samedi, octobre 27, 2012

Race -- and the Race

Is race a factor in this election?

You bet it is.

Otherwise,  Mitt Romney wouldn't be in a good position to stack up a majority of white voters -- and Barack Obama wouldn't get the vast majority of the African-American  and other minority voters.

And was concern about a big turnout among minority voters at least one factor in the voter I.D. and registration drives around the country?

Of course it is.

To say otherwise means ignoring an elephant in the public square. That works to our detriment as neighbors, as co-workers, as friends and as citizens.

Last night I read this story in Politico.  It details the ways in white voters may lift Mitt Romney to victory. The story is titled: " White Voters Still Matter.' 

"Matt Barreto, a pollster for Latino Decisions and a University of Washington political scientist, notes that a small shift in the composition of the electorate could change the outcome.
“Most likely, there will probably be an uptick [in minority voting],” he said. “On the high end, you could be talking about 29 percent [of the vote being] minority — and probably more realistic is 27 or 28. If it’s not 29 percent, if it’s only 25 percent, if it doesn’t grow from 2008, then that’s good news for Romney. … Romney’s best hope at this point is that he wins an overwhelming share of the white vote and that minority turnout is low.”
“If [Republicans] hit 60 percent of the white vote and lose, which is quite possible, it would mean by 2016 they would need a minimum of 64 percent of the white vote,” he said.
Age polarization also reinforces racial polarization. Lake says that 88 percent of voters 65 and older are white, while only 56 percent of those 18-29 years old are white."

Note, please, what I am not saying.

I'm not saying that either white or black voters are compelled by racism -- particularly you, dear reader.   I'm not arguing, as did John Sununu (way to insult one of our most famous black statesmen) that Colin Powell endorsed Obama because they are both black (another brilliant political analysis from a guy who never knows when to shut the heck up).  

Many principled people are going to cast their votes for Romney or Obama for reasons that have nought to do with race.There are many legitimate reasons for whites to vote for Mitt Romney -- or for minorities to vote for Barack Obama that have nothing to do with race.

But I'm not equating an African-American vote for Obama with a Caucasian one for Romney.  People's impulses are much more complex.

And, of course, there are many white people who will vote for Obama (women overwhelmingly more than men, but that's another topic). Members of minority groups will vote for the ex-Massachusetts governor.

Yet make no mistake --  racial bias is still alive and ill here in America, as evidenced by an article from the AP today. 

The title? "Majority harbor prejudice against blacks." Not to mention Latinos.  Read it -- it's kinda sad.  

We are a deeply divided country -- and that one of the ways in which we divide ourselves is by ethnicity and by race. Until we are able to start speaking about this divide, and its implications honestly, we will grow further and further apart.

I happen to be doing an internship at a school with a fair number of black students.  My work is in an office that works with minorities (details blurred to protect the school.) I have been saddened, and, frankly shocked, by the number of students who have come in to tell us that they have been called the "n" word.  

Imagine how it feels to wake up and find that word on your door -- to hear it while walking on the path to class, or when someone gets drunk and blurts it out at a party.


Don't imagine, however, that the school where I happen to be working is much different than the rest of the world.  Frankly, I doubt that it is.

I'm a little handicapped when it comes to understanding racial bigotry. I grew up in New York in a racially mixed neighborhood, with parents who opened their doors to neighbors without regard for color or ethnicity. My grandmother and aunt were crusaders for racial justice in an era when it was quite unfashionable.  While I know about bias (I have my own prejudices, mostly revolving around intellect),  I've never understood judging someone on the color of their skin.

I do know, that whoever wins this election, we're going to have a lot of healing to do -- and that somehow we need to find a way to speak about bias. Not in a way that makes white people feel guilty (to say that some black folk have a bias against whites, which they do, doesn't make it equivalent).  But in a way that moves the ball forward for shared goals -- a society in which, to use Dr. Martin Luther King's idea, we are ALL judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.

That day can't come fast enough -- and until it does, we are all losers.