• DOUBLETAKE 08: “Taking a second look at race and racism in the 2008 presidential elections”

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    Sat, October 25th, 3-6:30pm
    The Ballot Box and Beyond
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The “Obama as Muslim Terrorist” Problem

There’s been a LOT of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab rhetoric throughout the election season this year. The idea that Barack Obama is a “Muslim Terrorist” is spreading rampant throughout right-wing circles, and countless photoshopped images of Obama in Arab garb can be found in a quick google image search. The implication in these images, of course, is that being a Muslim or being Arab MUST mean he is also a terrorist. Even if Barack Obama WAS Muslim, which he is not, what’s the problem? But anti-Muslim/ anti-Arab racism is so deeply held in this country, that using the term “Muslim” has come to be code word for “evil.” Check this image…

Senator John McCain’s campaign has done little to offset these stereotypes. In fact, in some instances, the Republican campaign reinforces or encourages this racist thinking. For example, Governor Sarah Palin last week suggesting that Obama has been “palling around with terrorists,” referring to a long-ago and vague connection between the Senator and former 60’s radical William Ayers

Or in this clip here, where a woman at a McCain rally says “I don’t trust Obama. He’s an Arab,” and John McCain responds: “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man and citizen.” As if being an Arab and a decent family man and citizen are somehow mutually exclusive! The rage at McCain rallies in the last week often centers on this assumption that Obama is connected to terrorism and that he is a Muslim.

Don’t fall for these racist tactics and rhetoric. We at AWARE_LA encourage everyone to reject the hate in 08. No matter who you vote for, we must stop this racist rhetoric and thinking.

Fortunetaly, others are working on this issue. A non-partisan organization called FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) has launched an important campaign to look at anti-Muslim rhetoric in the news media.

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White Democrats and “Obama’s Race Problem”

Let’s tease out some of the information offered to us in the recent interactive AP/Yahoo Survey on race and the elections.

What’s helpful about this poll, from a white anti-racist perspective, is that it focuses on various attitude of white Democrats in particular, how they view the experience of African Americans and how that impacts their vote. As someone who cares about building a culture free of racism among white people, it’s helpful to know how many liberal to centrist Democrats view race.

The survey provides statements about “the Black experience” and tests how much white democrats agree:

“Irish, Italians, Jews and other minorities worked their way up; blacks should do the same without any special favors.”

42 % white Democrats AGREED with this statement;

61% of those are voting for Obama.

“Over the past few years, blacks have gotten LESS than they deserved.”

20% white Democrats agree;

90% of them are voting for Obama.

“Generations of slavery have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way our of the lower class.”

27% of white Democrats agreed with that statement;
93% of those are voting for Obama.

These numbers communicate that most white Dems see racism as a Black person’s problem, and only a minority of white Dems view racism as a systemic issues. The title of the survey itself reflects this “race-as-a-personal-issue”: it’s called “Barack Obama’s race problem.”

I think “the race problem” actually belongs to white people. Such variant responses and perspectives among white Democrats, and also the general denial about the realities facing Black communities across the nation, speaks to the way institutional and cultural white privilege distorts many white people’s understanding of race relations in the U.S.
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Can Obama win over the white working class?

Commentary by Organizer KD

Can Obama win over the white working class? This is a question the media has devoted a lot of space to. In just one example worth looking at an Washington Post article asks, “Can He Be a Working Class hero?” But if the title was accurate it would read, ‘can he be a WHITE working class hero?’ The primary issue is related to the racism emanating from a sizable section of the white working class and the other issue is the unwillingness to point out whiteness in a prominent way within the title of an article whose main focus is the white working class.

