The role that race played in the race

November 8, 2012

Let’s start by stating this up front: (a) no one is a racist simply because they did not vote for Obama in this week’s election,  and (b) there were certainly people who are racist that did in fact vote for Obama.

I know of many Republican friends and acquaintances who have felt the need to emphatically stress that they are not racist for  not liking President Obama and supporting Mitt Romney. One assumes most of them felt the need to clarify this because they felt that someone (or a group of someones) was labeling them as such for their political preference. I would agree that many of them are not racist and the notion that, divorced from all policy and facts, supporting an African-American or minority candidate over a white candidate for that fact alone, whether pro- or con, is an absurd basis for allegations of racism–it could be argued that support for a candidate ONLY for reasons of race is itself much more “racist”  than being against that candidate for reasons wholly other than racial–this of course can be much more complex of an issue in terms of supporting a member of one’s own under-represented community in a national or global group, etc., but we’ll leave such things aside for now. In short, there are obviously some white folks all around the country right now that perceive themselves as non-racists being labelled racist for voting against a black President. Yes, there are many reasons to support or not support President Obama’s policies that have absolutely nothing to do with race and there are many non-racists and likely many active Anti-Racists that voted against the President this time around (or abstained from voting altogether this year). Yet if anyone truly thinks race played no factor in this election or still wishes to harbor ideas that we live in a “post-racial America” they must be largely delusional at this point.

Race played a definite role in the campaign  The minute that the results were in Twitter and social media sites were bombarded with racist interjections,  much of which has been compiled, analyzed and commentated on elsewhere and I feel no need to direct you to any vitriolic invective that you can likely imagine with ease; just Google around if you need the proof.But the evidence of racism was already well in sight long before the election results were in. It was there in every person who assumed every black person they knew would vote for Obama simply because they were black–willfully forgetting how little support many minorities gave to previous African-American candidates like Herman Cain or even Jesse Jackson. Racism was evident in any voter who had always in the past voted “Democrat” and who would have supported the same views and actions made by Obama had they come from any other, non-black, candidate. More than anything though, racism was present in the system itself. Republicans are scrambling to find out how to make strides in growing their support from the minority and younger populations. Moments after the President’s win, Rev. Al Sharpton noted the absurdity of a party who has done everything it can to push away and degrade a community wondering why such a community wasn’t embracing them. The Republican party has never had even a fraction of support from minorities or the African-American community. Now that their core supporters, comprised of primarily aging wealthy white men, are aging out of the voting pool, the GOP is struggling to connect with previously ignored populations. They should ask themselves why such populations have never supported them before–but on the higher party level and among the conservative policy-makers, the answers are all too obvious. It is at the level of the common voter that these facts need to be digested. It is likely that many a person who considers themselves non-racist cast a ballot for Mitt Romney. That act, in and of itself, is not at all racist. No, the racism present is within the Party’s framework itself. The fact of the matter is that since the Reagan “revolution” which shifted the Republican party much further to the right and re-evaluated what many people thought  the role of government should be, a sense of structural, institutional racism has become ingrained in the Republican party and its platform. The ideology of the “new” (perhaps less new nowadays) right has counted on the support of many through a constant fanning of the flames of racism, sexism, nationalism, xenophobia and homophobia. The ideology of the modern Republican party has been centered on practices, ethics, and philosophies which benefit a particular status quo eschewing the rights of the less fortunate and inculcating a sense of false fairness that has never been fair for the have-nots, employed through every “Welfare Queen” put-down and “pull yourself up by your own boot-straps” fake empowerment.

Race played a key role, but race ultimately did not define this election and that certainly is progress. We all must realize by now that we all harbor some elements of racism (and sexism, and hetero-sexism  and xenophobia…) within ourselves, whether subtle or blatant, whether the result of culture, context, or generational exposure. So none of us should be so quick to excuse ourselves from the thought that race plays a role in any decision we make. Yet we are at a good point when we know enough to catch our own prejudices and tackle them, one at a time.


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