Barack Obama and the “Post-Racial” Myth


Meghan Daum today:

It sounds laughable now, but remember back when we thought a black president portended a “post-racial society”?

Daum goes on to make a point about a post-sexist society, which I think we all agree isn’t going to happen anytime soon. “Is there a woman on Earth who could check enough boxes to make people think, even for a fleeting and foolhardy second, that a post-sexist society was possible?” Daum asks. Indeed not. But what I’m curious about is her contention about Obama. Back in 2008, did anyone really think that an Obama presidency meant that a post-racial society was just around the corner?

This is a serious question. I have a bad memory for this kind of thing, and that’s on top of the fact that I tend to filter out obvious political hyperbole. Presidential candidates are always blabbing on about how great America will be if they’re elected, but I never take this kind of rhetoric seriously.

So then: were there really lots of people who thought Obama was a harbinger of a post-racial society? Not just “it’s a turning point in American politics,” or “we should be proud,” or any of that. I’m talking about people claiming that his election genuinely represented America coming to terms with its racist past and becoming truly colorblind in the future. Who were these people? And what do they have to say for themselves today?