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

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    The Ballot Box and Beyond
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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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Voter Intimidation in Black Communities – a role for white anti-racists?

Alabama Republicans are barring community organizations from registering eligible voters who are currently incarcerated. Surprisingly, Alabama has a state law that allows certain people – like those with drug possession charges- to vote even while in prison. The Ordinary People’s Society and their national partner the Drug Policy Alliance began a historic voter registration drive earlier this month in prisons across Alabama, with the full support of the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC).

But when GOP party officials found out, they put pressure of the DOC, thereby blocking the community groups’ right to register up to 10,000 eligible voters in prison.

Considering that African Americans make up just a quarter of Alabama residents, but 60% of state prisoner population, the impact of Alabama GOP leaders on Black voter disenfranchisement this election is significant.

“Voter registration drives are an essential part of our democracy, and
this action by the GOP and the Department of Corrections smacks of voter
intimidation,” said Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, founder and executive director
of The Ordinary People’s Society, the group leading the registration
drive. “Our focus isn’t politics, it’s restoration. We’re just doing
what the Bible says, visiting people in prison and ministering to them.
The chairman of the Republican Party and the chairman of the Democratic
Party can go into prisons with us and monitor the registration process.”
Voter intimidation and manipulation in Black communities has a long and unfortunate history in the U.S., and this latest news in Alabama defies claims of an impending “post-racial society.” In many ways, this election season has brought together unlikely alliances and re-energized folks’ enthusiasm for progress in a multicultural world. However, tales like these remind us of the importance of sustained grassroots efforts for racial justice, and the direct acknowledgment and struggle against systemic racism.

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.

How will Black people feel if Obama loses?

Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy: “Never before has a candidate so fully challenged the many inhibitions that have precluded people of all races, including African Americans, from seriously envisioning presidential power in the hands of someone other than a white American. With intelligence, verve and elegance, Obama has opened the public mind to the idea of a black president and made that idea broadly attractive. … Yet the possibility is very real: Barack Obama could lose. If that happens, then what? How will I feel? How will other black Americans feel?”

Kennedy, author of “Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal,” was online live this week to discuss the feelings sparked in the African American community by Obama’s rise, and how the African American community might react if Obama isn’t elected president in November.