A Responce to
“Do black people support Obama because he’s black?”
If the premise of “Far and Away the 1992 movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman is to be taken seriously then it can be said with certainty that Italians and Irish though both considered white, are different. It turns out that many people who are referred to in common talk as being”white” come from a host of different areas of the world. Europe the Middle East and North Africa. It would be quite imprecise to imagine that a group with such linguistic, cultural, and historic diversity will all think and act the same. I imagine then we could extend that logic to other groups like women or Latinos or Native Americans provided they are no longer on the endangered species list in North America.
Yet some how, I believe (I may be wrong) because of the one drop rule – the rule stating that a person with any amount of known African Ancestry however small or invisible is black– the 44th President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama happens to be black. Consequently the following question has come up with some frequency: Do black people support Obama because he’s black?
Well Do We ?
Preparing to Answer the Question
Whenever I have to do a lot of research on black people I have a ritual that I follow that puts me in the right perspective to better assess what I am working with. I first spend a few minutes looking in the mirror. Then I go to the Popeyes on Roosevelt and Main Street in Downtown Flushing for a number 5. Then the most difficult part of my ritual I take the Q44 bus to the E train and get out at the famed Parsons/Archer E train stop in Jamaica, Queens where statically as reported by the Daily News, Black New Yorkers were stopped most frequently. After so harrowing an experience I am filled with just the right amounts of both indignation and lethargy to go home and nap and then write my fragmented thoughts down on paper.
Answer so Far
What I have so far is that:
According to Henry Kissinger history is a memory of states. I have often wondered while in class whose memories are being discussed in the many classrooms around America? America is a narrative composed of many smaller constituent narratives. There is a danger that we will focus our attention on the most common aggregate narratives. Howard Zinn has advised that
“we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners.”
This moment now in the nation’s history cannot be taken separately from the centuries worth of history that preceded it and examined. It would be fool-hardy indeed to think that after 1968 (the end of the Civil Rights movement) all acts of racism and institutionalized racial inequality ceased to exist.
Logically it is not faulty to think that a black president just may have more insight about what the Black Experience in America is like. I don’t think many realize what it means as a minority group to finally see a president that looks like you, had college loans like you, went hungry some nights like you, dated a black women like you, and didn’t come from a family that came into riches as result of savvy dealings during prohibition.
However there is more to it than just that. There are Obama’s domestic policies, his platform, his foreign policy, his debate performance, how he has handled both the wars and debt he inherited, what he has done for students. It may come as a shock but black people look at things like that too.
I think it’s a bad practice to generalize especially in light of the following bits of information
- Clinton got 83 percent of the black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996;
- Al Gore got 90 percent in 2000;
- John Kerry got 88 percent in 2004.
- Obama captured 95 percent in 2008, and 2 million more black people voted than in the previous election.
Blacks since Lyndon Johnson’s pushed Civil Rights legislation through have tended to vote Democrats. So again there is an observable precedent historically that Blacks vote for the candidate running on the Democratic platform. That bit of information alone paints a different picture then all black just mindlessly voting for Obama
I cannot speak for every black person in the country, I’m not the good reverend Jesse Jackson, but it is my sentiment that we do not have a language that will allow us to discuss race in America. A simple question like what is racism is going to produce many definitions. “The exact definition of racism is controversial both because there is little scholarly agreement about the meaning of the concept “race”, and because there is also little agreement about what does and doesn’t constitute discrimination. [Racism : a global reader. pp. 15–16.]”
Stay tuned for part 2