Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Literature, Basketball, and Obama

Beyond the good feelings that Barack Obama's accomplishments have prompted, his rise and the attention he's gained have provided large numbers of folks with reasons to participate more actively in a set of intellectual processes: reading, questioning, speculating, writing, researching, etc.

I have been less in awe about the issue of Obama being biracial than I have been impressed with opportunities to engage with such broad multi-racial groups of people about disparate circumstances involved in the production of a President Obama. We've been all over the place considering politics, economics, history, race, coolness, education. You name it.

Recently I came across Alexander Wolff's article in Sports Illustrated The Audacity of Hoops, which focuses on the influence of basketball in Obama's cultural identity, his political activities, and his public persona. Right after the Wolff article, I read Michiko Kakutani's From Books, New President Found Voice in the New York Times. Kaktutani's article explained how Obama's varied reading interests and his "appreciation of the magic of language" may have "shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world."

Taken together, Wolff's and Kakutani's articles as well as the conversations I've been having with folks about the pieces create opportunities for broad and dynamic thoughts about the diverse elements that can shape a remarkable figure. And fortunately, these conversations have included and sometimes privileged aspects of race and African American culture, something that does not happen enough in conversations about big ideas.

We'll keep our eyes open and try to share groups of seemingly uncommon articles that we're reading and discussing relating to Obama, race, and culture.

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