Race in the Age of Obama: Part 2: Volume 19
Table of contents(18 chapters)
List of Contributors
List of Illustrations
Part I: The Obama Election: How about Positive Movement in America’s Racial Politics
Barack Obama has had considerable support among scholarly circles since his win in the Iowa primary in early 2008. A segment of the Association of Black Sociologists (ABS), “Black and Progressive Sociologists Obama Working Group (BPSOWG),” was particularly active during the 2008 campaign. The purpose of this chapter was to determine if the level and type of activism among this group differed from other progressive groups of sociologists.
The data for this study were collected from a web-based survey administered to approximately 800 professional sociologists in the United States. The survey consisted of items that focused on the extent to which respondents supported the Obama campaign for the presidency and the extent to which they were satisfied with and/or agreed with his policies during first two years of his presidency.
The response rate for the survey was 40% (N=305) and 96% of respondents (N=293) submitted surveys with complete information. Over two-thirds of participants were members of the American Sociological Association Section on Race and Ethnic Relations and 5.5% of respondents identified themselves as members of the BPSOWG. A slight majority (53.6%) of study participants were females and the largest two racial groups making up the study population were whites (47.1%) and African Americans (36.1%). Most of the respondents provided support for President Obama during his first campaign, including financial contributions (66%).
Sociologists who responded to the survey were generally positive about Barack Obama as a candidate and a President. However, the subtle differences between groups about Obama administration policies and the use Presidential power highlighted key areas in which diverse coalitions for progressive change are needed.
To locate and assess the significant variables in Obama’s victories and provide a theoretical framework of racism and the racial problematic that explicates why the Obama presidency has been animated by racism and the race problematic.
A demographic profile of Obama’s election is developed in order to assess the results, how different cohorts voted, and explain the critical nuances of why Obama won. A theoretical framework of racism and the race problematic is developed in order to illustrate how racism and the racial problematic function and situate the Obama phenomenon within the critical processes of the American discourse on racism and the fallacy of a post-racial moment. An examination is also made of some of the current trends in how racism continues to define the responses to the Obama public policy agenda.
While Obama was elected and reelected with broad-based support from nearly every voting cohort, racism and the race problematic played out in the campaigns and the general elections, and opposition to Obama’s public policy agenda has been animated by racism.
This assessment argues that a post-racial moment is a fallacy and calls for a rethinking of the theories and approaches to the study of Black politics.
Part II: Race and Rights in the Obama Administration
To identify the Obama administration’s policy responsiveness to the (African) American LGBT communities.
Theory development and content analysis.
Civic universalism, as a theory, can explain President Obama’s evolution on his support for marriage rights for same-sex couples. Obama employed the concept of e pluribus unum in his many approaches to LGBT responsive politics.
To date, theoretical development within the social sciences of LGBT policy responsiveness is limited.
Very little is written on the subject of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered) politics in the 21st century. The study of the LGBT experience generally has been devoid of political variables because of a lack of attention toward LGBT issues, until recently, in national political party agendas. In this chapter, we review some of the contours of the LGBT community’s fight for political recognition in the United States as a precursor to the election and reelection of President Obama. Drawing parallels with presidential responsiveness toward Blacks in their quest for rights, we examine the Obama administration’s LGBT public policy initiatives as administrative policy and programs. We conclude by identifying new areas of research to explore on LGBT politics.
Many African Americans cheered the election of President Obama in 2008 with the hope he would cause an easing of the pain of economic and political barriers to collective black progress in America. This chapter assesses the role of President Obama in addressing these issues.
The Presidential Bully Pulpit is presented as a framework for addressing racial inequities. Properly used it can bring keen attention to issues a president deems important for consideration by the American public. Socio-historical texts and secondary data are used.
Data are presented to show how racial discrimination continues to affect African Americans during the age of Obama. These include housing discrimination, employment discrimination, and racial profiling. This chapter shows Mr. Obama has not used the office of the presidency as a bully pulpit for addressing these racial inequities. Rather he has tended to use the bully pulpit to chastise blacks, especially black males.
Also discussed are some promising developments challenging racism that have emerged from his administration, primarily from the Department of Justice, and how President Obama could use the bully pulpit more productively.
