Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Washington Post Covers The Obama Campaign

According to an article in today's Washington Post, volunteers for the Obama presidential campaign are running into a grass roots racism that is highly disconcerting and largely unreported.
'I'll never vote for a black person,' ", and "Hang that darky from a tree!"are among some of the more offensive remarks reported .Documentary film maker Rory Kennedy (of the Kennedy political clan) reported one reaction from a white voter that summarised a common note in the undercurrent of white opposition to Obama. "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."
The only reliable test for the attitudes of the American electorate is the actual vote count on election day. In the series of primaries and caucuses across America, Obama has almost secured the Democratic nomination. Some of his older voters probably remember being required by law to sit at the back of the bus. That it is possible for an African American to be president is something of which our country should be proud.
The article focused on some of the most raw manifestations of bigotry. It neglects to mention that Obama victories in one primary after another would not be possible without the support of millions of white voters. It also ignores the support Obama gets among African Americans of well over 90%. It appears that the need to transcend issues of race might also exist in the African American communities at least as much as among white voters.
Racism is a disease of thinking that can afflict African Americans as well as whites or Asians. In New York where I live, there are common areas where all are equally safe. There are areas where Blacks are not safe. And there are areas where whites are certainly not safe. A part of living in the city is knowing where you have to be on high alert, and where you can relax. I routinely ride dollar vans in Brooklyn. Their existence is a text book example of the underground economy filling a need not well filled by government. I had one incident where a driver refused to move unless I got off the van. For the sake of my fellow riders , I got off, but there was no protest on my behalf. More than once I saw a tee shirt that had a captioned picture of O.J. Simpson before his criminal trial. The slogan underneath read ""Guilty or innocent, he's still my hero."During the Crown Heights riots, I had my windows broken along with many other Jews. These incidents do not dominate my thinking. They do however educate me about racist thinking. No one of any race should have to look at their skin and realise that it has become the uniform of an enemy.
I am concerned about the marked differences in voting habits between Black and white voters. Something tells me that the need to transcend race as an issue in voting behavior does not only apply to white voters. I do not count on the Washington Post to give balanced coverage to this real undercurrent in American politics. For their own reasons, they seem to be lobbying for an Obama victory by playing on white guilt. The picture presented by the major networks and newspapers has become too different from reality. It is for this reason that talk radio is gaining widespread support,and the readership of the major newspapers is evaporating into the blogosphere.
For prejudice to take the leap from snobbery to hatred, there must be fear. Fear of crime, fear of gentrification, fear for one's job security all play out in different contexts, spawning different forms of bigotry among different ethnic communities. We need to listen to each other. Instead of assembling the most virulent displays of bigotry among white voters, the Washington Post could facilitate dialogue and a more nuanced understanding of the American electorate.
The Washington Post ignores the shift in America's racial attitudes that have given strength to Obama's campaign. Numbers don't lie. The delegate counts tell a story. Newspaper circulation statistics tell a story too. The Washington Post and the New York Times have suffered a big drop in circulation. Before the internet and before the rise of talk radio, people had no choice but to trust the major newspapers and the major networks. Those days are over. People have a choice.
We vote for president every four years. When we go to the news stand, we vote every day. And that is an election to watch.

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