As election day gets closer and closer, folks are showing their “true colors” on who they’d like to see in the White House next term. This presidential race in particular has brought on a million and one conversations on “race matters,” and the question today is…”Do black people support President Obama solely for the fact the he too is black???
Surviving slavery, segregation and discrimination has forged a special pride in African-Americans. Now some are saying this hard-earned pride has become prejudice in the form of blind loyalty to President Barack Obama. Are black people supporting Obama mainly because he’s black? If race is just one factor in blacks’ support of Obama, does that make them racist? Can blacks’ support for Obama be compared with white voters who may favor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, because he’s white?
These questions have long animated conservatives who are frustrated by claims that white people who oppose Obama’s policies are racist. This week, when a black actress who tweeted an endorsement of Romney was subjected to a stream of abuse from other African-Americans, the politics of racial accusation came full circle once again.
Antonio Luckett, a sales representative in Milwaukee who is black, called the attacks on Dash unfair. But when people speak out against a symbol of black progress like Obama, he said, “African-Americans tend to be internally hurt by that.”
“We still have a civil rights (era) mentality, but we’re not living in a civil rights-based world anymore,” he said. “We want to say, ‘You’re black, you need to stand behind black people.'” Luckett said one reason he voted for Obama in the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton was because Obama is black: “Yes, I will admit that.”
Is that racism? Not in Luckett’s mind. “It’s voting for someone who would understand your side of the coin a lot better.”
Such logic runs into trouble when applied to a white person voting for Romney because he understands whiteness better. Ron Christie, a black conservative who worked for former President George W. Bush, finds both sides of that coin unacceptable. “It’s not the vision that our leaders in the civil rights movement would have envisioned and be proud of in the era of the first African-American president,” Christie said.
Martin Luther King Jr. fought Jim Crow laws, which deprived blacks of political rights after Reconstruction, upheld by Southern Democrats. But black voters switched after Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the 1960s civil rights legislation and Republicans successfully pursued the votes of white people who disliked the civil rights agenda. Since then, Democrats have persistently wooed black voters with programs and platforms that African-Americans favor, and the party has been rewarded every four years.
Clinton got 83 percent of the black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996; the third-party candidate Ross Perot probably sliced away some of Clinton’s black support. Al Gore got 90 percent in 2000; John Kerry got 88 percent in 2004. Obama captured 95 percent in 2008, and 2 million more black people voted than in the previous election.
Christie says he, too, shares the sense of pride in Obama smashing what for blacks is the ultimate glass ceiling. He understands that black pride springs from a shared history of being treated as less than human, while the history of pride in whiteness has a racist context.
But he still sees black people voting for Obama out of a “straitjacket solidarity.”