Pundits and commentators have attempted to make sense of the role that race and gender have played in the 2008 presidential campaign. Whereas researchers are drawing on varying bodies of scholarship (legal, cognitive and social psychology, and political science) to illuminate the role that Senator Obama’s race and Senator Clinton’s gender has/had on their campaign, Michelle Obama has been left out of the discussion. As Senator Clinton once noted, elections are like hiring decisions. As such, new frontiers in employment discrimination law place Michelle Obama in context within the current presidential campaign. First, racism and sexism are both alive and well within the domains of politics and employment. And within both domains, the intersection of these biases uniquely handicap Black women. As such, Michelle Obama, as an individual who has broken the socially acceptable constrictions of race and gender, has suffered some backlash as a result of her beliefs and actions. Second, most racial and gender bias is not express, but unconscious. And these unconscious biases influence behavior—including voting and hiring/promotion. In that vein, there are instances during the 2008 campaign where unconscious biases against Mrs. Obama have occurred. Such instances are similar to fact-patterns in employment discrimination cases. Third, under Title VII, employment discrimination may be directed at a third party for their association with members of a disliked group. Here, some voters’ unconscious race and gender biases against Mrs. Obama likely affected/affects their voting decision vis-à-vis Senator Obama.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Racism, Sexism, Discrimination, Elections
Parks, Gregory S. and Roberson, PhD, Quinetta M., "Michelle Obama: the "Darker Side" of Presidential Spousal Involvement and Activism" (2008). Cornell Law Faculty Working Papers. 39.