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.