2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Obama's Platform on Eliminating Racial Inequality


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  •  Racism, particularly institutional and structural racism, is still a significant problem in this society.  'Institutional racism involves polices, practices, and procedures of institutions that have a disproportionately negative effect on racial minorities’ access to and quality of goods, services, and opportunities. (aa)   Racial inequalities can not be eliminate through class based remedies alone.  Thus,  it is not unrealistic to expect the candidates to have a comprehensive plan for eliminating racial inequalities.   This assessment is not about which candidate's platform is best  but which candidate not only acknowledges the existence of racial disparities, but also includes a plan to eliminate racial inequalities.  The candidate may actually address a issue in away designed to improve access and quality for everyone but fails to discuss how they will eliminate racial inequalities. 

    Remember this assessment is very narrow.  Be sure to read the candidate's platform (website)  to make a comprehensive assessment of the impact of their plans on you, your family and your community.



  • Code
    • Italic denotes language directly from the candidate's website and other official sources.
    • "No specific plans" means that there were no general plans addressing the specific issues.
    • "Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating racial inequalities" means the candidate discussed the issue but there was no specific plans for eliminating racial inequalities.


Civil Justice
  • No specific plan.

Civil Rights
  •  As president, Barack Obama will restore and build upon our nation’s commitment to equal justice and
    opportunity for all. Specifically, he will . . . reform our criminal justice system so that it is free of
    racially discriminatory laws and so that it works for all, regardless of race, wealth or other circumstances.
  • Refocus the Criminal Section’s Enforcement Priorities: "The historic mission of the Criminal Section of the
    Civil Rights Division has been to prosecute hate crimes and official misconduct – crimes that disproportionately
    affect racial minorities.. . .Barack Obama believes that, while it is important to go after human traffickers, it is also critically important to investigate and, if  necessary, bring enforcement actions in cases involving hate crimes or civil rights abuses by local officials. As president, Obama will ensure that the Section vigorously pursues such cases.(1)
  • Require a plan to diversity the Civil Rights Division: And he will also require the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights to provide him with a report for its plan to diversify the Division’s workforce in his first 100 days, particularly in the Criminal Section."(1)
  • Strengthen EEOC Enforcement: Obama will fully fund and increase staffing for the EEOC to
    reduce these charge backlogs and to prosecute efforts to remedy systemic discrimination. To ensure that the
    federal government holds itself to a high anti-discrimination standard, Obama will appoint a Chair of the EEOC
    and nominate commissioners who are committed to enforcing anti-discrimination laws.(1)
  • Strengthen the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance:   Barack Obama will restore funding for the OFCCP and will direct his Secretary of Labor and Solicitor of Labor to allocate these resources to a reconstituted Civil Rights Division tasked with aggressive enforcement of matters referred by OFCCP. Obama will also direct that the Secretary of Labor or her delegates ensure that OFCCP, through a reinstated Equal Opportunity Survey or other similar document, has available to it the data it needs to monitor the conduct of contractors who are benefiting from the expenditure of taxpayer dollars.(1)
  • Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: Barack Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction
    to reach violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation,
    gender identity, or physical disability. As president, he will ensure that the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights
    Division makes hate crime a priority.(1)


Criminal Justice
  • Death Penalty: Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities. .
  • Sentencing Disparities: Eliminate Crack/Cocaine Disparity: As president, Obama will work in a bipartisan way to eliminate these  disparities. He will also repeal the mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenders convicted of simple possession of crack, as crack is the only drug that a non-violent first-time offender can receive a mandatory
    minimum sentence for possessing.(1)
  • Mandatory Minimums: Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities.(1)
  • Drug Court: Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities. (1)
  • Racial Profiling:  As president, Obama will . . . sign legislation that will ban the practice of racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal funding to state and local police departments if they adopt policies to prohibit the practice.(1)
  • Juvenile Justice Reform - no specific plans.
  • Prisoner Re-entry -Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities..(1)
  • Assure Ensure Adequate Legal Counsel: Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities. (1


