Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America

Posted in Anthologies, Barack Obama, Books, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-09 17:56Z by Steven

Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America

Routledge
2013-10-04
240 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-415-81394-5
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-415-81393-8
eBook ISBN: 978-0-203-06779-6

Edited by:

Mark Ledwidge, Senior Lecturer of History and American Studies
Canterbury Christ Church University

Kevern Verney, Professor of American History
Edge Hill University

Inderjeet Parmar, Professor of Government
University of Manchester

The 2008 presidential election was celebrated around the world as a seminal moment in U.S. political and racial history. White liberals and other progressives framed the election through the prism of change, while previously acknowledged demographic changes were hastily heralded as the dawn of a “post-racial” America. However, by 2011, much of the post-election idealism had dissipated in the wake of an on-going economic and financial crisis, escalating wars in Afghanistan and Libya, and the rise of the right-wing Tea Party movement.

By placing Obama in the historical context of U.S. race relations, this edited book interrogates the idealized and progressive view of American society advanced by much of the mainstream literature on Obama. Barack Obama and the Myth of a Post-Racial America takes a careful look at the historical, cultural and political dimensions of race in the United States, using an interdisciplinary analysis that incorporates approaches from history, political science, and sociology. Each chapter addresses controversial issues such as whether Obama can be considered an African-American president, whether his presidency actually delivered the kind of deep-rooted changes that were initially prophesised, and whether Obama has abandoned his core African-American constituency in favour of projecting a race-neutral approach designed to maintain centrist support.

Through cutting edge, critically informed, and cross-disciplinary analyses, this collection directly addresses the dimensions of race in American society through the lens of Obama’s election and presidency.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Barack Obama, First African American President: Continuity or Change; Mark Ledwidge
  • 2. The Obama Dilemma: Confronting Race in the 21st Century; Carl Pedersen
  • 3. Republican Mavericks: The Anti-Obama Impulse in the 2008 Election; Robert Busby
  • 4. Obama in the Northeast: The Politics of Race in America’s Bluest Region; Kevin J. McMahon
  • 5. Obama, the Tea Party Movement and Domestic Dissent; Mark Ledwidge
  • 6. The Obama Election and the White Supremacist Movement: How the Rise of America’s First Black President Unleashed a Racist Backlash; Heidi Beirich and Kevin Hicks
  • 7. The Final Frontier: Barack Obama and the Vision of a Post-Racial America; Kevern J. Verney
  • 8. Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics; Rogers M. Smith and Desmond King
  • 9. The Far Side of Jordan: Obama, Civil Rights and the Promised Land Paradox; Jelani Cobb
  • 10. Continuity of Deep Structures: Housing Markets and the Increasing Racial Wealth Gap in Post-Racial America; Melvin Oliver, Thomas Shapiro and Hannah Thomas
  • 11. Prophet without Honor? Perceptions of Barack Obama’s Leadership at Home and Abroad; Andra Gillespie
  • 12. “You Say Obama, I say Osama – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”: Race and U.S. Foreign Policy; Lee Marsden
  • 13. The Color of Obama’s World: Race and Diplomacy During the Obama Administration; Michael L. Krenn
  • 14. First Ladies in Africa: A Comparison of Michelle Obama to Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton; Andra Gillespie
  • 15. Postscript: Race and the 2012 U.S. Elections
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Episode Six: A More Perfect Union

Posted in Barack Obama, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States, Videos on 2014-11-09 17:53Z by Steven

Episode Six: A More Perfect Union

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)
Public Broadcasting Service
Tuesdays, 2013-10-22 through 2013-11-26, 20:00-21:00 ET

From Black Power to Black President

By 1968, the Civil Rights movement had achieved stunning victories, in the courts and in the Congress. But would African Americans finally be allowed to achieve genuine racial equality? Episode Six, A More Perfect Union (1968-2013), looks at the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rise of the Black Panthers and Black Power movement.  The decline of cities that African Americans had settled in since the Great Migration, the growth of a black middle class, the vicious beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles and the ascent of Barack Obama from Illinois senator to the presidency of the United States are all addressed in the final episode of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. Revisit images of the Black is Beautiful movement and hear commentary from former Black Panther Party member Kathleen Cleaver, former Secretary of State Colin H. Powell, musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, and many more…

For more information, click here.

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Blacks, Obama and the Election

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-11-03 18:37Z by Steven

Blacks, Obama and the Election

The New York Times
2014-11-02

Charles M. Blow, Visual Op-Ed columnist

President Obama’s name won’t be on any ballots Tuesday, but he will most certainly be on them in spirit — a fact that many Republicans are trumpeting and some Democrats are hoping to downplay.

