time magazine’s cover of barack obama

This October 20, 2008 cover of Time Magazine shows an image of the face of- then Presidential candidate, Barack Obama. Coloring of the background and text features white and black set against one another, with Obama’s face divided between black and white as well – although the “black” half is his natural skin tone. Headlines feature the subject of race, stating, “Why the economy is trumping race,” “How worried white voters are turning toward Obama,” “Why Obama’s ‘foreignness’ became the new race card,” and “How Black voters will feel if Obama loses.” Though Obama has been the subject of many Time covers, some controversial, this one is unique in its visually striking presentation of the issue of race in the presidential campaign.


What do you think the designers of this cover are trying to communicate through this image? What is significant about the choice of colors? How do you interpret this image?

Do you think it makes sense for Time to write separate articles about “white voters” and “black voters”? Why or why not?

Would you consider this cover controversial? Have you seen any other racially controversial covers? How do they make you feel?

What do you remember about the 2008 presidential campaign and election? Do you think race was an important factor? Was race an important factor in the 2012 campaign? The 2017 campaign?


Many critics believe that we, as a nation and culture, would benefit from removing terms like “race card” from our collective vocabulary. The widely-accepted use of this term grants people in positions of power carte blanche to characterize allegations of racism as trumped up and exaggerated, and deny voice to those with the courage to point out instances of racial discrimination. No matter the viewpoint of the author of the article advertised here, this perspective suggests that the use of this term should not be perpetuated.

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