What's post racial discourse got to do with it? Obama and implications for multiculturalism in college classrooms

Main Article Content

Jennifer Thorington Springer


With the election and re-election of Barack Obama as the first Black President of the United States came the vexing yet perhaps expected conclusion that issues of race and ethnicity were no longer grave concerns.  Somehow Obama’s presence suggests the transcendence of race.  While a nod to the political progress made in terms of social race relations may be in order, Obama’s election does not translate into a “color-blind,” “post race” American nation.  This essay explores how current and ongoing conversations about a post race nation shape student perceptions of race and how they directly affect the teaching instruction of professors, like myself, who are invested in multicultural and inclusive pedagogy. As an instructor invested in inclusive learning, my former struggle of getting students to understand the importance of acknowledging the validity of cultural differences has resurfaced as students who buy into the rhetoric of a “post race” nation no longer think it necessary to examine closely racially charged inequities.  Rather than adhere to the problematic ideology of Obama as the embodiment of a “post race” nation, I propose an exploration of his identity and politics as those that encourage fluidity and cultural plurality without denying rightful acknowledgement of race as a viable political reality.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Springer, J. T. (2014). What’s post racial discourse got to do with it? Obama and implications for multiculturalism in college classrooms. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 14(3), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.14434/josotl.v14i3.3449
Invited Commentary


Alexander, Michelle. (2010, 2012). The New Jim Crow. The New Press, New York: The New Press.

Ashburn-Nardo, Leslie and Robert Livingston “Implicit Bias: A Better Metric For Racial Progress.” (2011). The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?” Eds. Gregory Parks and Matthew Hughes. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Chang, C. S., & Treacy, M.J. (1996). “Resistance in Multicultural Courses: Student, Faculty, And Classroom Dynamics.” American Behavioral Scientist, 40(2), pp. 212-221. doi: 10.1177/0002764296040002012

Cisneros, Sandra. (1991). The House on Mango Street. New York, NY: Vintage.

Jared. (2008). “Barack Obama, ‘Connected Distance’: Race and Twenty-First Century NeoColonialism.” The Black Scholar, 38(4), pp. 35-37.

Banks, J.A. (1994). “The Importance of Multicultural Education. Educational Leadership. May, 4-8.

Banks, J. A. (2008). An Introduction to Multicultural Education. Seattle, WA: Pearson/Allyn.

Banks, J. A. (2005). Improving Multicultural Education: Lessons from the Intergroup Education Movement. New York, NY: Teachers College Publishing.

Cornell, S. E. and Douglas Hartmann. (1998). Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities In a Changing World. Thousand oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

Danticat, Edwidge. (1998). Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York: Vintage.

Gay, G. (2004). “The Importance of Multicultural Education.” Educational Leadership. Dec: 30-35.

Gay, G. (2204) “Beyond Brown: Promoting Equality Through Multicultural Education. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 19(3), pp. 193-216.

Hill, Rickey. (2009). “The Race Problematic, the Narrative of Martin Luther King Jr., and the of Barack Obama.” Souls, 11(1), pp. 60-78. doi: 10.1080/10999940902734911

Hooks, bell. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hurtado, S., Milem, J., Clayton-Pedersen, A., & Allen, W. (1999). Enacting Diverse Learning Environments: Improving the Climate for Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Higher Education. Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University Press.

Ladson–Billings, Gloria. (1996). “Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine’: Keeping Issues of Race and Racism on the Multicultural Agenda. Theory Into Practice, 35(4), pp. 248-255.

Leonard, Zeus. (2011). “After the Glow: Race Ambivalence and Other Educational Prognoses.” Educational Philosophy and Theory, 43(6), pp. 675-698. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2010.00645.x

James, Stanley. (2009). “Barack Obama: Coalitions of a Purple Mandate. Souls, 11(1), pp. 51-59.

Kitano, M. K. (1997). What a Course Will Look Like After Multicultural Change. In A. I. Morey & M. K. Kitano (Eds.). (1997). Multicultural Course Transformation in Higher Education: A Broader Truth. Boston, MA: Allyn Bacon.

Khaja, Khadija, Jennifer Thorington Springer, Gina Sanchez Gibau, Silvia Bigatti, and Kathy Grove. 2010. “Multicultural Teaching: Barriers and Recommendations.” Journal of Teaching Excellence, 21(4), pp. 49-74.

Lee, Taeku. (2011). “Somewhere Over the Rainbow? Post-Racial & Pan-Racial Politics in the Age of Obama. Daedalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 140(2): 136-150.

MacIntosh, Peggy. (1988). “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Race, Class and Gender in the United States, An Integrated Study. Ed. Paula S. Rothenberg. New York, NY: Worth Publishers. 188-192.

Marable, Manning. (2009). “Racializing Obama: The Enigma of Post-Black Politics and Leadership.” Souls, 11(1), pp. 1-15. doi: 10.1080/10999940902733202

Marshall, Patricia. (2009). “Multicultural Education in a Post-Race Age: Our Movement at Risk?” Multicultural Perspectives, 11(4), pp. 188-193. doi: 10.1080/15210960903445863

Nagda, B. A., Spearmon, M. L., Holley, L. C., Harding, S., Balassone, M. L., MoiseSwanson, D. and de Mello, S. (1999). ‘Intergroup Dialogues: An Innovative Approach to Teaching About Diversity and Justice in Social Work Programs. Journal of Social Work Education, 35(3), pp. 433–49.

Ngozi Adichie, Chimamanda. (2003). Purple Hibiscus. New York, NY: Algonquin.

Ono, Kent. A. “Postracism: A Theory of the “Post”-as Political Strategy. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 34(2), pp. 227-233.

Parameswaran, Radhika. (2012). “Facing Barack Hussein Obama: Race, Globalization, and Transnational America.” Journal of Communication Inquiry, 33(3), pp. 195-205. doi: 10.1177/0196859909333896

Rossing, Jonathan. (2012). “Deconstructing Postracialism: Humor as Critical, Cultural Project.” Journal of Communication Inquiry, 36(1), pp. 44-61. doi: 10.1177/0196859911430753

Sheets, R.H. (2005). Diversity Pedagogy: Examining the Role of Culture in the TeachingLearning Process. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Smith, Rogers M and Desmond S. King. (2009). “Barack Obama and the Future of American Racial Politics.” Du Bois Review, 6(1), pp. 25-35.

Swarns, Rachel. L. (2012). American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multicultural Ancestors of Michelle Obama. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishing.

Thorington Springer, Jennifer. (2006). “Reflection of Diversity Practices: Surviving Student Resistance in the Classroom.” Growing Through Our Past into the Future: Journeys of Educators on the Path to Cultural Competence. Ed. Marla Zimmerman. http://ctl.iupui.edu/diversity/essays.html

Troutt, David. (2009). “Barack Obama, ‘Post-Raciality’ and Mythic-Rhetorical Regime Change.” Columbia Law School Conference Proceedings.

West, Cornell. (1994). Race Matters. New York: Vintage.

Wlodkowski, Raymond J. and Margery B. Gingsberg. (1995). Diversity and Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishing.