Race Matters!

Image shared on Flickr by allison chase

Whether we like it or not, race is an issue in 21st century America.

If it wasn’t an issue, no one would have said anything in the current election about who played the race card first — because there wouldn’t be a race card.

If race wasn’t an issue, pollsters wouldn’t be asking questions to determine what percentage of whites have negative perceptions about blacks.

If it wasn’t an issue, no one would be saying anything about Barack Obama being black. He would just be a relatively young politician trying to become president. Being the first black man nominated by a major political party as its candidate for president of the United States of America would not be such a big deal.

And Barack is just as much white as he is black — and it really shouldn’t make a difference.

Image shared on Flickr by jurvetson

If race didn’t matter it would be just as correct to call him white as it is to call him black.

Yet, even today, 143 years after the end of the American Civil War, a person with any black ancestry is black — regardless of the percentage of their non-black ancestry…, and it really, really shouldn’t matter — but it does.

Barack Obama being black will not win him the race for the presidency.  However, if he loses, being black will be part of the reason he lost.

Imagine — just for a moment — where the polls would be if Obama was not black.

There are many, many white Americans who will not — cannot — vote for Obama because of his race and who will vote for McCain because McCain is not black.  Many of them will find other reasons to use.  Though they won’t admit it, many will be voting the way they do because race matters to them.  Unfortunately, I know a few people — just a few — that are making such rationalizations over this election — however, I am surprised at some people I know who are leaning towards voting Democrat.

One friend from long ago refuses to vote for a black man, even though she has legal custody of grandchildren who are of mixed parentage.  I can’t understand it.

Race matters to me in a different way.  I am absolutely enthused that we have progressed to the point where a black man is a very serious contender for the presidency of the United States. However, my vote will not be based on race, but rather on the policies and abilities of the candidates.

Race, as a topic, though, matters to me now because, despite the fact that it may make a difference today, I can see that we are moving to a place and time where, perhaps, it may not matter so much after all — as it shouldn’t!


just a few thoughts from a retired, somewhat overweight, white guy from Arkansas

american history, civil war, give me a break!, history, politics, values

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Vered - MomGrind Sep 25, 2008

    Brilliant, Mike.

    I am still hoping that some day, none of these things will matter.

    Your own race, weight, and age shouldn't matter either!

  • Mike Goad Sep 25, 2008

    @ Vered – Thanks! I agree that my race, weight, and age shouldn't matter, but I thought it appropriate to include, given the context of the post.

  • rummuser Sep 26, 2008

    Mike, I salute you for a great post. I however cannot resist the temptation to add my two bits. I think that we are a long way off as a species to completely eradicate any kind of prejudice against fellow human beings. Throughout the world such divisions exist. Color, race, religion, cast, class, nationality, language, history etc contribute a great deal to divide people one way or the other. Within each of these categories, subsects and differences also create problems.

    I wish that I could be as optimistic as you are.

    Incidentally, here is something that may be of interest to you. http://belshaw.blogspot.com/2008/09/by-global-sta

  • Kathy Sep 26, 2008

    I won't be voting based on race OR gender in this election. I personally feel that anyone who is voting BASED upon those issues should be PREVENTED from voting in this election, but that's not the American way. 😉

    However, as you correctly pointed out, I will be credited for being shallow and insipid if I don't vote for Obama based on his race.

    It's my personal opinion that the job of the President of the United States is to surround himself (or herself) with the best and brightest minds. Ronald Reagan wasn't a genius – but he surrounded himself with geniuses and his presidency is viewed by history to be a success.

    In stark contrast, Barak Obama has chosen to surround himself with people who are questionable and those choices will be the reason he won't get my vote this election.

    He chose to attend a militant radical church for over 2 decades. He chose to surround himself and his family with those radical, militant views. (I wouldn't vote for McCain if I discovered he was a member of the KKK either!!!)

    I have NO idea what the thinking was behind the choice of Biden as a running mate. Biden adds nothing to the ticket and may actually be hurting the ticket, as has been clearly illustrated in the past few weeks.

    Then, I recently read that Sen. Barack Obama is #2 in the top three U.S. senators getting big bucks from Freddie Mac and Fannie May. (You know, the root cause of the current economic slide we're experiencing!)

    When I also learned that Jim Johnson who was part of Obama's VP search committee is a the CEO of Freddie Mac, that sent me over the edge.

    Back in February, Obama had my vote. I thought he had character. I thought he had passion. He's LOST my vote by the choices he's made and is making. I don't want him making those poor choices while acting as president.

    Oh, I'm holding my nose to vote for McCain. It's definitely the "lesser of two evils". I'm not a fan – but mine will be a vote AGAINST Obama rather than a vote FOR McCain.

