Becoming black, becoming president

Becoming black, becoming president

Patterns of Prejudice
Volume 45, Issue 1-2, 2011
pages 62-85
DOI: 10.1080/0031322X.2011.563145

Richard H. King, Professor Emeritus of American and Canadian Studies
University of Nottingham

Speculation about the relationship between Barack Obama’s election to the presidency and race in the United States was rife prior to, during and after his successful campaign. King looks at three aspects of this issue. First, as a kind of outsider, Obama had to prove himself black enough for African Americans of the traditional sort and not too dangerous for Whites. How did he achieve this? Second, Obama’s election was made possible by changes in the voting behaviour of white Americans, particularly in the North, and the way that African Americans like Obama gained a foothold in, and at times control of, urban political machines, such as, in his case, Chicago. How have American historians treated this shift in white voting behaviour? Finally, the central question of how race still impinges on President Obama’s performance as president. King concludes with a look at issues such as colour blindness and whiteness, the nature of black political identity and solidarity, and the variety of political roles from which a black leader such Obama can choose.

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