Voting Black While Black
Are African Americans really voting for Obama because, well, he's black?
In response to Colin Powell's statement of support for President Barack Obama this election cycle, former New Hampshire governor and George H.W. Bush White House chief of staff John Sununu suggested the endorsement had less to do with policy and more to do with race.
“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama,” Sununu said.
When CNN’s Piers Morgan probed, asking: “What reason would that be?” Sununu replied, “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”
Sununu’s comments would be laughable if they weren’t so abjectly despicable in their gross generalization of the entirety of the black electorate, distilling the complex calculus of a voting decision down into the most superficial and base variables. The co-chair to the Mitt Romney campaign, later reeled back his rhetoric, but the toothpaste was already out of the tube.
The suggestion that the totality of the black electorate is a zombified, monolithic voting mass, swayed only by the skin of the person is highly offensive, not just to African Americans, but to all Americans. To continue the line of reasoning Sununu put forth, every white person should vote for Mitt Romney simply because he’s white. And if that happened wouldn’t, that move by an entire block of people, be considered racism by today’s standards? Sununu is suggesting that every black person voting for Obama is not only racially sympathetic, but also racist for embracing Barack Obama and rejecting Mitt Romney.
You don’t have to go any further than George W. Bush’s cabinet peer Condoleeza Rice to find the counter to the notion of racially stratified voting. And what of the many other right-leaning African Americans, like Florida congressman Allen West, Stacey Dash, Larry Elder, 50 Cent, Don King, Karl Malone, Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele, Lynn Swann and Ken Blackwell? Would they be considered race deserters? Would Sununu, who’s waded into racially charged political waters more than once this cycle, accuse them of being Uncle Toms?
The reason why some responded positively to his statements is that there is the perception of truth and therefore the perpetuation of a the reverse-racism meme. And if that idea is deemed acceptable, then the polar opposite becomes acceptable as well--that is, that the mass of white voters should vote for Mitt Romney explicitly because he’s white.
What is in the truth in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in August, that had President Obama winning 94-0 percent of the African American vote? If it were true that the majority of African Americans are voting for Obama because he’s black there’s a wealth of data to suggest that kind of “tribal allegiance” is the norm and not the exception, with 84 precent of Mormon registered voters projected to cast the ballot for Romney in the fall.
In an interview with Ebony magazine, actor Samuel L. Jackson said he voted for the president in 2008 because of his race.
"I voted for Barack because he was black," he said. "Cuz that's why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them."
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So yes, there are some African Americans who will vote for Obama simply based on the color of his skin, but in a world where racial division is on the rise and 56 percent of Americans express anti-black sentiments, does the number of people voting for Obama because he’s black outweigh the number of people voting against Obama because of the same reason? Most likely, no.
After all, the president winning 95 percent of black vote in 2008 is impressive but not statistically abnormal, when one considers the the close relationship between the Democratic Party and African Americans over the past 30 years. Bill Clinton wrangled 83 percent of the black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996. About 90 percent of African Americans voted for Al Gore in 2000, while John Kerry won 88 percent of the black vote in 2004. This number has less to do with the color of Obama’s skin and more to do with the democratic platform that seems more inclusive to a broader swath of people. That is what black Americans, Latinos and a great many white Americans are voting for when they vote for the president on November 6.
So perhaps there’s a grain of truth that blacks, and other groups who feel the weight of a system that makes it tough to get ahead, align with President Obama, a man who’s risen above that system, rather than a man who seems to more represent that system. This is a man who was born into an America that still had segregated water fountains. A dark-skinned boy who lived in a country where inter-racial marriage was punishable by imprisonment. Those things can’t help but shape your psyche. If you’re to believe his own words, being raised by a white single mother fundamentally shaped Barack Obama’s capacity for compassion, and desire for fairness. Many of his social policies reflect that notion. In the 44th president we see that the content of Barack Obama’s character has in no small degree been defined by the color of his skin. So when people of all colors vote to re-elect President Obama over a man they perceive as representing much of what’s wrong with America, it will be because of what that represents for themselves and the future of the country.
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