The president is not particularly popular at the moment.

According to Gallup’s Frank Newport:

“President Obama’s job approval rating is 42 percent. If that holds up until the day before the election, it will be the second-lowest job approval rating for a president before a midterm election going back to 1982 when Ronald Reagan, of course, was president of the U.S. What was the lowest of all? That was George W. Bush’s, whose job approval rating was 38 percent back in 2006.”…

…This is the great immeasurable when it comes to this man. Race is a construct that, unfortunately, is woven through the fabric of America. Of course, it has some bearing on our politics, but it’s nearly impossible to calculate the degree of the effect for a particular politician. And there can be benefit as well as detriment — pride and prejudice as counterweights.

As Obama himself told The New Yorker in January: “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President.”

He continued: “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”

As Gallup pointed out last week: “We find very little change in the support given to Obama among his strongest demographic subgroup: black Americans.” The report continued, “In fact, if anything, the trend is for relatively higher support among blacks” when measuring the gap between black support for Obama and the national average…

Read the entire article here.

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I have no doubt what colour I am

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2014-11-02 01:31Z by Steven

I have no doubt what colour I am

The Observer
London, United Kingdom
2009-01-17

Matthew Ryder, Barrister (QC)
London, United Kingdom

Let’s get beyond the debate over whether ‘mixed-race’ is synonymous with ‘black’. It is

The question of whether someone who is mixed-race is, in fact, “black” has been the subject of much discussion since Barack Obama began to be taken seriously as a contender for president. For those, like myself, who are mixed-race and had settled into our black identity a long time ago, the debate has been sometimes uncomfortable. While for some it was a moment for personal expression, for others the separation of “mixed race” from “black” is anathema.

It has been a debate that engaged this country more than the US. The proportion of mixed-race citizens, whose numbers famously include the Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton, is rising much faster here, and previously straightforward ethnic categories are being questioned by younger generations. With 63% of black Caribbean men born in the UK in mixed relationships, it is a trend that is set to continue.

It’s useful to see how the next US president, a master of racial nuance, handles this issue. Obama celebrates, even jokes about, his own diverse background. The love of his white American family pours from his biography, alongside his deep connection to his Kenyan relatives. But there is no question that the world’s most famous mixed-race man identifies himself as, among other things, a black man. His view, if you have travelled a similar path and reached the same conclusion, is a powerful affirmation…

Read the entire article here.

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Maryland’s Never Elected A Black Governor, But Neither Have 47 Other States

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-10-24 20:41Z by Steven

Maryland’s Never Elected A Black Governor, But Neither Have 47 Other States

WYPR 88.1 FM
Baltimore Maryland
2014-10-24

Christopher Connelly, Political Reporter

Before President Barack Obama joined Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on stage at a get out the vote rally in Prince George’s County Sunday, Dr. Grainger Browning of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington offered a prayer. Browning thanked God for Obama  and he pointed to the historic nature of Brown’s campaign: If elected, Brown would become not just Maryland’s first black governor, but only the third black governor ever elected in the US.

“Just as Doug Wilder became governor, and just as Duval Patrick became governor, we believe that on November he will become governor of this state of Maryland,” Browning told the mostly African-American audience packed into a high school gym.

But when Brown took to the stage alongside the nation’s first African-American president, neither of them noted the potential of history being made. Throughout his campaign, Brown has not talked much about the precedent he’d achieve.

“He’ll reference his biography, his father being from Jamaica, but there isn’t an overt mention of race,” says Towson University political scientist John Bullock. “It’s more-so ‘let’s talk about education, let’s talk about the environment or health care,’ that sort of ‘rising tides, all Marylanders,’”…

Read the entire article and listen to the story here.

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Another layer of blackness: theorizing race, ethnicity, and identity in the U.S. black public sphere

Posted in Barack Obama, Dissertations, Media Archive, United States on 2014-10-24 18:13Z by Steven

Another layer of blackness: theorizing race, ethnicity, and identity in the U.S. black public sphere

University of Iowa
2013
277 pages

Patrick B. Oray

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in American Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa

While many studies of U.S. immigration highlight the diversity within other racial and ethnic groups, scholarly attention to the significance of ethnicity among black people in this country is still sorely underdeveloped. This dissertation project explores how black identities are constructed not only through the prism of race in the U.S. context, but also through other social dynamics that operate “in the shadow of race,” such as differences in class, color, country of origin, and circumstances of migration. Instead of a singular black identity fueled by our political discourses and popular culture, my project treats “blackness” as a floating signifier that is constructed both within the racial organization of the U.S. nation-state and among the peoples of the black diaspora within its borders. In short, blackness is a matter that has become national, international, and transnational in scope.

