Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Part One, Chapter Two, Indonesia. Formative Years.

June 15, 2011 by
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Lolo Soetoro, Ann Soetoro, Maya and Barack in Indonesia

Barack who was born August 4, 1961 in Oahu, Hawaii, U.S.A. Lived in Indonesia from  ages six through ten with his mother and her second husband Lolo Soetoro, a Geographer for the Indonesian government.

It was during this period that although he attended Indonesian schools he was also home schooled by his mother in English and other subjects. During this period he became aware of the many inequities of life in Indonesia. Some people were reduced to begging to survive others suffered from ailments without adequate medical care. Some had good jobs others did menial work.

When his mother  married  Lolo, he had been a fellow student at the University of Hawaii and he was recalled home as were all students studying abroad after the overthrow of Sukarno by a military man, Suharto.

During this period he became conscious of the fact that he had a different skin color than others. His mother told him about famous, successful black people Martin Luther King Thurgood Marshall, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne and others. However he couldn’t help noticing on the imported American television shows that black people were treated differently and held different positions in life than the whites on the same shows. In particular on I Spy he wondered why Bill Cosby never got the girl.

Then one day he came upon a pictorial in Life Magazine about a black man who had tried to change the color of his skin by peeling it off. This brought home to him the challenges he faced being a member of a black minority that was subject to racial prejudice.

He also became aware of power in the world and that those who held it made the rules. His mother taught English to businessmen at the American Embassy. There were men in the Embassy who held  titles  like Economist or Agricultural Scientist that seemed to be very knowledgeable about who controlled Indonesia. He also became aware that Sukarno was overthrown in a bloody coup because it was thought he might be a communist sympathizer.

He took note of these perceptions about power and race and also realized upon later reflection that his mother seemed to be a new deal democrat while his father was a principled man that followed universal precepts of the dignity and rights of men. Lolo on the other hand, who had lost his father and brother in the political upheaval surrounding the coup along with the family homestead, was a fatalist divorcing his ideals from the realities of everyday life and went along to get along and kowtowed to those in power to survive.

It was during these years that he realized that his place and his father’s place in the world were different from his mothers teachings concerning the more successful blacks. Those lives were not the complete story of racial identity in the World. He learned that his  fate was permanently intertwined with not only his mother’s heritage but also his father’s heritage.



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