For my write-up today on Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, I'll talk about the issue of success in social activism, while also drawing on some of my favorite passages in my latest reading.
my latest reading, Obama has a conversation with his half-sister, who
tells him about their father in Kenya. Kenya was having a lot of
problems: tribalism, government jobs going to people who were
unqualified, and Kenyan politicians purchasing a bunch of land and
businesses rather than redistributing them to the people. Barack's
father spoke up, and he was essentially blacklisted from working in the
government. He degenerated after that point.
Obama as a community
organizer was trying to make things better in Chicago as he worked with
others. And, in areas, he succeeded, for there were neighborhood
crime-watches and tutoring programs. But there was one time when it
looked like he was going to be successful, but he ultimately was not.
This was when he and others were lobbying local officials to investigate
apartments to see if they had asbestos, and to get rid of the
asbestos. Obama and his team succeeded in getting the officials to
investigate the asbestos. But, because the federal government only
appropriated so much money, the residents of the apartments had to
choose between asbestos removal and new plumbing and roofing that they
There were inspiring stories about the community's
anti-asbestos stand, though: A woman named Sadie, whom Obama didn't
think would make a good spokesperson because she was rather mousy, ended
up doing a good job and getting things done; Obama says that one of the
officials with whom they interacted reminded him of his grandfather,
who was broken down by life; etc.
But, in terms of concrete
results, the crusade failed----and yet, as Obama notes, it was
successful in that the community came together to seek change.
Is change possible? In areas, perhaps so. At least one should try.