Ethnicity and its implications for how we think about black identity and group representation in U.S. society is the other “layer of blackness” this dissertation addresses. The formation and reshaping of American identity among various immigrant groups have historically involved complicated relationships between race and ethnicity, two concepts scholars have used to articulate group identities in the U.S. The history of U.S. racial and ethnic relations reveals the complicated processes through which some social groups have been able to establish their place in the American mainstream by adapting to the cultural and institutional norms established by mainstream white society. Non-white immigrant groups have been forced to find their American identities on the margins of U.S. society because of their purported inability or unwillingness to assimilate to established cultural and institutional norms. Sometimes this alienation from the American mainstream takes on a purely racial dimension. At other times, the prejudices of U.S. society are directed at particular ethnic groups.

But in spite of the status ascribed to them, these immigrants have also proven to be empowered agents in their implicit and explicit critiques of the U.S.’s social order. Historically, non-white immigrants in the U.S. have demonstrated the power to question, disrupt, and resist cultural and institutional forms of discrimination even as they are incorporated into them.

My interrogation of black ethnic identity and what it brings to bear on how we define blackness in the U.S. begins by asking what cultural capital black immigrants bring with them in their sojourn to America rather than assuming what is lost in the process of their incorporation into U.S. race relations. Patterns of immigration, return migration and circular migration that have come to characterize the experience of many foreign-born blacks in the U.S., as well as the circulation of ideas, culture, and history between sending and receiving countries are all issues germane to the process of black immigrant incorporation and black ethnic identity in the U.S. As such, the argument I proffer in my dissertation project is this: because of the myriad processes at play in formulating black racial and ethnic identities in America (i.e., historically established structures of race as well as an unprecedented surge in foreign-born black migration this country)-how we define blackness in the U.S. context is more fruitfully theorized as a matter that is at once national, international, and transnational in scope. It is at the nexus of these fronts that the historical and cultural constructions of blackness are currently defined among the diversity of black people in the U.S.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • I. BLACK LIKE WHOM?: AN INTRODUCTION TO RACE, CLASS, AND ETHNICITY IN THE UNITED STATES BLACK PUBLIC SPHERE
    • 1.1 Ethnicity as “Another Layer of Blackness”
    • 1.2 Theorizing the U.S. Black Public Sphere
    • 1.3 Uncovering an Ethnic Layer of Blackness in the U.S. Black Public Sphere
  • II. “NO BOOTBLACK HAITIANS:” BLACK COSMOPOLITAN CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE U.S. OCCUPATION OF HAITI (1915-1934)
    • 2.1 The Roots of Black Cosmopolitan Consciousness in the U.S.: The African-American Press Response to the Occupation
    • 2.2 Cosmopolitanism and the U.S. Black Public Sphere: The Occupation, The New Negro Movement, and the Harlem Renaissance
    • 2.3 The Limits of Cosmopolitanism in the U.S. Black Public Sphere
  • III. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN “BROTHERS” AND “OTHERS” (REPRISE): AFRICAN-AMERICANS, BLACK IMMIGRANTS, AND THE POLITICS OF PLACE
    • 3.1 African Americans and the Transformation of the “Chocolate City” of Oakland, California
    • 3.2 “Challenges to “Umoja” (Unity): The Close Encounters of Black Americans and Black Immigrants in Oakland
    • 3.3 The “Blues City” Finds a New Identity“
  • IV. RACE AND REPRESENTATIONS OF BLACKNESS IN THE ERA OF OBAMA
    • 4.1 Obama’s Presidential Conceit: A “Black Man” Who is Also “Everyman”
    • 4.2 “Articulate, Bright, and Clean”: Barack Obama and the Melodrama of Blackness in Campaign ‘08
    • 4.3 Obama Walks the Tightrope Between “Race” and “Nation”
  • V. CONCLUSION: W(H)ITHER THE BLACK PUBLIC SPHERE?: RACE, ETHNICITY AND IDENTITY IN THE ERA OF OBAMA
  • BIBLIOGRAPHY

Read the entire dissertation here.

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Ebola has exposed America’s fear, and Barack Obama’s vulnerability

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2014-10-19 22:12Z by Steven

Ebola has exposed America’s fear, and Barack Obama’s vulnerability

The Guardian
2014-10-19

Gary Younge

The virus is a metaphor for all that conservatives loathe, and sees the president’s policies under renewed attack

In a column ostensibly explaining why moderates struggle in the Republican party, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen last year wrote: “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York – a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts – but not all – of America.”

