Monday, August 11, 2008

Black Votes for Obama Don't Bother Me

If you’re white and you attended a predominantly white college or university like I did, you might have had or heard a conversation like this in your dining hall:

White Person 1: "Look at how all the black students sit together at a few tables."

White Person 2: "Yeah! Why are they so separatist?"

As a white person, you might reflexively agree. At least until you interject some perspective.

If almost all the black students are sitting together at a few tables, where are the white students? Sitting together as well, of course, except at a LOT of tables. And yet, from the white majority perspective, it never occurs to many of us to see ourselves as being "separaters." At my college, there was never any allegation that the black students were stopping white students from joining them. They just didn't.

Many white people reading this will quickly retort, "Why didn't the black students come out of THEIR comfort zone to sit with some white students?" That's a fair point, but it's more emblematic of what a majority mentality instills in many: the notion that others must come to you and comform to you. You never start with the question of what must WE do.

Another idea that permeates the white American majority is that a group of people who have never had something should act like they have always had it, just like us.

This is all said as a preface to my critique of Pat Buchanan's recent question of whether it is wrong for black voters to consider Barack Obama's race, to any degree, to make their presidential decision.

Historically, African-Americans have supported the Democratic presidential candidate at around a 90% clip, so Obama likely has that locked up. What must be troubling Buchanan, therefore, is that the other 10% will probably go to Obama as well, and darn it, it's just wrong to vote for somebody BECAUSE he's black.

What Buchanan misses, but what my amiga at the American Values Alliance catches, is that the first national polls gave Obama 20% of the black vote to Clinton's 60% (the remaining 20% was spread around the other candidates). If race is all that mattered, Obama would have locked up 95% then. This is how we now know that African-Americans must have a credible Democratic African-American candidate first, and then they'll consider supporting him. They didn't at the start, and they do now.

But let's put our feet in the shoes of that other ten percent. We live in a country that says (but has not historically meant) "All Men are Created Equal." This is the only time in our history where we can actually elect a visibly non-white president. The repercussions of achieving such a milestone are significant.

What do white parents tell their kids to inspire them to do great things? "If you work hard, you can be whatever you want." How do black parents tell their children this and make them believe it when there has NEVER been a black president. (Of course, an equally compelling question is how do white parents make their daughters believe it when there has NEVER been a woman president).

Quite frankly, the question for me isn't why do African-Americans want to vote for Obama. It's how could they not? I am firmly convinced that IF McCain has black people working on his campaign (haven't seen any, but I don't hang out with McCain's folks), even they will pause when they get to the booth.

Many white people will be aghast at the suggestion that somebody should vote for a candidate, even in part, because of a group affiliation. Those aghast might include the Jews who supported Lieberman to help him become the first Jewish VP nominee, the Irish who supported Kennedy as their first President, the Chicago Poles who always voted Rostenkowski, the Italians who supported Cuomo, and the homosexuals who voted for Barney Frank.

In an America that frequently sees things in black and white, apparently its only when blacks don't see things white that it offends.

UPDATE: I forgot to add that while 20% of black voters said in a Wall Street Journal poll last month that race is the top factor influencing their "view of the candidates" and 14% admit it is a key factor, 8% of white voters said outright that race is the most important factor when it comes to looking at the presidential candidates. This is a three percentage point increase since Mr. Obama claimed the Democratic nomination. In other words, once a black man made it on to the ballot, race became an issue. An added 15% of white voters admit the candidates' race is a factor for them. If white people get exorcised about African-Americans' racial considerations, what we're really saying is: "We don't mind if you use race, black people, but just make sure you only use it as much as we do." No thanks. Instead of engaging in ridiculous line-drawing, I'll just avoid the hypocrisy altogether.



Anonymous said...

I actually went to the same college as you did, and you are bringing up a lot of memories about the backwards way the white majority there dealt with African-American students, as well as the Malcolm X Center. My own fraternity was torn apart by a disgraceful racial incident that went strangely unpunished by the school, even though the perpetrator admitted that he committed the act to our faculty advisor and commented that he didn't see what the big deal was.

Eclecticvibe said...

