Hamilton's Deracialization:Barack Obama’s Racial Politics in Context

Johnson, Richard (2018) Hamilton's Deracialization:Barack Obama’s Racial Politics in Context. Du Bois Review, 14 (2). pp. 621-638. ISSN 1742-058X

[thumbnail of Du_Bois_Neither_Black_Nationalism_nor_Deracialisation_formatted_text]
PDF (Du_Bois_Neither_Black_Nationalism_nor_Deracialisation_formatted_text)
Du_Bois_Neither_Black_Nationalism_nor_Deracialisation_formatted_text.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial.

Download (695kB)


Many commentators have described Barack Obama as a ‘deracialized’ politician. In contrast to ‘racialized’ Black candidates, deracialized politicians are said to deemphasize their Black racial identity, downplay the racial legacies of American inequality, and favor race-neutral over racially targeted policies. Puzzlingly, this narrative of Obama’s racial politics sits incongruously with his political curriculum vitae, spent largely in contexts which are difficult to describe as deracialized. This article holds that commentators have misjudged Barack Obama’s racial politics by conflating a contingent electoral strategy with a deeper expression of Obama’s racial philosophical commitments. In explaining these commitments, the article finds the deracialized/racialized framing inadequate. Instead, it favors the typology of racial policy alliances situating Obama within the “race-conscious” policy alliance rather than the “color-blind” alliance. By returning to the site of Obama’s political development, Hyde Park in Chicago, the paper uncovers a tradition of racial politics in which Blacks formed coalitions with progressive Whites but also embraced Black racial identity, acknowledged the enduring legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, and supported targeted policies to overturn these racial legacies. The article argues that Obama was an inheritor of this tradition.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Du Bois Review
Uncontrolled Keywords:
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
23 Apr 2018 10:22
Last Modified:
15 Sep 2023 04:24