At This Defining Moment

At This Defining Moment: Barack Obamas Presidential Candidacy and the New Politics of Race

Enid Logan
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 229
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  • Book Info
    At This Defining Moment
    Book Description:

    In January 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.In the weeks and months following the election, as in those that preceded it, countless social observers from across the ideological spectrum commented upon the cultural, social and political significance of the Obama phenomenon. In At this Defining Moment, Enid Logan provides a nuanced analysis framed by innovative theoretical insights to explore how Barack Obama's presidential candidacy both reflected and shaped the dynamics of race in the contemporary United States. Using the 2008 election as a case study of U.S. race relations, and based on a wealth of empirical data that includes an analysis of over 1,500 newspaper articles, blog postings, and other forms of public speech collected over a 3 year period, Logan claims that while race played a central role in the 2008 election, it was in several respects different from the past. Logan ultimately concludes that while the selection of an individual African American man as president does not mean that racism is dead in the contemporary United States, we must also think creatively and expansively about what the election does mean for the nation and for the evolving contours of race in the 21st century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5346-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction: The Landscape of Race in the 21st Century
    (pp. 1-12)

    On February 11, 2007, Senator Barack Obama, who had just the day before in Springfield, Illinois, declared his intention to run for the U.S. presidency, gave an interview with the60 Minutesreporter Steve Kroft. Shortly into that interview, they had the following exchange:

    KROFT: Your Mother was white. Your father was African.

    OBAMA: Right.

    KROFT: You spent most of your life in a white household.

    OBAMA: Yeah.

    KROFT: I mean, you grew up white.

    Obama’s response to this statement was quite interesting:

    I’m not sure that would be true. I think what would be true is that I don’t...

  5. 2 Post-race American Triumphalism and the Entrenchment of Colorblind Racial Ideology
    (pp. 13-30)

    On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States. In the weeks following the election, as in the months that preceded it, countless social observers from across the ideological spectrum offered commentary concerning the cultural, social, and political significance of the Obama phenomenon. They especially discussed what Obama’s successful campaign said about the state of our democracy and the role of race in the saga of the nation.

    While the voices were not monolithic, a sort of consensus emerged in the public sphere. The pundits spoke, triumphantly, of the “major transformation” that had taken place...

  6. 3 Rooted in the Black Community but Not Limited to It: The Perils and Promises of the New Politics of Race
    (pp. 31-50)

    The idea of the “new black politics” or the “new politics of race” gained tremendous currency during the 2008 American presidential election. According to the triumphal narrative spun by the pundits, Barack Obama’s ascendance signaled that the “old” politics of race, focusing on black grievance, victimhood, and protest, were vanquished, leaving in their place newer, more effective ways of getting things done.

    Referencing the differences between himself and those who had come before, Obama claimed that he was “rooted in the black community” but “not limited to it.”¹ The senator was widely described as a member of a new cohort...

  7. 4 Contesting Gender and Race in the 2008 Democratic Primary
    (pp. 51-66)

    During and immediately after the Democratic primary, commentators offered a number of explanations as to why Obama fared better with voters than did Clinton. It was variously argued that Obama won because he was a man, and it was “impossible” to be a powerful woman in politics; because Obama was a sexist who actively encouraged stereotypes about Clinton; or because while racism is universally regarded as taboo, no one takes sexism seriously. Others claimed that it could be historically demonstrated that “blacks” always get their rights before “women” get theirs, or that blacks as a group receive more advantages than...

  8. 5 The Trope of Race in Obama’s America
    (pp. 67-80)

    As the French philosopher Etienne Balibar has written, “The discourses of race and nation are never very far apart.”¹ The relationship between these discourses, however, has long been fraught with tension and contradiction. The pretense of nationalism is that it is an ideology of profound inclusion—the nation is “always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship” of citizens who are posited to be equals.² Yet as many scholars have argued, nation building has always included practices of both inclusion and exclusion, articulated, most prominently, around the axes of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Further, we are reminded, exclusions and hierarchies...

  9. 6 Asian and Latino Voters in the 2008 Election: The Politics of Color in the Racial Middle
    (pp. 81-106)

    In an article published in theAsian American Law Review,the critical race scholar Robert Chang discussed his difficulty apprehending the relevance of the debate about Obama’s race in 2007/2008 for Asian Americans. Despite wide claims that Obama’s candidacy demonstrated that the United States had transcended race, Chang was not sure that scholars had even begun to fully grasp the place of Asian Americans in the country’s racial hierarchy. He wrote, “Obama has been said to be running the first post-racial campaign, that his success somehow marks a post-racial moment or ushers in a new post-racial era. If that is...

  10. 7 In Defense of the White Nation: The Modern Conservative Movement and the Discourse of Exclusionary Nationalism
    (pp. 107-120)

    At an October 2008 rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, then governor of Alaska, made the following statement:

    We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic . . . pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and...

  11. 8 Racial Politics under the First Black President
    (pp. 121-128)

    To conclude the book, I briefly discuss racial politics since Barak Obama’s electoral victory, and ponder the larger meaning of his political ascent for racial dynamics in the future. In the previous chapter, I examined the racial and national politics of members of the conservative mainstream (i.e., the Republican Party presidential nominees, other elected officials, well-known authors, and commentators from the major conservative news outlets). Here, however, I begin by looking at two political movements that are further to the right of the political spectrum—the “birthers” and the Tea Party. Each gained substantial notoriety in the first two years...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 129-160)
  13. References
    (pp. 161-205)
  14. Index
    (pp. 206-215)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 216-216)