Family and Race in Post-Obama America
Jessica Dixon Weaver
Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law
August 15, 2010
SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 65
Two years after the election of the first African-American President of the United States of America, a noticeable change is occurring. The dynamics at work that influence the family in America, particularly the minority family, are shifting. In a broad sense, the normative family, comprised of a man, his wife, and children has been rejuvenated by the presence of the Obamas in the White House. Moreover, the fact that this normative family is African-American has changed the lens with which America sees family structure, family history, and family identity. At the same time, President Barack Obama is representative of a new kind of family that the American court system has had to embrace over the last 45 years – a blended family, an interracial family, an extended family, a single-headed female-run family, and a fatherless family. This type of family is actually more of an American norm than the exception, and it is one of the reasons that President Obama’s story had such wide appeal to so many different people across the country. While this new family paradigm may have recently gained legal acceptance, it has been in place in the African-American community since the seventeenth century.
Race and the perception of race still play a large role in how Obama’s family and other African-American families are viewed. Though some argue that the U.S. has entered a post-racial era, most critical race theorists strongly assert that race still plays a critical part of social and political dynamics in America. Prominent sociologists assert that race impacts how, why, for how long, and even if families are formed in a legally normative manner. This article will explore how race has impacted recent historical and political changes in family law and social policy, and how these changes have altered family structure and identity in America. In addition, it will analyze whether these changes have impacted how various races view the family and if these various viewpoints make a difference in state and federal laws regulating families.
Keywords: family, race, identity, obama, family history, family structureworking papers series
Date posted: August 15, 2010 ; Last revised: February 26, 2011
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