Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Part Two, Chicago, Chapter Thirteen. Identity Is Not Enough: One Must Find One’s Stake.
Barack is considering taking on the public school system in Chicago. He sees the high school dropouts on the corner with their sullen looks guarding their turf without aspirations beyond maintaining dominion over their block. He wonders how he can change the system to encourage these boys who are routinely harassed by the police to believe that they have a stake in society in general and to make them believe that they can benefit by an education and rise above their current state and have a real stake in society.
His elder brother Roy had married a white woman and moved to Washington D.C. where he worked as an accountant. When Barack goes to see him Roy is no longer the slender young man he has seen in pictures but he has become overweight. He tells Barack that he cannot stay at his house as planned but must stay at a hotel because he is feuding with his wife. Barack never gets to meet Roy’s wife. Roy tells him that he thinks he is headed for divorce because his wife tells him that he drinks too much and stays out too late. Roy also has had an accident like his father.
As the oldest boy, in Kenya, he would be responsible for all the others in the family after Barack Sr. died. However in Washington he appears to be out of his element or place in a land where he has no real identity or stake. One wonders if he married Mary, A Peace Corp worker, because he was not succeeding in Kenya either and she was a ticket to a new land and a presumed new identity. Barack leaves early so Roy can try and patch things up with his wife.
On his return to Chicago, Barack tries to help Ruby with her son Kyle who is headed to be another high school dropout. Kyle is staying out late and drinking. Barack asks him about his desire to be in the Air Force. Kyle grunts and is non committal. After some probing by Barack Kyle blurts out ‘What’s the use. Have you ever seen a black pilot?’ Kyle has concluded that he can never reach his goal to be a pilot and has resigned himself to getting a menial job in Chicago and not striving to improve his lot.
Later he and Kyle join a pickup basketball game with some older men. One the older guys tries to put Kyle down as a punk and as not good enough to guard him. Kyle punches him. The fight is broken up but on the way home Kyle feels ashamed and asks Barack not to tell his mother. Barack agrees and wonders if this sliver of self esteem and self worth will be enough to save him from believing that he has no stake in a society that will let him become the best that he can be.
Barack secures a promise from a state legislator that he will sponsor a bill to fund a $500,000 youth counseling program in his area. Barack tells Johnnie a new community organizer he is mentoring. Johnnie reports back that when he informed the school principal he was given a resume’ for the principles wife to work as director of the program and one for his daughter to work as a counselor.
Barack and Johnnie laugh at this “enterprising brother.” However Barack recognizes that this is part of the problem with the high dropout rate and youth’s loss of belief that they have a stake to claim in society if they work hard.
Barack realizes all too often those charged with educating minority youth are more interested in feathering their own nest than the student’s progress.
Students without a belief they have a stake and that they can achieve a good place in society will always lack the will to succeed in life. The challenge to educators is to create this belief