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American Studies Eddie Glaude is also disappointed with Obama's stance:

post-racial rhetorical strategy was successful in gaining political power for Barack Obama.

Why is il the case that he can't simply say. when we talk alxnit health care, we know it disproportionately affects poor people and black people? Why can't he begin to talk about these issues in ways that identify black communities, without trying to sound like Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton? The thing is. the very way that Jesse and Al have exploited the theater of racial politics, he's doing it from a different vantage point. We haven't changed the game. That's v/hat makes me so angry. He hasn't stepped outside of the game, (as cited in Ifill, 2009, p. 69)

The rhetorical situation of the political-personal crisis presents an opportunity to step outside of the game. A measured and appropriate response that addresses the exigence, (seemingly) divulges all information, and satisfies all concerned audiences, then, could take the form the Jackson model, accommodation, or a post- racial position.

The Rhetorical Successes of a Post-Racial Candidate

After Wright's incendiary indictments of the U. S. government became public. Obama's exigence was his relationship with Wright. Wright's discourse threatened Obama's favor with voters, particularly independent voters, who might have associated his politics and decision-making with Wright's perceived racism. Openly admitting his relationship with Wright, Obama asked for the public's understanding and their continued support of his candidacy. To ultimately regain favor with the voting public, Obama employed a master strategy of identification that included 1 ) directly ask- ing and answering questions. 2) situating Wright as a member of the Obama family, the community, and the American people, and 3) limning Wright within the parameters of the American Civil Rights Movement ofthe 1950s and 60s,

Shortly after winning the Iowa caucus in Janu- ary 2008, "the Wright controversy brought race to the forefront" (Fraser, 2009, p. 31 ) and challenged Obama's post-racial rhetoric. In what has now been dubbed "the race speech," Obama was forced to openly and directly discuss race relations with the American public rather than in one of his carefully edited autobiographies (Dumm. 2008). While directly speaking about race, Obama remarkably managed to retain his post-racial stance. As Darsey (2009) observes, "Obama's 'race speech'...one ofthe most important and most highly publicized speeches of the campaign, illuminates the nexus at which Obama seeks to transcend the limits of racial identification and to identify his narrative with the American narrative" (p. 98). Similarly. Fraser (2009) adds that, "while to many academics and liberals the issues Obama raised were not ground-breaking, the speech was remarkable in its ability to speak to those white voters in Middle America, who may not have given serious thought to racial inequalities before, while maintaining his pt>stracial message of unity" (p. 32). Even though Obama has been cast by others and often casts himself as a post-racial candidate who transcends race, he acknowledges racial divides. When. how. and why he acknowledges race issues are important to schol- ars of race during the post-racial Obama presidency because Obama's discourse paradigmatically represents conversations about race and racism in our society, In the following section, we posit specific ways that the

Rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke ( 1969) describes identification as a strategy of building common ground between individuals in order to reduce the division amongst them. This strategy is a hallmark of post-racial rhetoric as the rhetor attempts to unite his/her listeners and move them past race. Obama (2üO8b) attempted to bridge the racial divide by asserting that "working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union" (p. 5). Calling for all Americans to "find that common stake we all have in one another." Obama asked his diverse audiences to band together, put race aside, and work towards common goals (p. 6). Implicit in his appeal was the suggestion that voters also "move beyond" the Wright controversy and elect Barack Obama president (Obama. 2008b. p. 6).

Obama first attempted to build identification with his audience by directly asking and answering ques- tions about his relationship with Wright. These were questions he imagined still remained in the minds of skeptical Americans even after the release of his statement. Such a strategy cast the rhetor as open and honest, as someone who seriously considered tough questions and answered them plainly. In other words, Obama (2008b) did not avoid or ignore the concerns of voters; he directly addressed them: "1 supposed the politically safe thing to do would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the wood-


The Western Journal of Black Studies. Vol. 33, No. 3, 2009

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