If the thought of New York’s first family’s interracial marriage makes many Republicans (and apparently Cohen) gag, imagine how many sick bags they are filling over Ebola. The arrival of the virus in America has crystallised a range of Conservative anxieties: immigration, race, terrorism, science, big government, Barack Obama – you name it. For the right, Ebola is not just a disease, it is a metaphor for some of the things they don’t understand and many of the things they loathe…

…Finally, Ebola serves as a proxy for the many long-held Conservative prejudices about Obama – that he is an African-born interloper come to destroy America. A 2010 poll showed that just under a third of Republicans believed Obama was a “racist who hates white people”. Michael Savage, another rightwing radio host, calls him “Obola”. “Obama wants equality and he wants fairness, and it’s only fair that America have a nice epidemic or two … to really feel what it’s like to be in the third world. You have to look at it from the point of view of a leftist.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Legacy of the President’s Mother

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-10-15 16:21Z by Steven

Legacy of the President’s Mother

Mālamalama, The Magazine of the University of Hawaiʻi System
January 2009 (2009-01-14)

Paula Bender
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi


Stanley Ann Dunham

The candidacy and election of President Barack Obama drew international eyes to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where his parents met. But among some at the university, it is Obama’s late mother who stirs strong emotions of memory and hope.

Stanley Ann Dunham took an unconventional approach to life on both personal and professional levels. Her son’s book portrays her as an innocent, kind and generous; academics who knew her and reporters who have discovered her describe the idealism and optimism of her worldview and work ethic.

In her work, she was not a romantic, rather appreciating the artistic while dealing with the realistic, one contemporary observes.

Dunham was born in Kansas and attended high school in Washington State. Moving to Hawaiʻi with her parents, she entered UH in 1960. In Russian class, she met the first African student to attend UH, charismatic Barack Obama Sr., who moved in politically liberal, intellectual student circles that included future Congressman Neil Abercrombie. They married and had Barack Obama Jr. in 1961.

Obama Sr. left his family for Harvard [University] and then Kenya. Dunham returned to UH, earning a math degree. She pursued graduate work, married another international student, Lolo Soetoro, and returned with him to Indonesia. There she began extensive research and fieldwork and welcomed the birth of daughter Maya Kassandra Soetoro, nine years Barack’s junior.

Although eventually divorced a second time, Dunham is credited with encouraging her children’s appreciation of their ethnic heritages…

Read the entire article here.

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Meditation on President Obama’s Portrait

Posted in Articles, Arts, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-09-25 01:11Z by Steven

Meditation on President Obama’s Portrait

Lens Blog: Photography, Video and Visual Journalism
The New York Times
2014-07-25

Maurice Berger, Research Professor and Chief Curator
Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dawoud Bey’s photograph of the man who would soon be president was taken on a Sunday afternoon in early 2007, at Barack and Michelle Obama’s Hyde Park home in Chicago. The portrait is at once stately and informal. Mr. Obama’s hands are folded gracefully in his lap. He wears an elegant suit and white shirt, but no tie. He stares intensely into the camera.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography had commissioned Mr. Bey the year before to take a portrait of a notable Chicagoan. He had known the Obamas for several years and saw them periodically at social gatherings. Impressed with Mr. Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, Mr. Bey sensed a “growing air of expectancy” about him.

“When I was asked who I wanted to photograph,” Mr. Bey said, “it took me but a second to decide that I wanted to photograph him.”

Mr. Bey posed Mr. Obama at the head of the dining room table, light reflecting off its polished surface, and photographed him from an angle. “I wanted an interesting animation of the body, and finally through camera positioning and having him turn himself slightly I figured it out,” Mr. Bey said…

…Mr. Obama’s race has rendered him particularly vulnerable to this kind of mythmaking. Right-wing extremists see him as an exemplar of what is wrong with America. He has become a symbol of a dark and foreign otherness, a threat to white supremacy and racial purity. To some, he is a Muslim conspirator, bent on dismantling American mores and traditions. To others, he is an angry black man covertly intent on avenging slavery and other historic injustices.

This mythmaking has not been limited to conservatives. A year after Mr. Bey photographed Mr. Obama, the candidate was rousing messianic fantasies on the left, stoked by the election’s most memorable image: Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster.

Distributed independently by the artist and later adopted by the Obama campaign, the poster was visually dynamic and politically effective. It radiated an aura of confidence and optimism. But Mr. Fairey’s schematic rendering of Mr. Obama — branded by a single, amorphous word — reduced the candidate to a cartoonlike, racially ambiguous cipher.

