From deracialization to racial distinction: Interpreting Obama's successful racial narrative

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While many scholars attribute Barack Obama's success in the 2008 presidential election to his so-called deracialized campaign strategy, I argue that Obama constructed a persuasive message strategy that was fundamentally based on race. I argue that in pursuing what I call a racial distinction strategy, Obama mobilized race differently than previous Black candidates running in White-voter electoral majorities. Specifically, Obama's racial distinction strategy constructed a seamless racial narrative - deployed through constellations of subtle racial language and imagery - incorporating Obama's own personal biography within a broader narrative of the nation, specifically a narrative of American progress. The fact that Obama employed a racial distinction strategy, and the fact that he succeeded in doing so, sheds new light on, and leads us to reconsider the veracity of popular political theories such as post-Blackness, post-racialism and deracialization, along with the general ideology of colorblindness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-145
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • American progress
  • Barack Obama
  • deracialization
  • narrative
  • racial distinction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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