Barack Obama and the Third Wave: the syntaxes of whiteness and articulating difference in the post-identity eraPosted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-09-03 00:56Z by Steven
Melanye T. Price, Assistant Professor
Africana Studies and Political Science Departments
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Emerging critiques of Third Wave Feminism and its employment of grammars of whiteness provide a framework for analyzing racial discourses emerging in the same social context. Like Third Wave Feminists, Barack Obama’s political ascendancy happens in a post-identity (post-racial, post-feminist) moment where members of ascriptive categories having achieved significant civil rights gains begin to assert their rights to live unconstrained by racialized and gendered histories and norms. Using the syntaxes of whiteness outlined previously by Rebecca Clark Mane, I critically analyze Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech. I argue that Obama does the following: he provides a racial analysis that is disconnected from historical context, suggests that prevailing isms are primarily relegated to the past, conflates oppositional racial experiences, and relies too heavily on his own personal narrative to justify claims. These discursive practices have damaging effects for our broader understanding of contemporary racial politics. Moreover, reliance on Obama’s perspective on American race relations makes it more difficult to argue and demonstrate that material inequalities are produced by structural injustice that continues to over-determine the lives of certain groups. Additionally, advocates and activists who continue to make identity-based claims are viewed as either holding on too tightly to the past or failing to understand the present.
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