As I came to believe early on, whoever guided Obama steered him towards a grievance narrative like Ali's, if not quite as obvious or extravagant. Even on my first reading in July 2008, I could see that Obama's muse proved particularly eloquent on the subject of the angry black male.
Phrases like "full of inarticulate resentments," "knotted, howling assertion of self," "unruly maleness," "unadorned insistence on respect" and "withdrawal into a smaller and smaller coil of rage" lace the book. Yet in the several spontaneous interviews Obama had given on the subject of race, I had not seen a glimpse of this eloquence or of this anger.
The evidence eventually led me towards an odd conclusion: The man who lent Obama his voice on the subject of blackness gave all appearances of being white. The more I researched Bill Ayers' background, the less unlikely this seemed. Skin color aside, Ayers and Obama had much in common. Both grew up in comfortable white households, attended idyllic, largely white prep schools, and have struggled to find an identity as righteous black men ever since.