Recently African-Americans have drawn much criticism for their almost unanimous support for presidential candidate Barack Obama—the perception being that blacks vote for Obama primarily because of his race. In response, both black and white Obama supporters have explained their votes by de-emphasizing his skin color and stressing his stances on Iraq, trade, energy and various other political issues.
“I’m not voting for him because he’s black,” some of them say, “I just agree with his policy positions.”
Others agree… “Obama’s race should not be a factor in this campaign… We should vote on the issues—and the issues alone.”
Or how many times have we heard the following: “When I was growing up, my parents taught me to not see color… It doesn’t matter that Obama’s black; he’s a person, just like anybody else…”
Personally, I find statements like these nauseating.
Since when do voters, black and otherwise, have to justify their justifications for electing officials? Are we so racist that it is even scandalous for us to acknowledge a successful black candidate’s black identity?
Telling blacks to vote on the basis of issues, not race, is not only insulting to our intelligence, it’s also a goofy political tactic, feeding off the notion that a candidate’s race should never be an issue.
But let’s be honest. Most of the people who say race shouldn’t matter are liars. They are lying, lying, lying! And the main reason we know they are lying is because the only time voting on “race” becomes an issue is when white political homogeneity is threatened. When the “white males only” doors are being knocked on by women and blacks, then it’s time to scream: “SEX DOESN’T MATTER!.. RACE DOESN’T MATTER!…etc.”
Where were all these color-blind Americans during the two hundred and thirty years when the Presidency of the United States was only available to white males? During how many of those elections were masses of Americans complaining about the fact that only white men could represent them?
These questions alone should keep one from voting for Obama on the basis of energy, trade or the Iraq war. In fact, I’m shocked there isn’t a movement to vote for Obama because he isn’t a white man!
What’s the real problem with voting for Obama because he’s black? Personally, as an American, I find it shamefully embarrassing that we, the alleged leaders of the free world, are incapable of voting for non-white commanders-in-chief. After all, if Obama is the first of his kind to hold the presidency, voting for him simply because he’s a “first” means one is voting on the basis of a relevant political issue: the racial exclusion of minority peoples from government.
Ultimately, the decision to ignore this latter issue is what I think drives a lot of pro-Obama apologetics. When people distinguish a vote for Obama from a vote for a black man, I think they are really expressing discomfort with black people in general. Evidently, to avoid being criticized for “seeing” skin color, they minimize Obama’s racial identity and trump up other aspects of his candidacy. In similar fashion, racists who dislike Obama avoid race-talk to explain away their discomfort with a black president. After all, if critics of Obama must begin their assessment of him with “I’m not racist, but….” it probably reflects a high degree of racial prejudice—either towards their listeners or Obama himself.
But c’mon, let’s be real.
In America, almost everything political is racial and everything racial is political.
Even if people say they’re not voting for Obama on the basis of race, even if they say they don’t “see” color, and even if they have the audacity to tell blacks not to do so either, I predict that when Obama is elected, many of these same voters will be proud to boast that they helped elect the first African-American president. And if I’m right in that prediction, then all this color-blind voting stuff will have done little more than inherited a centuries-old tradition of race-based voting that dares not speak its name. The only difference being that in Obama’s case, it is his blackness, not his whiteness, that’s silently endorsed.
Is this what we call “progress” on issues of race?..
I hope not. For no matter how well-intentioned and/or face-saving, remaining silent about race while voting in this election appeals to the worst, not the best, in American politics. And despite calls to “get past” race and live in a “post-racial” world, we need to acknowledge that voting for Obama because he’s black is one of the best reasons anyone could posit for doing so. After two hundred years of white men, I find any other sentiment very, very difficult to justify.