. She says that many young African-Americans romanticize Africa, when—-in her younger years—-she and others tended to think that the answers were in America, as people sought inspiration in Harlem, Chicago, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and the Kennedys. She says that African-Americans come to Africa looking for authenticity, but they are disappointed because there is no purely African culture. Kenyans like tea, but this was a habit that they got from the English, and their spices for the fish meal that she and Obama were eating came from India or Indonesia. Moreover, while you’d think from the fish-meal that the Luo ate fish, that wasn’t the case for all Luo, and it wasn’t always true because the Luo were pastoralists before they settled by the lake. In short, the culture is in flux, and it has been subjected to foreign influences.
Moreover, Dr. Odero says that colonialism made many black Kenyans defensive about preserving their African culture, when, as far as Dr. Odero is concerned, there are elements of Kenyan culture that should probably go, such as polygamy and collective ownership of land, which have been abused.
I’m not sure what to say about these points, but I found them to be interesting. Overall, this was an excellent book to read, and I can see why it gained the renown that it did.