By Katy TerBerg
Students who have taken Dr. Mark Orbe’s Taboo Topics class in the School of Communication attest to the fact that Orbe is not afraid to tackle controversial material. From race to class struggles to uncovering stereotypes, Orbe discusses each topic in detail. “Dr. Orbe clearly loves what it is he is doing, loves the students, context, and atmosphere,” said a student.
Orbe’s latest endeavor—the book “Communication Realities in a ‘Post-Racial’ Society: What the U.S. Public Really Thinks About Barack Obama”— was published by Lexington Press last November. In his book, Orbe addresses the reaction to events that occurred during President Obama’s first term—from the BP oil spill to the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, which occurred while he was writing the book. To give the book foundation, he rallied together focus groups of diverse backgrounds for a qualitative analysis. The research compiled in the book, in part, stems from these focus group discussions.
On Jan. 25, 2012, Orbe spoke with campus public radio station WMUK to about his book. Throughout the interview, he reiterated that the “post-racial” tag is in italics because the term on the whole has not been agreed upon. While he researched the book, a focus group participant said “America wasn’t ready for a black president, but it was ready for Barack Obama.” Further discussion as to whether or not Obama could be considered America’s first “black president” reinforces Orbe’s hypothesis, that society is not yet “post-racial.”
Orbe’s book has garnered positive reviews with one reviewer writing that the text was “a must-read for anyone concerned about how we communicate about race in the Obama era.” Another lauded Orbe on his cadence and what this reviewer believed to be the book’s main point: “The book suggests that people may disagree about whether we are or should be post-racial because they disagree about whether we are post-racist.”