n African Journal of Rhetoric - The complicated memory of Obama's 'middle ground' rhetoric : the silent return of 'race' in the aftermath of Treyvon Martin's shooting in the USA

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


This paper charts the complications arising out of the rhetorical markers of 'Middle Ground' colorblindedness in the unitary fervour attending Barack Obama's 2004 Democratic National Convention Speech, wherein the dictum was planted into both memory and public consciousness through rhetorical features such as Parallelism and Anaphora, both of which resonate with the vision of one diverse American family. Yet, this paper argues, his cautionary response in the aftermath of the Treyvon Martin shooting, attests to a shift to a rhetorical flourish hinged on the Aristotelian principle that puts race 'under erasure' through the rhetorical device of variation, whereby he allows public memory to reimagine Treyvon Martin as not only a younger version of Barack Obama but also Treyvon as his son. The paper concludes that between the orotund anaphora of hope and the cautionary diction of despair carried by variation lies hidden the partition of America's cosmetic color-blindedness that paradoxically plays out in profiled, if fatal, racial spectacle of the clash between the 'middle ground' rhetoric and gruesome 'stand your ground' policing. The said clash, in styled rhetoric and historical content, renders America as both the country of dreams for all and a zone of exception and non-being for young, black males.

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