Tuesday, September 23, 2008

See what I mean? The debate can't be about race.

And don't read the comments. They only display that even the most "liberal" white can be racist, or at least so insensitive to the plight of African-Americans, that s/he might as well be racist and probably is. - No1KState

Obama can't escape race questions
Poll gives distressing news about bigotry in voting booth

September 23, 2008

BY MARY MITCHELL Sun-Times Columnist
F or all of his efforts to transcend race, Barack Obama's campaign keeps running smack into the color line.

According to the recently released AP-Yahoo News poll, Obama's race could cost him 6 percentage points -- enough for him to lose in a closely contested race.

The poll of white Democrats found that one-third of them harbor "negative views toward blacks," and suggests that a percentage of voters may turn away from Obama because of his race.

"There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots" said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman, who helped analyze the survey, according to the AP story.

As it stands, the presidential election is stacking up to be a squeaker.

But don't expect Obama to make another race speech.

Throughout this long campaign, Obama has been loathe to talk about race. During the primary, I once asked him point-blank if racial prejudice would play a role in the election and he told me "No."

"If I lose this campaign it won't be because of race. It will be because I failed to get my message out," he said.

At the time, there was some basis for his optimism.

He had won in Iowa and in several other states that have overwhelmingly white populations.

Still, Obama could wash the feet of lepers and some white people would not vote for him because he is not a white man.

But I expect the Obama camp to point out the positive aspects of the poll's findings rather than risk alienating white voters by confronting the exposed bigotry. His campaign points out that -- according to the poll -- "more whites apply positive attitudes to blacks than negative ones," and "two-thirds" of Democrats said they would vote for him.

The fact that racial prejudice is lower among college-educated whites living outside of the South goes a long way in explaining why Obama has had a difficult time winning over blue-collar whites.

Frankly, it is interesting that the poll was taken in the first place.

Technically speaking, Obama isn't a black man. He's biracial. His mother was white and he was raised by white grandparents.

You could argue that the very premise of the poll reflects a bias since it purports to glean insights about the Obama candidacy which, frankly, just don't fit.

If Obama wins the White House, it won't prove that America is ready for a black president as much as it will prove someone other than a white male can be elected to the presidency.

Because of his unique race, Obama has been between a rock and a hard place throughout this campaign.

At first he was dogged by speculation that he wasn't "black enough" for some black voters. Now he is being cast as "too black" for some white ones.

Because Obama has embraced his black heritage, he is likely being subjected to the same biases ordinary African Americans face.

For instance, 40 percent of all white Americans surveyed said they hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, believing them "lazy" "irresponsible" and "complaining."

The pollsters assume that people who hold these negative views about blacks are "significantly less likely" to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views.

Despite this latest race poll, Obama continues to avoid these troubled waters.

"Look, if you are asking me are there some people who might not vote for me because of my race? Of course. Are there some who might vote for me because of my race? You bet," he said during a "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday night.

"I think ultimately, though, the question's going to be decided by a guy or a woman who is working hard every day trying to save enough to send their kid to college, trying to pay the bills."

Obama has spent most of his campaign trying to sell himself to white voters, but he can't change the skin he is in.

The Democrats should take heed.

If the party lets the bigots determine the outcome of the election, it will likely lose black support for decades to come.

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