ing police brutahty, and holding one's elected officials accountable for their misrepresentation and misdeeds (Obama, 2008b, p. 3).
Obama further depoliticized black religious rheto- ric by downplaying the struggles between the oppressed and their oppressors. He ironically cited the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, and the Chris- tians in the lion's den without identifying David, Moses, and the Christians as the oppressed populations perse- cuted by a power structure that discriminated against them because of their difference. This religious history has been adopted by African Americans primarily be- cause it mimics their social position and the potential for the pursuit ofjustice. Obama appreciated the Biblical stories yet failed to historically situate them within black liberation traditions to maintain the division from the concept of an oppressive power structure from which blacks must be liberated.
In addition to Obama's lack of recognition for black speaking traditions, his third strategic failure was including a sanitized version ofthe United States' his- tory of racial injustice. Marable (2009) praised Obama for "refusing to be defined or restricted by that history" (p. 9), but we argue that historical omissions compro- mised Obama's pleas for racial unity. For instance, Obama opened the speech with a reference to the U.S. Constitution and described its preamble as "ultimately unfinished" but answering "the slavery question" by promising a more perfect union of liberty and justice for all American people (Obama, 2008b, p. I ). Obama neglected to mention that all American people have not wholeheartedly embraced the Constitution as an anti- slavery document. Garrisonian abolitionists refused to abide by the Constitution because they believed it to be inherently flawed as a pro-slavery document (Schrader, 1999). Contemporary philosophers are still debating whether or not the intent behind the Constitution will allowitto truly benefit black Americans (Mills. 1999), but Obama adduced a forgone conclusion.
Obama continued to champion the decency, gener- osity, greatness, and goodness of the American people without acknowledging Americans' less charitable characteristics. If the country is indeed great and good, one must consider the unpaid labor and lives of those whose were sacrificed for it to become that way. Obama wanted to celebrate and identify with what is great about the United States of America without accounting for the exploitation of American Indian. African American, and immigrant populations who made it that way. His nods to "inferior education," "legalized discrimination," and "a lack of economic opportunity" for African Ameri-
cans were depicted as unfortunate consequences of a bygone era of segregation that is steadily improving and not the result of centuries of oppression and power distributions that remain unchanged despite his man- tras of hope and change (Obama. 2008b, p. 5). Obama (2008b) criticized Wright for describing our country as "still irrevocably bound to a tragic past" (p. 7) without considering how traces of this tragic past shape reality for many of the country's citizens. Obama maintained his post-racial stance by not mentioning how whites benefit from racism.
Racism includes institutional forms of dis- crimination against a group of people based upon their physical characteristics—primarily their skin color. Hill (2009) describes racism as "[giving] framework to the superstnictural, substructural, and infrastructural processes and institutions that practice racial exclusion, circumscription, and proscription" (p. 62). Racism is a privilege of those with power and access to resources. African Americans cannot be racist in the way whites have the potential to be racist because they do not con- trol the institutions that maintain systematic privileges for whites ( Asumah. 2004; Hill, 2009). Obama (2008b) described how the Reagan Coalition, politicians, and media personalities wielded their power at the expense of the black community, but failed to identity those actions as legitimate, sanctioned forms of institutional- ized racism. Every individual harbors prejudices. Any individual can discriminate against another, but racism is connected to power. Obama's grandmother's racial stereotypes cannot be equated with Wright's identifica- tion of how privileges continue to benefit those in power. His grandmother most likely harbored prejudices and spoke out of ignorance. Wright spt^ke about power in his articulation of the ways in which blacks have sys- tematically been exploited by their government's racist practices.
Similar to his comparison of his grandmother and Wright, Obama's fourth strategic failure was a prob- lematic representation of black and white Americans' experiences by equating their frustrations and reifying racial stereotypes. Frank and McPhail (2005) note Obama's penchant for conflation in his 2004 DNC speech when he used
the rhetorical strategy of conflating the experiences of white ethnics with persons of African descent, and ofdenying the role of while power and privilege on the demoralizing conditions that continue to disproportionately affect the lives of black folk in America. Obama's rhetoric, vi^hile stylistically
The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 33. No. 3. 2009 159