Obama, Still the Black Candidate

Pete Marovich/Getty Images Sport
Pete Marovich/Getty Images Sport

Writing at the Huffington Post, Stephanie Li enumerates the ways in which race has reared its head in the current presidential campaign.

The day after the debate, Mitt Romney's national campaign co-chair John Sununu stated that Obama's debate performance demonstrated "how lazy and detached he is," adding, "when you're not that bright you can't get better prepared." Sununu's refusal to engage with the substance of Obama's debate remarks, his specific policy positions and plans for the future, demonstrate a pernicious tendency of the right to invoke racially charged language when criticizing the president. Moreover, Sununu's remarks highlight the double bind that traps Obama. If he's not an angry black man then he is a lazy, stupid one, a centuries-old stereotype that once justified chattel slavery.

Besides running against a newly energized and remarkably well-funded opponent, Obama has the added challenge in this election of still being the black candidate. Although his victory in 2008 inspired bold assertions that we are now living in a new, post-racial age, he continues to have to navigate the minefield of America's racialized landscape. It would be a mistake for Obama to identify the spurious attacks on the job numbers as racially motivated. Our black president cannot actually claim to be a black man, subject to racism, however neatly concealed or denied. Americans like the image of a black man in the White House because it quietly validates the dream that equal opportunity does exist and racism is no barrier to the highest office in the land. But what it means for a black president to govern amid racist unfounded attacks cannot be explored. We like our diversity displayed, not discussed.


Read Stephanie Li's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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