Economic Development, Employment and Income
  • Business Ownership -Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities..( 3 )
  • Community Economic Development -Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities.
  • Jobs and Incomes
    • Fight Pay Discrimination:  As president, Obama will support legislation to promote paycheck equity – the right of women to receive equal compensation to that provided comparably qualified men. . . . Moreover, Obama will be vigilant in responding to other Court decisions that unfairly limit the rights of racial minorities, women and others both by supporting litigation where necessary to overturn such decisions and by selecting a Solicitor General capable of and committed to vigorously enforcing the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.  (1)
    • Create a Green Job Corps: Obama will create an energy-focused youth jobs program for disconnected and
      disadvantaged youth. This program will provide participants with service opportunities to improve energy
      conservation and efficiency of homes and buildings in their communities, while also providing practical
      experience in important career fields of expected high-growth employment. It will also engage private sector
      employers and unions to provide apprenticeship opportunities. The program will also work closely with
      Obama’s proposed Clean Energy Corps to help participants find additional service opportunities after they
      complete the Green Job Corps. (6)
  • Licensing Issues - no specific plans.

  • k-12 
    • Support English Language Learners: Obama supports transitional bilingual education and will help Limited English Proficient students get ahead by holding schools accountable for making sure these students complete school. ( 5 )
    • Teaching Service Scholarships: Barack Obama will create substantial, sustained Teaching
      Service Scholarships that completely cover training costs in high-quality teacher preparation or
      alternative certification programs at the undergraduate or graduate level for those who are
      willing to teach in a high-need field or location for at least four years.
       ( 5 )
    • High Quality Preparation for High-Need Districts: In the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama has
      authored legislation to create Teaching Residency Programs to prepare teachers to work in high need
      districts. These school-university partnerships, such as the Chicago Academy for Urban
      School Leadership, have strong track records of recruiting, training and supporting high-quality
      teachers and can provide a pipeline of teachers to high-need districts and support them in
      innovative ways.
       ( 5 )
    • Close the achievement Gap:  (1) Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Differences in summer learning opportunities  contribute to the achievement gaps that separate struggling minority and poor students from their
      middle-class peers. Barack Obama’s “STEP UP” plan, which was recently signed into law,
      addresses the grade school achievement gaps by supporting summer learning opportunities for
      disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community
      organizations. (2) Support College Outreach Programs: Barack Obama supports programs like GEAR UP,
      TRIO and Upward Bound to encourage more young people from low-income families to
      consider and prepare for college.
      ( 5 )
    • Enlist Parents and Communities to Support Teaching and Learning: . . .School-family contracts. The Obama plan will encourage schools and parents to work together to establish a school-family contract . . . These contracts would be provided to families in their native language when possible . . . ( 5 )
  • Education, Occupational Schools - No specific plan
  • Education, College  Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities ( 5 )
  • Education, Professional Schools - No specific plan
  • Education, Law School - No specific plan
  • Education, Post-Graduate, Ph.D - No specific plan

Environmental Racism
  • Build Healthy Communities: . . .Minorities in America are significantly more likely to be affected by toxins and pollutants. To attention on this environmental health problem, Barack Obama introduced the Healthy Communities would expand research on toxins and provide the resources to clean up blighted communities.  ( 6 )

  • Health Status
    • Drug, Alcohol -Tobacco Control - no specific plan
    • Gun Control - no specific plan
    • Health Disparities. ."Obama will tackle the root causes of health disparities by
      addressing differences in access to health coverage and promoting prevention and
      public health, both of which play a major role in addressing disparities.
       ( 11 )
  • Health Care
    • No Universal Health Care Coverage - Universal Availability
    • Mandatory Coverage of Children: Obama will require that all children have health care coverage. Obama will expand the number of options for young adults to get coverage, including allowing young people up to age 25 to continue coverage through their parents' plans.  ( 11 )
      • Analysis: Obama does not have universal health care coverage but the availability of coverage.
    • Tackling disparities in health care. . ."Obama will tackle the root causes of health disparities by addressing differences in access to health coverage and promoting prevention and public health (see below), both of which play a major role in addressing disparities. He will also challenge the medical system to eliminate inequities in health care by requiring hospitals and health plans to collect, analyze and report health care quality for disparity populations and holding them accountable for any differences found; diversifying the workforce to ensure culturally effective care; implementing and funding evidence-based interventions, such as patient navigator programs; and supporting and expanding the capacity of safety-net institutions, which provide a disproportionate amount of care for underserved populations with inadequate funding and technical resources."  ( 11 )
  • Long Term Care - Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities ( 18 )

  •  Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial inequalities. ( 13 )