This chapter presents a contradiction in the actions of President Obama. While he seldom uses the bully pulpit to push his own legislative agendas or to push toward solutions to relieve racial inequities in society, he does use the bully pulpit to criticize black males.
To highlight some of the tensions and complexities that persist in President Obama’s widening support of Marriage Equality during his second administration.
My primary research design uses autoethnographic detail and draws on two methodological frameworks: (1) the “personal is political” use of subjective voice in feminist theory (particularly in the writings of black feminists), and (2) the postmodern view of complex, “messy” and conflictual intersections of race, gender, sexuality, in the writings of critical race and queer theorists.
My primary finding highlights how macro social structural processes related to white privilege and racial domination and how micro cultural narratives contributing to homophobia and heteronormativity in African American religious circles creates both positive and questionable views of President Obama’s support of Marriage Equality, among African Americans heterosexuals, and within the African American LGBTIQ community.
The primary value of this chapter contributes to the discussion on the persistent tensions between religion, race, and sexuality, which make fragile allies between supporters of Marriage Equality and supporters of Civil Rights and racial justice.
Part III: Race and Class in the Obama Administration
Precarity is a condition that exists when there is little predictability or security with respect to people’s material well-being or psychological welfare. It is a condition that often increases during times of economic uncertainty. But there can be a paradox associated with precarity: the sense of doom can become worse even as objective conditions improve.
Using data from the 2006–2012 American National Election Surveys and other sources, this chapter examines precarity and economic insecurity in the United States before and during the Obama era. It provides an overview of patterns that undergird the sense of insecurity by presenting trends in economic well-being before, during, and after the Great Recession.
The results show that supporters of President Obama were more optimistic about the future. Those who voted for Bush, despite precarity is a racialized, politicized, and partisan condition. It is not simply based on objective conditions. Precarity has far-reaching social effects.
Current perceptions of insecurity are complex and cannot be traced to a single source such as precarity at work. The problem of economic insecurity provides some formidable challenges to policymakers concerned with reducing the waste of human capabilities. Ultimately, the only true solution for precarity is sustained, vigorous economic growth with fairness for all, but how to get there and to get people to believe that such growth is real and sustainable remain a challenge.
Part IV: Race and Educational Issues in the Obama Administration
The purpose of this chapter is to expand our understanding of the types of Black families that are using Parent PLUS, the types of institutions that rely on Parent PLUS the most, and the outcomes of students who use Parent PLUS to finance their first year of college.
I used descriptive analyses on several datasets collected by the U.S. Department of Education: IPEDS, BPS:04/09, and NPSAS.
The data revealed that (a) of Parent PLUS borrowers, greater shares of low-income Black families are borrowing than White families; (b) many institutions that serve Black students (including HBCUs) give out small amounts of institutional aid but also have much smaller endowments than non-Black-serving institutions; and (c) many families who borrow in their first year stop borrowing in their second year – and of those who stop borrowing, many transfer institutions.
Serving as a starting point in the conversation to Black families borrowing PLUS, this study is not causal and is limited by the unavailability of student-level data on PLUS borrowers. Estimating from nationally representative studies and examining Black-serving institutions is the next-best approximation.
The efforts to standardize financial aid award letters and provide better consumer information to parents must also include PLUS. Moreover, we need to find sustainable solutions for PLUS-reliant institutions to increase their capacity to provide institutional aid.
This chapter contributes to conversation around a controversial financial aid product that has been largely understudied, and in particular for Black families who borrow PLUS at the highest rates.
The purpose of the chapter is to explore perceptions of the Obama presidency among a purposive sample of students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The methodology involved structured focus groups (n = 20) and on-line questionnaires (n = 180).
A majority (72%) felt that the Obama presidency had increased their sense of racial pride and less than half (43%) reported that it had enhanced their confidence in the US political system. Most students rejected the idea of unconditional support for Obama and 45% disagreed that the presidency was “worth the price of the ticket,” that is, worth any cost just to have a black president in office. The majority also agreed that the President must serve all and not any particular racial group. Most of the undergraduates rated his two terms in office as “successful” and many cited racism as a cause of opposition to his initiatives. Most also rejected the notion of color blindness.
Regarding policy priorities, the majority of students felt that it was a good idea to pursue health care reform and most felt that the roll out debacle was “not his fault”; nearly half disagreed with the use of military drones to attack terrorists; 75% agreed with his approach to immigration reform; and 63% agreed with his stance on the same sex marriage.
