Community faces the future after Obama

Elizabeth Worthington, News Editor

With the presidential election a mere two months away, political theorists and academics have begun to place the years of Barack Obama’s presidency in a historical context. What legacy will the 44th president leave behind and how will this differ from the country’s original expectations? Paul Taylor, associate dean at Penn State, and author of several books including “On Obama” and “Race: A Philosophical Introduction,” answered these questions on Sept. 8 during a talk titled “Facing the Future After Obama.”

Taylor questioned the once popular belief that Obama would become a post-historical figure, in the sense that his presidency would bring about a historical break. When Obama was elected in 2008 many Americans relished the thought of electing an African-American president, believing that it would mean the end of racism.

“The euphoria from 10 years ago has diminished considerably,” Taylor said.

Now, the country is left to rethink what it means to be in a “post-Obama moment.”

Taylor argues that the “Age of Obama” was one of optimism and innocence, but these popular feelings are misplaced. The problems that we, as a country, thought Obama could help us eliminate may be concealed or transformed, but are still all too familiar.

He pointed to events like the shootings in Ferguson, Mo. and the death of Michael Brown as evidence of the failure of Obama’s election to bring about a post-racial society. However, Taylor also views these events as evidence of a societal ignorance that allows us to “prioritize spectacular violence over chronic and persistent vulnerability.” Countless incidents occur in the everyday lives of black Americans that may not result in someone being murdered, but can still manifest in an individual’s life as injustice and discrimination. 

One audience member added that although the end of Obama’s presidency may signal the end of optimism, his years as president have created a new discourse surrounding race.

“Recognizing that racial disparities still exist and are in some ways exacerbated in these emerging post-Obama years was sobering yet insightful. It ultimately challenged my prima facie view of Obama’s legacy regarding various racial issues,” Kyle Steinke ’18 said.

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