The Myth of Post-Racialism: Hegemonic and Counterhegemonic Stories About Race and Racism in the United States

Publication Title

ACRAWSA: Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Journal

Publication Date


Document Type



post-racialism, myth, hegemonic, counterhegemonic, race, racism, United States


American Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


In the United States, hegemonic narratives reproduce post-racial ideals by developing popular myths that either minimise the prevalence of racial inequalities or blame their persistence on African Americans, who are represented as dysfunctional and resistant to mainstream American culture. Hegemonic narratives are not only racist and prejudiced but also deceptive because they move race away from the unequal policies that produce structural-level inequities for lower and working class African Americans, putting the latter at a greater disadvantage in relationships to middle and upper class white Americans and African Americans. Hegemonic stories are misleading since they claim that racial equality is possible even when the majority of white Americans have a claim to socioeconomic and political privilege and have a vested interest in maintaining that advantage at the expense of others. Using both past and recent critical race theories, this article critically analyses the major differences between hegemonic stories which accept the myth of post-racialism in the United States and counterhegemonic stories which contest this myth. By analysing these stories, the essay reveals the racially disadvantageous conditions the majority of blacks in the United States continue to face despite the 2008 election of a black president. The essay identifies persistent structural racism that the myth of post-racialism seeks to efface. It also suggests that American social and economic institutions work to entrap African Americans and other non-white minorities into a racist prison industrial complex, limited education and health facilities and rampant poverty which drastically reduce their opportunities in the United States.