Chapter 4: In this chapter Barack slips back and forth between his black and white worlds in a difficult struggle to find his identity as a black American male. As we skim through the chapter, we will highlight sections that point to his inner struggle to discover his own identity, and we will focus on the persons and incidents that affect his inner journey to find and be himself.
Setting: Punahou High School - mid-teen years
1. Who was Ray? Describe his background. Why were Ray and Barack important for each other? (p. 72-73)
2. Why does Ray believe that everyone at Punahou is a racist? What is Barack's response? (73-74)
3. Who did Barack live with for three years of high school? What family changes had occurred?
4. "Away from my mother, away from my grandparents, I was engaged in a fitful interior struggle. I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant." (p. 76)
Explain the role of each of the following in Barack's struggle to find his identity. In the text, highlight important lines that show Barack's reflection on each.
a) his own father (p. 76)
b) Gramps (Where would he take him?)
d) pop culture (p. 78)
e) basketball (79-80)
5. On the basketball court, Barack met Ray and the other blacks close to his age, "teenagers whose confusion and anger would help shape my own." As they would say, "That's just how white folks will do you." What racist slights had Barack encountered? Highlight the persons involved and tell what they did. (p. 80)
6. Interpret the line, "...and the words that I spoke would seem awkward and false." (81)
7. How had Barack responded to the insult of a young assistant basketball coach? Was he proud of this response? How do you know? (81)
8. Give evidence from the text that Barack was uncomfortable with black posturing pretending to have a particular opinion or attitude and with the attempts of whites to ingratiateattempting to get someone's approval by trying hard to please or by showing admiration themselves. (81-83)
9. After taking two white friends to an all-black party, what was Jeff's remark to Barack and how did it affect him? What frightening "new map of the world" did he begin to see? (84-85)
10. Barack began reading black authors to corroborateto find information that supports his own insight and attitude "this nightmare vision." What was the "corrosive force" he found in each author's writing? (86)
11. What did he find different about Malcolm XMalcolm X was a black leader during the Civil Rights Movement. After converting to Islam, he renounced his advocacy of violence against whites to achieve equal rights for African Americans. 's writing? What did he find disturbing in Malcolm's book? (86)
12. How does Malik fit in here? What are the stereotypical reactions of Barack's friends? What was Ray's reaction?
13. Explain the significance of Barack's reflections by telling what had happened to Toot and Gramps' reaction to it.
"They had poured all their lingering hopes into my success. Never had they given me reason to doubt their love; I doubted if they ever would. And yet I knew that men who might easily have been my brothers could still inspire their rawest fears." (89)
What were your own reactions to how Gramps behaved?
14. After this experience, who does Barack go to see? What insights does he give him about his grandfather? About Toots' incident?
15. Interpret the last line, "I stopped, trying to steady myself, and knew for the first time that I was utterly completelyalone."