January 3, 2008

Kenyan tribalism explains why Barack is so black

Democracy is working its magic in Kenya at the moment:

Kenya Torn by Tribal Rage: In a flash, ethnically integrated neighbors turn on one another ... -- Washington Post
Kenya Topples Into Post-Election Chaos -- NY Times

So, it's worth recounting the views of Barack Obama's Kenyan relatives, who belong to the Luo tribe, on the tribal situation in Kenya. The Presidential candidate writes in Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (p. 348):

Anyway, the divisions in Kenya didn't stop there [between Africans and Indian merchants]; there were always finer lines to draw. Between the country's forty black tribes, for example. They, too, were a fact of life. You didn't notice the tribalism so much among [half-sister] Auma's friends, younger university-educated Kenyans who had been schooled in the idea of nation and race; tribe was an issue with them only when they were considering a mate, or when they got older and saw it help or hinder careers. But they were the exceptions. Most Kenyans still worked with older maps of identity, more ancient loyalties. Even Jane or Zeituni could say things that surprised me. "The Luo are intelligent but lazy," they would say. Or "The Kikuyu are money-grubbing but industrious." Or "The Kalenjins -- well, you can see what's happened to the country since they took over."

Hearing my aunts traffic in such stereotypes, I would try to explain to them the error of their ways. [At this point, Obama has spent a little less than two weeks in his life in Africa.] "It's thinking like that that holds us back," I would say. "We're all part of one tribe. The black tribe. The human tribe. Look what tribalism has done to places like Nigeria or Liberia."

And Jane would say, "Ah, those West Africans are all crazy anyway. You know they used to be cannibals, don't you?"

And Zeituni would say, "You sound just like your father, Barry, he also had such ideas about people."

Meaning he , too, was naive; he, too, liked to argue with history. Look what happened to him ...

The reason Obama is just about as dark in skin tone as the average African-American even though he is nearly three times as white genetically is because the Luo are darker than most other Africans. Obama describes the crowd at a Nairobi nightclub (p. 364) as comprised of:

"... tall, ink-black Luos and short, brown Kikuyus, Kamba and Meru and Kalenjin..."

Obama's Luo tribe are one of the tall, thin, very dark "elongated Nilotic" groups who originated in the Southern Sudan. They are rather like their relatives, the famously tall Dinka and Nuer, only not quite as much. In contrast, most Africans today (and almost all African-Americans) are primarily descended from the "Bantu expansion" that originated in the Nigeria-Cameroon area of West Africa.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Speaking of tribalism, I wonder if you could write an article on the genocide of Sephardim in Israel:

Anonymous said...

Think the MSM will cover this?

Nada chance.

Look at Andy Sullivan's take....there isn't a thing that Obama can do to remove the stars from his eyes.

Even Obama's nightsoil is white, to him!

Chip said...

"We're all part of one tribe. The black tribe. The human tribe."

I'm pretty sure that's two tribes.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that right in the middle of its recent Kenyan reportage, NPR said something like "Meanwhile, another Luoan is facing an election battle - Barack Obama." Said cheekily just before seguing to more about African political unrest.

Interesting because the Kenyan story was not flattering: presented as a violent, disintegrating, hopeless situation typical of Africa (strongly hinted as meaning backward peoples).

Guess NPR is for Hillary.

Anonymous said...

How is Obama three times genetically whiter than most Afro-Americans?

Anonymous said...

Does Kenyan tribalism explain why he has such a fine voice?

Steve Sailer said...

Shriver et al's admixture study of 2500 African-American adults estimated the average white component of ancestry to be 17-18%. Obama is very close to 50% white (he may have a little American Indian in his white family tree).

PithLord said...


That passage is one of the reasons I found your claim that Obama has no sense of humour risible. The "cannibals" line is hilarious.

Maybe what misled you is that Obama-the-character is always the straight man. Obama-the-writer could have made a living in the Catskills.

Anonymous said...

unless i am reading this wrong, and steve is talking about how black barack obama feels, and not how black barack obama looks...

barack obama is fully half white, a literal descendant of the mayflower immigrants, and has far lighter skin than millions of west africans that live in the US, let alone having lighter skin than any of the "so black they are purple" groups that live in east africa.

he is light enough that full blooded black americans notice that he is not dark enough.

Anonymous said...

Obama must think politics in America is rather dull, you really have only three ethnic groups to consider (so far).

The majority (whites) are pro-minority and not conscious of themselves; the largest minority (blacks) are easily bought by gifts from the whites; and Jews run the show, and as long as he keeps them happy he'll be fine.

Much easier than Kenya - even for a politician whose political philosophy and religion is finely-tuned to racial sensitivities.

Anonymous said...

What most African Americans do not realize is that Obama is not a representative or a reflection of the African American community of America. Obama is a first generation African who has not experienced the pain, and the suffering that the Black community had to face. Obama is not part of the true heritage of the decendants of the African slave community of America. I would go as far to say that his represenation of the black community is only skin deep. The only commonalit between the black community of America and Obama is the color of their skin. There is nothing more. All the money that is going to Iraq now, will be diverted to Africa, if Obama becomes President! I do not believe that black community of America will benefit at all from Obama's election to the Presidency