Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We're Not Supposed to Mention Race....But I'm Gonna


When evaluating someone as a person, or professionally, or for a position, their race should not matter, right? Almost everyone would agree with this statement. Not all people, but most everyone, no matter their background.

Certainly this would be most folk’s public posture. Race should not matter. But does it?

I put it to you that it most certainly does, and for proof we need look no further than yesterday’s Democratic Party primary on the Democrats side.

In that primary there were two candidates. Two “people” were battling for the votes of the Democrats in the Keystone State. One “person” was named Hillary Clinton; the other was named Barack Obama.

That’s who was running…two “people.”

So why then did exit polling show that 92% of black voters cast their ballots for the candidate named Obama? What did this “candidate” have that the other did not to gain that large a backing from any single constituency?

Did this candidate support a position that they so agreed with, more than the other candidate, that such on overwhelming degree of support resulted?

Was this candidate just so much better that anyone with half a brain could see it, and thus predict a landslide of such epic proportions across not only the black community, but across the general electorate?

Why, if indeed this candidate were so obviously superior, everyone should see it clearly, and then of course this candidate won the primary by a landslide, right?

Wrong.

This “candidate” named Obama did not win the primary battle in Pennsylvania. In fact he lost by ten full percentage points, a margin of over 200,000 votes across the Commonwealth.

How can that be? How can someone receive more than 9 out of 10 votes from a large constituency, and yet still lose the election?

Was the fix in? Did “the Man” rig the vote? What magic, what deception, what larceny could possibly have caused this travesty?

No travesty. No deception. No larceny. No magic. This race was decided on one overriding factor: race itself.

In my local newspaper of record, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper displayed a graphic on page A9 that, if you know anything at all about Philly demographics, tells the entire story. It breaks down the vote for either Clinton or Obama by voting Wards. Clinton support is shown in blue, Obama support in tan coloring.

Clinton won, and by huge margins, in the largely white sections of South Philly, Fishtown, Port Richmond and throughout the Far Northeast.

Obama won West Philly, Center City, and North Philly up into Germantown. If you are from Philly, you tell me what that tells you about the support that they each received. Honestly.

When 92% of any single constituency votes for any one candidate in an election that is seen by most observers as evenly matched, there is some overriding consideration being given by those voters.

When large sections of a city are so clearly divided among two candidates, and those sections of town have an overriding characteristic that defines them, you probably gain a clear insight into the voter’s minds. Again, if you are being honest.

The Inquirer, however, runs from that honest evaluation. They never, not once, show or describe the results by racial breakdown. They touch on it a couple of times.

On page one, buried six paragraphs deep, they speak of “Clinton’s big margin among white working-class voters”. On page A8 they mention that Clinton scored her victory winning “white men” among others, and Obama winning “blacks” among others.

The paper covers how younger voters, older voters, women, men, churchgoers voted. But they didn’t tell us or discuss the numbers racially.

Why not? Because they didn’t have those numbers? Certainly not. You know they had those numbers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer and other local media outlets didn’t emphasize the voting along racial lines because it doesn’t fit into their social agenda. It doesn’t fit into what they, as elite thinkers, feel should be important to the rest of us.

However, it is those 'rest of us' who speak, in this case with ballots. And as happens time and again here in Philadelphia, and time and again across the country, an honest evaluation points out the obvious, no matter how much the media wants to bury it - race matters.

Our immediate-past Mayor, John Street, a black male, was once famously quoted being rarely and frankly honest about race:
“The brothers and sisters are running this city. Running it! Don’t you let nobody fool you, we are in charge of the City of Brotherly Love. We are in charge!” 
Did Senator Obama’s strategists see Philadelphia, and the election, in racial terms? Did they feel that they could count on those brothers and sisters coming out in droves for their candidate, simply because he is black?

