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Barack Obama's speech on "race"

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Mosaic of identities
    1. Punjabi
    2. The Sindhis
    3. Mohajirs
    4. Pathan and Baluchi minorities
    5. Kashmiris
  3. The political construction of national identity
    1. The notion of national identity
    2. Pakistani Muslim identity or identities ?
    3. Language:Unifying or divisive ?
    4. Foreign policy and national identity
  4. Conclusion

Barack Obama was born in 1961 in Hawaii of a Kenyan father and American mother. His parents divorced when he was still a baby. He continued his education in Christian and Muslim schools during his stay in Indonesia. On returning to the United States and entering university he attended the African American community. He graduated in political science and international relations after which he taught law at Harvard University and headed the law review. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and ran for the U.S. presidential election in February 2007.

The context of discourse is that of the current Democratic primary and a tight duel between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The campaign suddenly has a focus on race after two events. First, a close associate of Hillary Clinton has stated that Barack Obama would not be here if he had been a "white woman". Second, the sermons of Reverend Wright, former pastor and friend of Barack Obama, have been widely disseminated in the media and one can see the call to curse America because of its racial discrimination. In a broader context, one must remember that no U.S. politician has delivered a speech centered on race in the last sixty years.

Barack Obama began his speech by referring to the U.S. Constitution of 1787 through the first sentence of the preamble "We the American people in order to form a more perfect nation ." It attempts to show that the great founding texts of the United States, and primarily the Constitution, express an ideal of equality in the definition of American identity. But soon there appears a contradiction since the conception of American national identity at the time was based in part on the idea of race. Indeed, the founders needed to identify benchmarks to build the American nation that did not exist really in the late eighteenth century.

They thus used the race as a characteristic of national identity, effectively excluding blacks and Native Americans. This contradiction between the ideal of equality and construction of national identity through racial exclusion is illustrated in slavery and segregation.

Tags: Barack Obama; speech on ?race'; racial discrimination;

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