Why Obama is Black: Language, Law and Structures of Power
14 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2012 Last revised: 28 Feb 2014
Date Written: July 24, 2012
This essay offers a theoretical backdrop for mapping the law’s influence on common language, and more importantly, how concepts rooted in racism maintain in the American lexicon through the force of law. It examines the legal and social constructions of whiteness to argue that racial language and ideals of white superiority work in tandem to produce structural racism. Centuries of racial sedimentation have made some aspects of racism invisible to the eye, yet analysis of the post-racial concept as it relates to the president shows that debates on race and color are fundamentally flawed. Today’s racism is not simply the aggregate of individual interactions, but also political and institutional discrimination, and in particular, language authorized by law. This essay exposes the post-racial concept as a type of wishful thinking, and more critically, explains how the law prevents this wish from being fulfilled; indeed Obama has been offered up as the first “black” president despite the relentless “one drop” logic that supports the evidence.
Keywords: Post-racial, Obama, Structural Racism, Language, Law
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