The Green Party has an all women of color Presidential ticket. If people only voted based on race, wouldn't black people be most likely to support McKinney? McKinney had more experience in Congress than Obama. I doubt she experiences much of the criticism that she's not black enough. So here's a viable black woman candidate, that's polling about 1%. Race can't be everything, though it's likely playing a role.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure that I would call Cynthia Mckinney viable or SANE

Jacob Perry said...

Nor would I consider Obama qualified, based on his 142 days in the U.S. Senate (before he announced his candidacy) or his record of voting "present" during his brief spell in the Illinois Senate. At least McKinney has a resume...of sorts.

Wilson46201 said...

When is Senator John Sidney McCain III going to show up at the Senate? He's been cutting since last April?

Don't suggest docking his pay! With a multimillionaire beer heiress trophy wife, his $59,000/year Navy pension as well as $1900/month from that "disgraceful" Social Security, he's doing OK... His Senate pay for doing no work is just another "perk".

Jon E. Easter said...

Obama announced on Feb. 7, 2007. He was elected to the Senate in November of 2004 and took office in January of 2005. By my count, that's more than 142 days. Also, Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996 and served from 1997-2004. That's seven years as a state legislator. His experience level is fair game, but get the numbers right!

Cynthia McKinney was defeated in her own district by another Democrat in the primary. If you read her bio, you will find a very interesting and long list of things that should give anyone pause before voting for her.

Wilson46201 said...

The Green Party brought us Ralph Nader & Florida in 2000. Now that the Democratic Party nominates the popular African-American, Barack Obama, the Greens finally nominate a Black woman. The African-American community remembers bitterly the political damage done by the Greens in 2000 -- it will not be fooled by their 2008 splitting tactics!

Eclecticvibe said...

Cynthia McKinney was defeated in the Democratic Primary by crossover voting from Republicans as Georgia has an open primary system. For people who won't vote for a pro death penalty, pro Afghanistan war, anti gay marriage candidate, they can feel comfortable voting for McKinney. I don't suggest any Democrat vote for McKinney. However, for all people who want to vote for someone who's truly in line with their values, it's important to know there are options. This isn't a horse race where we try to vote for the winner. We should encourag everyone to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Jacob Perry said...

Anyone else find it odd that a creepy old WHITE guy has anointed himself a spokesman for the black community?

Jon Easter, I suspect you knew this when you replied to my comment, but the "142 days" figure refers to the number of days Mr. Obama actually sat in the Senate before deciding he should be president. One wonders to what he actually contributed in that brief amount of time that made him decide to run, considering his time in the Illinois Senate was spent mostly voting "present".

Actually, not voting on tough issues didn't stop local hypocrite David Orentlicher from deciding he should be a congressman, but I digress...

Wilson46201 said...

Considering that in Jacob Perry's forays into electoral politics his candidates get skunked 9 to 1 in the Black community, he might try a little humility. Of course, pontificating from Franklin Indiana is not exactly the best place to learn about African-Americans...

Chris Worden said...


Let's try to keep it civil, please.


Jacob Perry said...

Again, I'll state: What does a creepy little WHITE guy know about being black?

Also you got my electoral record dead wrong. While I freely admit to have lost even more races than Bob Bechel, I refuse to apologize for fighting for my beliefs versus selling out for a make-work job and a small pension. My conscious is clear.

You might find it interesting that my first ever political foray was helping a former State Senator and aide to Andy Jacobs be re-elected as Center Township Trustee. You might be familiar with that candidate.

And considering that I've lived in Franklin a very brief period of time, your reference is quite a way off. In fact, you might find it interesting just how much I learned about race relations growing up in a predominantly minority neighborhood in South Florida, where I was likely the only white English-speaking kid on my block.

You also might be shocked by just how many men in my USMC platoon were black. It was at MCRD San Diego where I learned that the only color that existed in the Marine Corps was green. My very large and very black senior drill instructor (interestingly enough named Perry, he used to joke to my platoon that we shared the same last name because my family owned his family at one time) taught me that.

Besides, being gay and being black are two very different things. Why do you feel being a WHITE gay man has given you insight into being black?