Trash Talk: Anti-Obama Lore and Race in the Twenty-First Century

Univ. of California. Sept. 2022. 264p. ISBN 9780520389243. pap. $29.95. SOC SCI
The mere idea of Barack Obama as U.S. president unhinged tens of millions of white Americans, explains noted folklorist Turner (African American studies, UCLA; Whispers on the Color Line). Turner demonstrates that Obama personified all that they feared about losing their place in the nation, and they generated a litany of lies replete with anti-Black lore and tropes to denigrate and disparage him. Documenting fabrications—about him, his birth, his parents, his wife, his children, his promises, his programs, and his administrations—disseminated in various genres of everyday discourse, the author tracks the racist roots and resonance of those condemnations and falsehoods. Her deft analysis, particularly of what was transmitted on the internet, unpacks conspiracy theories layered in rumors and contemporary legends that became fully formed narratives of intensifying disrespect. She further emphasizes their spillover into U.S. elections, as the heightening hate paved the path for the 2016 outcome.
VERDICT Turner expertly exposes more unsubstantiated, secretive, organized anti-Obama agendas and offers valuable glimpses into what many Americans believe, what they think of others’ beliefs, and, most of all, what they think about who belongs where in U.S. society. An informative read.
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