Research limitations are that non-random sampling was used, which does not allow for generalizations regarding other HBCU or Atlanta University Center students. The study is original in that most research works on perceptions of this presidency have been based on party affiliation or age and ignored perspectives of HBCU students.
Part V: African Policy in the Obama Administration
This chapter examines US Africa Policy under Obama with a particular focus on the Southern African region. The author examines American policy from a historical perspective to give credence to his view that while certain changes have occurred in American global and Africa Policy in particular, it is the issues that have changed, and the drivers of that policy change but the fundamental basis of the American policy has not changed much. American policy has remained anchored on global hegemony driven by the increasingly frayed Washington consensus as expressed initially in its Cold War rhetoric and stance against the former USSR and its perceived allies and now against terrorism.
This work examines the existing literature on Southern African history and politics written by scholars and observers including regional heads of state like Nyerere of Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. This study also draws from the author’s knowledge and experiences as a citizen and observer over the years of the many facets of vicissitudes of regional politics and is interface with international foreign policy pressures and interests. This work thus, draws from the literature on and about regional politics and international relations over the years coupled by the author’s personal experiences.
This chapter makes clear link between Cold War politics and current American foreign policy on African and the Southern African region in particular. In fact the US anti-terrorism rhetoric has remained consistent during and after the Cold War. During the Cold War, liberation movements in Southern Africa fighting to end colonial rule and racist apartheid regime were declared terrorist movements and hence the subject of US hostility especially given these movements’ support for arms and materials from the USSR and China. USSR was manufactured as the organizer of international terrorism. Proxy wars were waged to deal with these movements and their supporters such as the war in Angola where the United States supported dubious and questionable characters like Jonas Savimbi of the National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) and Holden Robert of the Front for the National Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and Zairian dictator, Mobutu SeseSeko. While FNLA was widely accepted as a CIA outfit, Mobutu was imposed by US intelligence support (CIA) against a popular leader, Patrice Lumumba, who was assassinated shortly after independence.
At the end of the Cold War a new form of terrorism manifested itself in the form of Muslim Jihadists who on the continent were seen to emerge in East Africa and the Horn of Africa and the American fascination has been to ensure that this terrorism does not afflict the rest of the continent and the Southern African region in particular. Support to African governments has shifted from the initial years of confused neglect complimented with ambivalent engagement and finally, to humanitarianism. This has taken the form of the support to Africa to fight HIV and AIDS so as to harvest a favourable ground among African governments. This was seen as helping to ensconce American support in the region and weaken the ground for the Al Qaeda intrusion, real or imagined. It was also hoped that this might help counter growing Chinese influence. It is not entirely surprising too that the economic and strategic focus has been to sustain a declining hegemonic position especially in a region where Chinese investments and influence have outstripped American and Western influence.
Part VI: Race, the Presidency and Popular Culture in the Obama Years
This study compares filmic and televisual representations of fictional black presidents to white Americans’ reactions to the advent of the United States’s first African American president. My main goal is to determine if there is convergence between these mediated representations and whites’ real-world representations of Barack Obama. I then weigh the evidence for media pundits’ speculations that Obama owes his election to positive portrayals of these fictional heads of state.
The film and television analyses examine each black president’s social network, personality, character traits, preparation for office, and leadership ability. I then compare the ideological messages conveyed through these portrayals to the messages implicated in white Americans’ discursive and pictorial representations of Barack Obama.
Both filmic and televisual narratives and public discourses and images construct and portray black presidents with stereotypical character traits and abilities. These representations are overwhelmingly negative and provide no support for the argument that there is a cause–effect relationship between filmic and televisual black presidents and Obama’s election victory.
Neither reel nor real-life black presidents can elude the representational quagmire that distorts African Americans’ abilities and diversity. Discourses, iconography, narratives, and other representations that define black presidents through negative tropes imply that blacks are incapable of effective leadership. These hegemonic representations seek to delegitimize black presidents and symbolically return them to subordinate statuses.
About the Authors
- Publication date
- Book series
- Research in Race and Ethnic Relations
- Series copyright holder
- Emerald Publishing Limited
- Book series ISSN