The Inquirer reported that Obama “bet heavily on winning big in Philadelphia” and elsewhere “Obama was counting on Philadelphia…”

Why would this be so? What would make Obama and his insiders think they would win Philadelphia? Not only win it, but win it big?

After all, the only white Mayor in the city over the past 2+ decades, and the current Governor, the influential Ed Rendell, was supporting Hillary. Rendell is supposed to be a favorite son in Philly, and remains an influential power-broker here.

Not only that, but the current newly-elected Mayor, Michael Nutter, a black male, was firmly and publicly in Clinton’s corner? What could possibly make Obama think he could win here at all, let alone ‘big’?

One word: race.

Last week at my workplace, a black co-worker overheard Obama speaking on television, and commented in my presence that Obama inspired this person, and that this person couldn’t wait to vote for him.

I asked what positions of Obama’s had inspired this level of support. What beliefs did he have, what specific programs was he putting forth, what ideas was he espousing that had inspired so much support and enthusiasm.

The co-worker responded only with the statement “You know, just once before I die. Just once…” before trailing off in thought.

I replied with “Just once, what?” The person replied “Just once. That’s all I’m sayin.” Nothing more.

Left as the implication was that just once this person would like to see someone of their race elected to the presidency, and that was why Obama was receiving their vote.

No other reason. No policy. No idea. No program. Only one thing mattered: race.

I put to you that this person was a microcosm of black thought throughout the city, and across the Commonwealth. Otherwise, what else would cause 92% of blacks to vote for a candidate who otherwise received the support of less than half the party, and indeed lost, state-wide?

Now, I may surprise you with my next statement: I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing, or an illegitimate reason to support a candidate. I fully understand and sympathize with the idea that one would love to see someone of a similar background to theirs win election to our nation’s highest office.

Do you really think that my Irish-Catholic ancestors a generation ago weren’t ecstatic when JFK was elected, in large part relating to his Irish-American heritage and his Catholicism? They absolutely were, and they should have been.

But let’s not pretend that race is not only one factor, but the single, overriding, decisive factor, at least in the minds of the vast majority of the black community.

I also may surprise you with another statement, especially those who feel that the mere mention of race makes one a racist, a bigot, a Neanderthal, whatever: I would absolutely vote for a black candidate for the office of President of the United States, or any other office for that matter.

Of course for me, I wouldn’t be doing it because they were black, just as I won’t vote for a white man, an Asian woman, or anyone else because of their race or sex. I would vote for someone because they actually support many of the same ideals that I support.

This is where I believe the black community is making a mistake.

I could be wrong, but I believe that the vast majority of the black community does not want further taxes taken from their paychecks. I believe they do care if Islamofascist terrorists blow up the arena in which their favorite basketball team plays. I do believe that they care whether those same terrorists take over the school that their children attend. I believe that they do not want to go to work for forty or more hours each week, only to have their money taken and given to someone else who could work but won’t.

I believe that most black Americans are proud to call themselves Americans, are proud to serve their country, understand that America is the greatest land in the history of mankind for equality and opportunity. I believe that most Americans are God-fearing folks who don’t want to hear rhetoric and excuses and whining. They want to be told the truth, and they want serious people in office representing them in all important matters.

In other words, I believe that at heart, most black Americans would be far better off served as to what they truly believe are their core values by the Republican Party.

If they can begin to see through the rhetoric spewed by many of the race-baiting leaders in their community, men like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and begin to evaluate what the candidates stand for rather then what the color of their skin is, they would find attractive candidates of every race.

Race matters, make no mistake, and it will play a huge part in the upcoming Presidential election if the Democratic candidate turns out to be Senator Obama.

I wish it weren’t so, I wish it didn’t matter; I wish everything could simply be decided on ideas alone, but that is simply ignoring reality.

If the Inquirer or anyone else wants to prove me wrong, produce the numbers to back up your claims. But my bet is that the topic continues to be ignored, or minimized, by the increasingly irrelevant established media.

No comments: