Barack Obama wrote in “Dreams From My Father” of his days as a student at Occidental College, groping for his political identity: “We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Frantz Fanon, Eurocentrism and patriarchy.”
That’s one of the passages from his autobiography that has fueled conspiracy theories among right-wing bloggers. They speak of Obama as if he’s a tool of Third World revolutionaries who have somehow been preserved in dry ice since the 1960s. But that’s silly. A man who plans to retain Bob Gates as secretary of defense and install a retired Marine four-star general as his national security adviser is not a creature of adolescent rebellion.
The Washington Post
Sunday, December 14, 2008; Page B07
But here’s a contrarian thought: Before Obama assumes the burdens of commander in chief, maybe he should dust off that copy of Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth” and give the radical theorist another look. In doing so, he would remind himself of the special opportunity he will have as president to speak to a world that still suffers from the anti-Western fury that Fanon described in 1961.
Obama symbolizes a change that truly is epochal. The French newspaper Le Monde greeted his election with the headline: “Happy New Century!” As the first African American president, he is sometimes described as post-racial. I don’t know about that, but as the son of a Kenyan intellectual born when that country was a British colony, Obama has another distinction that is rarely noted: He is a post-colonial man.