The framework of debate around this question has narrowly focused on what Obama and the Democrats have to do to court the white working class. This isn’t necessarily strange considering that is exactly what politicians do to gain potential votes, but a question that isn’t being asked is why would the white working class vote in their racial interests and what compelling reason is there to continue another term of Republican rule? George W. Bush has clearly shown himself to be an enemy of working people; whether it was the Enron scandal, his bloated military budget and creation of a new federal department, Homeland Security (funneling tons of money into costs like offices, supplies, etc.), the continued lay-offs of workers and rising unemployment, the current housing crisis, where many people are losing their homes to foreclosures due in part to predatory lending practices, or the proposed 700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street and finance capital. So why would any working person vote for John McCain, whose voting record was the same as Bush’s 90% of the time, not to mention his recent comment about the fundamentals of the economy being strong. I can understand if large sectors of the white working class were rejecting both political parties, but the majority of the white working class is not necessarily liberal, forget about radical (unless perhaps you’re talking about right wing radicalism).
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Questioning a Post Racial Society

Does Obama’s candidacy demonstrate that the U.S. has entered a post-racist era? Last summer as Obama’s primary victory began to look certain, commentators as diverse as CNN’s John Blake and liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman asserted that the U.S. was no longer bothered by racism.

The Democratic National Convention was blanketed with lapel pins suggesting Obama had fulfilled Martin Luther King’s dream of a society of racial equality, “Making the Dream a Reality” and “Legacy of Hope” they boasted with images of the two men side by side.

The claims in the current presidential electoral contest that the U.S. is now a “post-racial” society are not new claims. Ever since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 some in the U.S. have claimed that racism was now an artifact of the past, presuming that public declarations and legal prohibitions can abolish widespread social practices.

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“Polls Indicates Racism Will Reduce Obama Vote by Four to Six Percent”

Two recent polls both indicate that white racism will significantly reduce the number of voters for Obama in the November 4 election. The polls were conducted by AP/Yahoo (Aug. 27-Sept. 5) and the other by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. (Aug. 29-31), but the results were publicized only on September 22 by CNN.

The AP/Yahoo showed that 6 percent of voters will not vote for Obama because of racism, while the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll demonstrated that 4 percent of Democrats who will vote for McCain were persuaded by racial factors. Both polls indicate that racism will tilt the election against Obama by a margin larger than the margin of victory in the 2004 presidential campaign.

One Campaign for Whites, One for Blacks

This article by Andrew Hacker for the New York Times explores the systemic ways that folks of color, particularly African Americans, are disenfranchised in this country and the connection this will inevitably have on Obama’s chances of winning the election.

An excerpt:

“Just what is there about being white that might incline someone toward one candidate instead of another?

The concluding suggestion that Obama embark on two-track campaigns with one specifically catering to white votes and “featuring white faces” is insufficient in my opinion because it fails to address systemic racism. I understand that from a strategy of ‘do what is needed to win’ you could conclude that, but I still believe it reinforces white supremacy by acceding that for a black man to succeed in this election he needs a two-track campaign with one featuring white faces and white endorsements.

Rednecks for Obama, winning hearts and minds?

The Rednecks are 74-year old Tony Viessman from Rolla, Missouri and his buddy Les Spencer. They debuted their redneck love for Obama at the Democratic National Convention this year. Not sure if it’s satire, sincere – or both, but the Tony and Les are certainly sticking out their red necks to call attention to contradictions of class, religion and whiteness in the election narrative this year.

Like in this post on the Fireside Post, where they talk about “the colored fella” takin’ away Fannie Mae’s guns, how they lost their job because “They moved da factry to China,” and how when they asked their preacher for election advice, “He said it ain’t no concern of his cause I aint been paying my tithe.” Whoa.

One things for sure, the Rednecks for Obama are turning election coverage on its head: The white working class has been talked about as a monolithic vote, and – it is always implied- a racist vote. Oooh, how’s the Black man going to win them over? – is the subtext of any discussion of white poor and working class people this election season.

Tony and Les show that at least some self-described “rednecks” see common interest with a person of color candidate… even if they do still call him “colored.” Whoops.

Some are touched by the out and proud Rednecks for Obama message. Youth Radio’s Ayesha Walker says she was brought to tears when she saw them in Denver for the convention.