Barack Obama and the “Post-Racial” Myth

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


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?

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate