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The Black Presidential Non-Slave: Genocide and the Present Tense of Racial Slavery

Rethinking Obama

ISBN: 978-0-85724-911-1, eISBN: 978-0-85724-912-8

Publication date: 30 November 2011


A devastating racial logic remains at play in the moment of a “post-civil rights” Black presidency. Barack Obama's ascent has amplified a national mythology of racial progress in the US multiculturalist age. This mythology has fundamentally undermined both the credibility and critical traction of existing scholarly-activist languages of racism, antiracism, white supremacy, and institutionalized racial dominance. Thus, the discourse of national-racial vindication that animates Obama's ascendance can and must be radically opposed with creative historical narrations. These narrations must attempt to explain how and why systems of racial dominance and state-condoned, state-sanctioned racist violence remain central to the shaping of our present tense. The chapter approaches this problematic by examining how the historical social logics of racial chattel slavery cannot be historically compartmentalized and temporally isolated into a discrete “past,” because they are genocidal in their structuring and are thus central to the constitution of our existing social and cultural systems. The apparatus of the North American racial chattel institution must be theorized in its present tense articulations because its logics of power, domination, and violence have never really left us. The essay offers a schematic elaboration of this reconceptualization of racial genocide focusing on how the slavery's abolition in the latter-19th century provides the political, cultural, and legal basis for slavery's “reform” into the apparatuses of policing, criminalization, widespread and state-sanctioned antiblack bodily violence, and ultimately massive imprisonment. This examination allows for an elaboration of how slavery's genocidal social logics permeate the present tense social formation, particularly at the site of massive racial criminalization and imprisonment.



Rodríguez, D. (2011), "The Black Presidential Non-Slave: Genocide and the Present Tense of Racial Slavery", Go, J. (Ed.) Rethinking Obama (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 17-50.



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