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The Obama PhenomenonToward a Multiracial Democracy$
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Charles P. Henry, Robert L. Allen, and Robert Chrisman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036453

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036453.001.0001

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The Ambivalent Embrace of Barack Obama

The Ambivalent Embrace of Barack Obama

The Ethical Significance and Social Apprehension of Blackness

Chapter:
(p.148) Nine The Ambivalent Embrace of Barack Obama
Source:
The Obama Phenomenon
Author(s):

Maulana Karenga

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252036453.003.0010

This chapter argues that at the heart of Obama's attractiveness as a candidate was his being a representative of a people whose historical and ongoing role as a social and moral vanguard serves at least four fundamental functions for the established order in spite of the paradoxical and mystified meanings that race and racialized discourse and the social apprehension attached to Blackness play in this. First, for the established order, Obama serves as a moral mask to “correct” society's image internationally and domestically, camouflage its continuing imperial thrust, restore respect and hope among its citizens, allies, and the other peoples of the world by being a representative of a people who are a world-recognized moral and social vanguard, and give redeeming evidence of a rise from enslavement in the country to leadership of it. Second, Obama emerges as a counterargument and counterweight to social justice claims of African Americans and claims of racism, discrimination, and deficient opportunities against the established order. Third, there is an evolving tendency of his election to mute, alter, or invite suspension of progressive criticism, given his identity and the investment African Americans and other social forces have made in him as an alternative to prior administrations and a promise of the opening of new social possibilities and a new horizon of history. Finally, for the established order, the presidency of Obama offers an opportunity to facilitate an increased Americanization without rightful respect for the multicultural character of society and without necessary discussion of or dealing effectively with existing inequities in wealth, power, and status of the groups that compose society.

Keywords:   Barack Obama, blackness, blacks, African Americans, race

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