The New Jim Crow

Born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Barack Obama was the 44th President of the Untied States. In 2008 he made history by being elected the first African-American president in the nation’s history. In The New Jim Crow, Alexander describes the excitement that surrounded his election, particularly among African Americans, civil rights lawyers, and racial justice advocates. For many, however, this excitement turned to disappointment during Obama’s two-term presidency. Rather than instituting the change that many people hoped he would, Obama mostly continued the “tough on crime” approach advanced by his predecessors. Alexander also discusses the possibility that Obama’s election hindered the fight for racial justice simply by helping to convince people that racism is no longer a major issue in America. She argues that Obama fits into a broader trend of “black exceptionalism,” whereby the success of a select few black people is taken as evidence that no further action needs to be taken to fight racial oppression and injustice. Obama himself advanced this impression by sometimes using rhetoric that blamed poor and incarcerated African Americans for their own predicament, rather than addressing the structural inequality that continues to shape American society.
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Barack Obama Character Timeline in The New Jim Crow

The timeline below shows where the character Barack Obama appears in The New Jim Crow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Foreword
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Violence, Surveillance, and Social Control Theme Icon
...Jim Crow embodies “the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.” The book was written during Obama’s presidency, and although this period saw some progress, it also involved a heightening of the... (full context)
Introduction
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The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
Myth, Dishonesty, and Conspiracy Theme Icon
...“New Jim Crow” currently exist in the United States. Although she was thrilled by Barack Obama’s election in the 2008, at the time she is writing she feels much less hopeful... (full context)
Justice vs. the Law Theme Icon
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
Violence, Surveillance, and Social Control Theme Icon
Myth, Dishonesty, and Conspiracy Theme Icon
Alexander argues that the election of Barack Obama makes it seem as if there is no racial caste system in America anymore, but... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Rebirth of Caste
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...exists in the present era, especially considering the success of famous African Americans such as Obama and Oprah Winfrey. However, American history proves that racism is “adaptable” and takes many forms... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Lockdown
Justice vs. the Law Theme Icon
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Violence, Surveillance, and Social Control Theme Icon
Myth, Dishonesty, and Conspiracy Theme Icon
...innocent people, but mostly it’s because the profit incentive for police remains intact. Meanwhile, President Obama dramatically increased federal funding for anti-drug efforts, thereby further embedding the War on Drugs as... (full context)
Chapter 5: The New Jim Crow
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Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
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Alexander describes a Father’s Day in 2008 when then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama gave a speech at a church in Chicago urging black men to “be better fathers.”... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Fire This Time
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
Myth, Dishonesty, and Conspiracy Theme Icon
...some extent, the 2008 election was a hopeful moment in the fight against mass incarceration; Obama has openly discussed his own recreational drug use as a young man and at first... (full context)