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Proof that Obama is not Jesus: Racism still exists (949 hits)

Politics / Nov. 16, 2008 at 9:53 pm
Proof that Obama is not Jesus: Racism still exists
By Caleb Melby

Hope, progress and change have all been promised by President-elect Barack Obama. A young black man with minimal Washington experience, Obama proved that America is more than ready to move in a new direction. But amidst all the excitement, it has become increasingly apparent that some Americans have lost their sense of reality and are willing to believe that Obama can achieve more than is actually possible. While Obama’s election proves that America has matured since the eras of slavery and segregation, it does not mean that we have seen the end of racism in the states. Yet, this is exactly what some have argued.

Minutes after Obama was declared president-elect, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked the CNN panel what his victory would mean for the United States. Correspondent Bill Bennett had this to say: “Well, I’ll tell you one thing it means, as a former Secretary of Education: You don’t take any excuses anymore from anybody who says, ‘the deck is stacked, I can’t do anything, there’s so much in-built this and that.’”

Minister Reverend Eugene Rivers later proclaimed that “racism is no longer the primary obstacle to black progress. With the election of a black man whose middle name is ‘Hussein’, the rhetoric of white racism is off the table.”
Photo by Graham Case on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

Barack Obama’s massive victory over John McCain is indeed an impressive indicator of how far America has come over the years. But what Bennett, Rivers and numerous others have explicitly said is that all barriers of race have dissipated. Poof. Gone. Overnight. The argument is a simple one. A black man has achieved the highest office in the country. If racism were still prevalent, there is no way that could be possible.

This is most certainly not true. If such discourse becomes prevalent, we may find that an Obama presidency will work to mask racism in the U.S. and through ignorance of the problem, make it worse. Whether it be the current economic crisis we face today, the crumbling of infrastructure in Afghanistan throughout the past two years or any other quagmire Americans have faced throughout the years, the ones that give us the swiftest kick in the butt are the ones we choose to ignore.

Those who believe great improvements have been made in terms of race cite that 78 percent of the nation’s counties voted more Democratic in this election than in 2004. However, there are differences between John Kerry and Barack Obama beyond race. There were some counties that voted in higher numbers for John McCain than they did for George W. Bush. These remaining counties were largely found in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Northern Texas. Eight in ten Arkansas voters are white, and seven out of ten of those voters cast ballots for McCain. The reverse was also true, as Obama won the support of 95 percent of all black Arkansas voters. It cannot be denied that partisan lines were drawn very closely along racial lines, meaning that different race groups perceive their needs differently. In a country where race is not a factor, race groups would not vote in such an overtly dichotomous fashion.

That particular exit poll question — “Was race a factor in determining who you voted for?” — is inherently flawed. Even if you are voting based on race, you are likely to respond with “no” to avoid inference that you are perhaps racist. Although it would be foolish to assume people voted solely on race, it is telling to draw upon the correlation between the race of the voter and the candidate that he or she voted for. To rely upon the “race factor” question only tells us how voters wish to be perceived.

Nationwide, white people voted for Obama only slightly more than they did for Kerry (43 to 41 percent). Obama’s windfall numbers actually came from an upswing in minority support. Sixty-seven percent of Latinos voted for Obama compared to 53 percent for John Kerry in 2004. Sixty-two percent of Asian voters supported Obama compared to 56 percent for Kerry. Black voters went for Obama in higher numbers as well: 95 percent to 88 percent. This minority support was augmented by a larger turnout of black voters, who comprised 13 percent of the electorate in this election compared to 11 percent in 2004.

While these numbers hardly prove America is racist, they cannot be used to prove that Americans have had some sort of epiphany that amounts to the eradication of racism. Changes in voting patterns in all areas could be dependent upon the perceived failures of the Bush Administration, differences in Obama’s and Kerry’s platforms or any other one of innumerable factors. To attempt to draw any conclusions about race and racism by comparing Obama’s success to that of his predecessors is therefore unfortunately arbitrary.

Understanding that definitive conclusions about America’s relationship with race cannot be drawn from exit polls, it is necessary to look to other areas to come to terms with the continued prevalence of racial inequality in America. The evidence of racial inequality in the U.S. is still staggering. Disproportionate numbers of minorities, especially blacks and Latinos, live below the poverty line, live without health insurance, and attend schools that receive less funding and pay teachers less. They are underrepresented in the House and the Senate, and disproportionately portrayed by the news media as being violent, degenerate members of society . If racism were dead, such disparities would not exist in American culture. I abhor clichés, and will therefore avoid proclaiming that Barack Obama’s election is the exception that proves the rule. Rather, Barack Obama’s election is the exception that proves very little.

The claims that racism has met its end, while incorrect, are most likely not meant maliciously. Rather, some have most likely taken Obama’s message of hope and change beyond the boundaries of reality. Does this mean that Obama doesn’t bring hope for racial inequality? Karrie Snyder, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University, and an unabashed Obama supporter, thinks it means a lot to Americans to finally have a black President.

“It’s evident that Obama is concerned about inequality in the United States, and not just racial inequality either. Looking at his platform, it’s clear that he understands how our education system can perpetuate this inequality, which betters our chances of dealing with inequality at one of its most basic levels,” she said.

“But to think that, come January 20, racism will simply cease to exist, well that’s clearly not the case. The amount of statistical evidence proving the existence of racism in the U.S. is overwhelming.”

Americans have a right to be hopeful over the coming months, as they anticipate moving in a new direction. It is refreshing to see a decrease in cynicism, especially when so many Americans find themselves in such dire straits. But, in striving for a better future, we must not lose sight of the hard realities that Obama’s sailing speeches sometimes allow us to forget. Racism will continue to exist even after Obama is inaugurated, and if allowed to go unchecked, will further damage the chances for equality in the future. This is the sort of change we don’t want to see.

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Thursday, February 19th 2009 at 1:18PM
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