  • Disabilities - no mention of eliminating racial inequalities.(2)
    • Analysis: While Obama plans to "ensure that all states have comprehensive newborn screening programs and  re-screening  for all two-year-olds – the age at which some conditions, including autism spectrum disorders". Such efforts would eliminate disparities only if the implementation  consider access issues of racial minorities.
  • Gender - no mention of eliminating racial disparities
  • Rural -no mention of eliminating racial disparities
  • Sexual Orientation - no specific plan
  • Veterans -Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities

Poverty and Welfare
  • Provide a Living Wage: "Obama would further raise the minimum wage, index it to inflation and increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing. . .". .(3)
  • Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial inequalities (15)

Property and Housing
  • Homeownership and Mortgage Fraud: Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial disparities. (4)

  • Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial inequalities (17)

Social Security
  • Addresses issue but no plan for eliminating  racial inequalities (18)

  • Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership: "As president, he will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum."   (19)

Voting Rights
  • Ensure that the Voting Section Protects the Right to Vote: "His Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, which has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee, will enable investigations into deceptive and fraudulent practices. It  establishes significant, harsh penalties for those who have engaged in fraud, and it provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote. As president, Obama will sign this bill into law and charge the Voting Rights Section with vigorously enforcing that law and the provisions of the Voting Rights Act." (1)

Discussion Forum


  1. Plan for Civil Rights, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/civilrights/ (Last Visited: January 26, 2008);  HowardConvocationFactSheet.pdf , http://www.barackobama.com/issues/civilrights/ (Last Visited: January 26, 2008).
  2. Disabilities, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/disabilities/ (Last Visited: January 26, 2008);  Barack Obama's Plan to Empower Americans with Disabilities, http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/DisabilityPlanFactSheet.pdf  (Last Visited: January 26, 2008).
  3. Economics, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Plan to Strengthen the Economy,  http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/ObamaPolicy_Economy.pdf  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  4. Protecting Homeownership & Cracking down on Mortgage Fraud, http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/MortgageFactSheet.pdf (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  5. Education, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/education/  Pre-K to 12 Plan, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/PreK-12EducationFactSheet.pdf, (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); The College Affordability Plan, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/CollegeAffordabilityFactSheet.pdf, (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  6. Energy & Environment, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/energy/ , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Energy Fact Sheet, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/EnergyFactSheet.pdf , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  7. Ethics, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ethics/ , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Ethics Plan, http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/TakingBackOurGovernmentBackFinalFactSheet.pdf ,  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008)
  8. Family, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/family/ , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  9. Fiscal, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/fiscal/ ,  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Fiscal Plan, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/fiscal/ObamaPolicy_Fiscal.pdf , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  10. Foreign Policy, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/foreignpolicy/ ,  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Israel Fact Sheet,http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/IsraelFactSheet.pdf ,  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  11. Health Care, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare/  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Barack Obama's Plan for a Healthy America: Lowering health care costs and ensuring affordable, high-quality health care for all,  (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/HealthCareFullPlan.pdf, (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Background Questions and Answers on Health Care Plan, http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/Obama08_HealthcareFAQ.pdf, (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  12. Homeland Security, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/homeland/ , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Homeland Security Fact Sheet, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/HomelandSecurityFactSheet.pdf , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  13. Immigration, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/immigration/ , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Immigration Fact Sheet ,http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/ImmigrationFactSheet.pdf  , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  14. Iraq, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/iraq/ , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Iraq Fact Sheet , http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/IraqFactSheet.pdf , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  15. Poverty, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/poverty/ , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008); Poverty Fact Sheet, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/PovertyFactSheet.pdf , (Last Visited: January 28, 2008).
  16. Rural, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/rural/, (Last Visited: January 29, 2008); Rural Plan Fact Sheet, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/RuralPlanFactSheet.pdf, (Last Visited: January 29, 2008).
  17. Service, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/service/  (Last Visited: January 29, 2008); http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/NationalServicePlanFactSheet.pdf , (Last Visited: January 29, 2008).
  18. Social Security, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/socialsecurity/ , (Last Visited: January 29, 2008).
  19. Technology, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/technology/ , (Last Visited: January 29, 2008).
  20. Veterans, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/veterans/, (Last Visited: January 29, 2008);  Keeping Promises to Our Nation's Veterans & Building a 21st Century VA, http://obama.3cdn.net/975b85c9939790ce2e_kr41mvuq5.pdf, (Last Visited: January 29, 2008).
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