Barack Obama And The Deracialization Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

More precisely, "color blind racism created a paradox for presidential candidate Barack Obama. While he could not escape "race" his candidacy strategically figured "race" through color blind rhetoric that contained the threat of a black presidency. In spite of his campaign's efforts to avoid his racialization, "Obama" was alternately racialised and deracialized through his affective ties

The tactics used by Obama through the application of the deracialization theory may have its shortcomings. Some, as presented above include the lack of cohesion between being neutral in its gender and not being able to be perceived other than as an African-American. Another shortcoming of deciding to adopt a new stand, as an African-American, on politics is the fact that most advocates of African-American politics may consider a sign of betrayal for the way in which black politics is conducted for decades. More precisely, an interesting point was raised by Georgia Anne Persons (ed) in her book on black politics, "The expanding boundaries of Black politics." The book in itself represents the conclusions of a national conference on black politics held in 2006. Indeed, at that time the issue of deracialization was not as debated as nowadays from the simple fact that even if there were numerous black Americans that had won public office in the last decades, none had actually achieved the presidency yet. However, her insight is important because it presents the point-of-view of several national acclaimed scholars in black politics who agreed that, indeed, the promotion of a certain type of black policy, even if it tends to be race blind, automatically excludes other issues affecting the black community. As an example, the editor marked the struggle for the African-American to gain equal rights in politics and fair representativeness. At that time however, in the 1980s, these subjects caught the attention of the media and the politicians and aspects such as the HIV / AIDS battle facing the African-American communities was no longer the most important element to negotiate or deal with . Therefore, from this point-of-view, it can be said that the issue of deracialization can encompass several shortcomings which may resemble to the effects positive discrimination practices had on the society.

Finally, one of the most interesting sources in terms of actual policy and statements is the actual speeches and addresses made public by candidate and president Obama. In this era of technology, the internet represents the best means to communicate worldwide, at any time, with anybody interested to search online. Therefore, one of the reliable sources for the research is the official internet page of president Obama.

Chapter 3 Methodology

Given the fact that the subject under analysis represents a current event, one which is ongoing, it is rather difficult to grasp the entire nature of the implications the deracialization theory had on the way in which the Obama campaign was effective or not. Indeed, at a first glance, especially after the end of the elections, it can be pointed out that the theory was effective and efficient. However, when discussing issues related to history, the final result cannot be ascertain but decades later. In a first analysis, indeed, the theory marked one of the most important events in the history of the United States: the first African-American to become president of the U.S. Still, further analysis must be conducted in the future in order to properly establish if this result is the outcome of mere theory application or whether Obama's personal abilities together with a particular historical...
...There are several aspects to be taken into account to actually consider the way in which the applied theory had short-term effects and long-term effects. These include background information, political strategies, and, perhaps one of the most important elements, the impact on the society at large, on the long run.

Firstly, it focuses on the actual meaning of the theory, with all its historical and political implications throughout the years. This includes considerations of the theoretical aspects of the deracialization as well as examples from the political life when this theory was applied and with the respective results.

Secondly, a more in-depth analysis focuses on the actual Obama campaign, again, with all its implications. These implications include the historical background of the candidate and of the voting pool, the specificities of the theory he employed throughout his campaign. At this point, certain speeches are analyzed to identify the characterizing elements of the theory.

Thirdly, even if the Obama campaign proved to be successful in its endeavor, it is important to understand the way in which the choice of the voters was as a result of the theory and strategy applied, or, on the contrary, it resulted as a pure political choice, with a rational actor as the voters. The current polls and opinions on the Obama administration are analyzed to point out whether at this moment Barack Obama is still viewed as the phenomenon and the first African-American president or is seen as a regular democrat president. This is important because it gives an insight view on whether race matters during a presidential mandate. Given the applicability of the deracialization theory, it is obvious that race did matter during the campaign. It is important to see whether it matters during a presidential mandate.

Chapter 4 Results and findings

Subchapter 1 -- The theory

A clear definition of the deracialization theory was offered in 1993 by McCormick and Jones who define it as "conducting a campaign in a stylistic fashion that defuses the polarizing effects of race by avoiding explicit reference to race- specific issues, while at the same time emphasizing those issues that are perceived as radically transcendent, thus mobilizing a broad segment of the electorate for purposes of capturing or maintaining public office

." Better said, it includes the focalization of the discourse from a racial base to a neutral base.

Another example of defining the theory is given by Michael Fauntroy who states that "Deracialization, as applied to American electoral politics, is the conduction of an electoral campaign in which racial issues and themes are minimized, if not avoided, in order to attract increased white electoral support."

From this point-of-view, the deracialization theory is employed as a process. The candidate therefore makes a choice of orientating his campaign with a particular voter target which is in this case, the white voter. Therefore, in order to win the vote of the white community, he conducts his speeches in such a manner as to avoid any racial issues which for a white conservative voter may ne interpretable. This is also a means of protecting the candidate from actually being involved in debates which may reveal aspects which are not comfortable for the traditional black voter.

Another definition of the term focuses even more on the premeditated act of choice. More precisely, the deracialization theory, according to Hickman "forces African-American candidates to remove virtually all evidence of race as a central part of his or her being

." However, it may be that Hickman's language on this notion points out to premeditation but at the same time a necessity for the black candidate. From this point-of-view, using this practice may be a necessary issue for the black candidate and an element on which his campaign strongly relies in the face of the white voter.

The deracialization theory got the attention of the Democratic Party largely due to the more racial oriented nature of the party. In this sense, the theory in itself is more oriented towards an inclusive participatory process which takes into account minorities and less represented communities. As a result of this orientation, the theory was subject to the attention of the Democratic Party in the late 70s and concluded that "programs targeted directly at minorities failed to capture white voters"

. Therefore, the actual theory had as main and final result winning of the white votes in an attempt to gain power and consideration. From this point-of-view, all the definitions presented are somehow mixed to offer a comprehensive view of the actual rationale of the theory.

Elements of the deracialization theory

One of the main elements of the deracialization theory focuses on the belief presented by Hamilton that in order to attract white people's votes it is important to consider the broader aspects of policy and politics. In this sense, the average white voter is not particularly interested in the way in which positive discrimination for instance may improve the condition of the black American

; however, in this case, the black candidate must point out means through which actions (which may include positive discrimination) are important for a better consideration and respect for human rights in the society, and not necessarily in the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Abc News. Chicago's First Black Mayor. April 29, 1983

Apple, R.W. The 1989 Elections: Black Success With Measured Approach. New York Times November 08, 1989.

Appleman, Eric M. "Context 2008 elections." Democracy in Action. 2008. 30 April 2008

Associated Press. "Obama tackles race divide in major speech." MSNBC. 2008.

Cite This Thesis:

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