Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Whiteness: A Revolution of Identity Politics in America

Acebo, Andrés

An enduring motif in American political history reflects the nation's slow progression towards inclusion of a once disenfranchised populace. In the annals of its jurisprudence, the nation recalls a time when citizenship was linked to race: a time when the racial perquisites for naturalization were not challenged based on its constitutionality, but on who could be professedly "white." President Obama's election ushered in a new chapter to this American narrative. His election and the response to it reveal how far we have come and how far we have left to travel on the path towards equality in citizenship. This Article frames a longstanding debate concerning race consciousness in the political sphere and how it consequently influences an ever-changing electorate. It explores the impact that our courts and our policymakers have had on shaping what it means to be white in America, and accordingly to possess a majority voice in society. The Article further seeks to explicate how politicized social institutions are sustained from generation to generation by way of an unabashed preservation of the status quo. Those who come to power do so by protracting nostalgic yearnings, summoning persistent lore and mythos about a way of life that has not always benefited an entire electorate, and not threatening or offending the mainstay of the American political complex. Obama's election revealed a model, embossed by a romanticized collective national history and a steadfast commitment to the ideals of American Exceptionalism, for transforming a minority candidate's use of identity politics to garner support, influence and ultimately the ability to govern.


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Columbia Journal of Race and Law

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October 20, 2012