I am fascinated by the controversy surrounding the comments made last week by Geraldine Farraro. I don’t agree with her – her comments were ill thought out, ill conceived and inaccurate. It’s a rather ridiculous assertion to make that people are voting for Obama solely because he is black, or that being a black American puts you at an advantage over white people in today’s society. You don’t need to look too far to see that clearly is not true.
However, what interests me most is the fact that people continue to deny that Obama’s race has any role to play in this campaign. Obama’s race is discussed virtually every single day in one form or another. We’ve all been talking about his race since he announced his candidacy. We hear questions such as “Is America ready for a black president?”. Pundits discuss “post-racial” America and the notion of “transcending race”. Bloggers point out racially-orientated dirty tricks from Clinton’s camp including making pictures of Obama darker, whilst discussing whether or not they should vote for a brother or a woman. Analysts issue statistics on how many black people voted for Obama and what types of white are voting for him. If Obama’s race is not a factor, why does it get so much attention? The fact is, people may not be voting for Obama solely because of his race, but his race does have a part to play.
Going further, it’s far from implausible to believe that Obama’s race may have an influence upon voting decisions. The idea of an intelligent, articulate black man as president of the United States is viewed by many as just the type of change that America needs – particuarly when it comes to how the country is perceived by the rest of the world. Enough of the imperialist, conservative, old-school white man attitudes embodied by George Bush and his ilk, how about a black man who will symbolize progress in a country which has historically been mired by oppression and racism? What does that tell the world about America today? What greater symbol of America’s development and present new attitudes than to have a black man and his black family in the White House?
I believe that race plays a role in every election. I’m sure that many white people have voted for white presidents because they (subconsciously) believe they are like them, they identify with them and think they reflect their lives and beliefs. The race issue is just more obvious now because the guy that people believe reflects their beliefs (anti-war, a new way forward etc) is black.
Yes, Obama being black is a topic of interest. Yes, it is a factor in why people are voting for him – for the best possible reasons. Please let’s all stop pretending that Obama being black isn’t important. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t even feel the need to write this post right now!