Raking across Mr. Obama’s face, in a picture devoid of the color brown, was a broad swath of off-white paint, a metaphoric blank screen onto which voters were invited to project their dreams and aspirations. The “Hope” poster visually transformed a man who unambiguously defined himself as black into an icon of the unthreatening “postracial” politician…

Read the entire article here.

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Articulate While Black. Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.: H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman, Oxford University Press, New York, 2012, 224 pp., ISBN: 9780199812967, $ 99.00 (hardcover)

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2014-09-24 19:54Z by Steven

Articulate While Black. Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.: H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman, Oxford University Press, New York, 2012, 224 pp., ISBN: 9780199812967, $ 99.00 (hardcover)

Journal of Pragmatics
Volume 71, September 2014
pages 148-150
DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2014.08.010

Marta Degani, Assistant Professor
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
University of Verona, Verona, Italy

Alim and Smitherman’s Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. is an engaging new book that sheds light on the intricacies of race relations in present-day America while highlighting how intertwined the politics of race and that of language are. The scale, however, is tipped in favor of language to show “how ‘language matters’ to the national conversation on race” (p. 4). Obama’s rhetoric is at the core of the investigation, and it is analyzed with great accuracy and a keen ability for uncovering peculiarities of its “Blackness”. In particular, the book emphasizes Obama’s ability to successfully communicate with different types of audiences and establish rapport with them. On a larger scale, it also shows how Obama’s shifting communicative styles and strategies in using both verbal and non-verbal communication have had an impact on the politics of language and race in the US. Overall, the analyses of Obama’s different usages of political language offer a good example of how audience-centered style-shifting can be skillfully used as a pragmatic tool to convince the audience of one’s political persona. From a pragma-sociolinguistic perspective, Obama’s ability to adjust his speech and gestures to his different audiences falls in line with the postulates of Communication Accommodation Theory (Giles et al., 1991).

What is also remarkable about the book is that the authors mirror Obama’s strategy of style-shifting to engage a large readership and communicate an authentic message. In the book, they alternate academic prose with a style of writing that mirrors African American English (AAE). The nature of this successful linguistic alternation is already evident in the table of contents, which includes chapter titles such as “‘Nah, We Straight”: Black Language and America’s First Black President’ or ‘Making a Way Outta No Way: the “Race Speech” and Obama’s Rhetorical Remix’. Apart from the table of contents, the reader will also find instances of “non-standard” English (e.g. “to be sure, hittin that small sweet spot ain’t easy” p. 23) scattered throughout the main text.

At the beginning of the book, in chapter 1, the authors briefly introduce their work and its aim. As they suggest, the novelty of their approach consists in looking at race from the perspective of language, a practice they call “languaging race”. This concept is applied to Obama’s use of language and the authors claim that it was crucial for his victory. In this chapter, Alim and Smitherman present interesting findings from their sociolinguistic research on Obama’s Black language use and its perception. Data from conversations with young people (mostly aged between 18 and 24) reveal how Obama is unanimously considered an excellent and gifted communicator. Most significantly, findings show that Black respondents are more sensitive than White respondents to Obama’s ability in style-shifting, which is characterized by the use of different lexical variants (e.g. nah and no), shifting pronunciations (e.g. wit mah Bahble for with my Bible) and variance in grammatical constructions (opting at times for zero copula construction) to connect to a multiracial audience. Obama is also praised for his ability to master the Black cultural mode of discourse known as “signifying”. Obama’s recourse to a “Baptist preacher style” is yet another feature that chiefly strikes Black American participants in the survey. The Black preacher style is detected in the cadence, rhythm, pausing, use of repetition, metaphors and storytelling that characterize some of Obama’s speeches. The President is also charged with using a deep Black communicative style of “call and response” that breaks down barriers between addresser and addressee when engaging with a predominantly Black audience. His capacity to shift from White “standard” English to Black modes of communication is presented by Alim and Smitherman as the key for understanding his success. This linguistic flexibility is seen by the authors not only as a reflection of his multicultural and multilingual upbringing but also as a conscious rhetorical strategy.

Chapter 2 starts out with a metalinguistic analysis. The focus is on semantically loaded use of language. The authors refer to “exceptionalizing” racist discourses and provide the example of White politicians who employ terms like “articulate” to describe Obama’s eloquence. According to the authors, exceptionalizing discourse means that what on a surface level might appear as a praise is indeed a racist judgment based on the covert assumption that non-White people are unintelligent and illiterate. The label “articulate” makes Obama ‘exceptional’ in the sense that he sticks out qua Black…

Read or purchase the article here.

 

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