    Obama is surrounding himself with dogs. When he gets up with fleas, he shouldn't be surprised. Yet, as you correctly pointed out, it won't be his fault if he loses this election. It will be mine because I won't forgive him all these bad choices because he is black.

    I'm a middle aged working white mom, by the way. Because age, race and gender obviously count more than any of us want to admit!

  • Jean Browman--Cheerf Sep 26, 2008

    I thought adding your personal information added a lot to the post. If you were from an ultra-liberal part of the country it wouldn't have been so inspiring.

    I agree with you, there's a good chance Obama might lose partly because of race, but the barriers are coming down. I just wish I thought either of the candidates could handle the crises we're facing…the ones we already know about and the other ones to come. We are indeed living in interesting times.

  • Danny Allen Sep 26, 2008

    An outstanding post. I had this discussion with my buddy a couple of days ago, and we both are still blown away by the amount of stupidity the United States of America has a nation.

  • Mike Goad Sep 26, 2008

    @ rumuser – Thanks. I agree divisions exist all over the world. My optimism is for the United States. I've seen improvement in my lifetime. I'm not so optimistic about other places.

    @ Kathy – Thanks for your comment. I think you are absolutely correct to base your vote on thoughtful consideration and not race. I don't care who anyone votes for, so long as their vote is not based on prejudice.

    @ Jean – Thanks. Whoever wins is going to have to deal with whatever crises come up.

    Danny Allen – Thanks

  • Davina Sep 26, 2008

    Hi Mike. So many issues and now black and white has to be thrown into the pot too. Sheesh! Wonder what it would be like if instead of having one president there were 2 co-presidents? I'm frankly tired of the political battles between over who is better than the other and the issues being used as a pin ball.

  • XUP Sep 27, 2008

    I hate to be a wet blanket here, but I think race will always matter. I think on the one hand we're trying very hard to not see colour, but on the other hand people cling pointedly to their race — they want to be identified as "black"; it's part of their identity and they do not want us to forget it or ignore it. It's a complex issue. We're all different and we will always be judged by our differences whether it's colour or age or gender or sexual orientation or weight or even looks or dress. That's human nature — we need to evaluate each other. It's part of our inherent survival mechanism. Our initial opinions might change somewhat if we get to know the person, but it will always be a factor, I think. Of course I could be completely wrong…it's very early

  • Julie Sep 27, 2008

    Whatever the outcome, this is another stepping stone in our growth, and I'm so thankful for that.

    XUP touched on something when saying "we will always be judged." Making a judgement creates a separation. If we stopped doing this, just accepted everyone on their own merits, stopped creating "us vs them", we'd all be a lot farther ahead. I don't agree with rummuser that differences are bad. In fact, I think they're good! There's spice and life in "different." If we were all the same, we'd be robots. A judgement and acknowledging differences are very different things.

    As for the vote, I hope hope hope voters will base their decisions on what's best for the overall common good of the citizens, rather than for their own need or for their favorite group or special interest. Regardless, we *are* moving ahead.

  • Mike Goad Sep 27, 2008

    @ Davina – two co-presidents…? I don't know how that would work, or if it would. I think there needs to be a single focal point.

    @ XUP – I think race matters less and less, in many instances. It certainly matters less than when I was a child.

    I don't care if people cling to their cultural heritage. I just don't want to judge people by their heritage or the color of their skin. I personally prefer to view and evaluate people as individuals — not by their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or whether they have tattoos or body piercings or wear turbans, burkas, overalls, or a backwards baseball cap.

    @ Julie – Thank you for that perception on the word judge and it's variations. Also, I agree that differences can be positive, even though I've been opposed to mandated diversity in hiring in the past — but saw benefits from it after the fact.

    So far as voting for the common good, in the past two presidential elections, I voted against the candidate that I thought would benefit me the most, but was the worst candidate for the country. Unfortunately, I was right. I prospered enough to be able to retire early. Unfortunately, at this point with the financial mess, I may have to go back to work in a year or two.

  • Cath Lawson Sep 28, 2008

    Hi Mike – it's disappointing that some folk still think like that isn't it? A woman who worked for me was racist. I had to bite my tongue sometimes when she opened her mouth. And I felt ashamed of myself for not sacking her – but at the time, she was the only reliable office worker I had.

  • Mike Goad Sep 28, 2008

    @ Cath – Yes, it is disappointing. Unfortunately, you still run across people who just automatically share their prejudices, sometimes even with people they don't even know, as I wrote last year from South Dakota: Why can’t some people just…

  • chris Sep 29, 2008

    Race will always matter but it shouldn't be a reason why you are voting or not voting for a person…I have somewhat of similar topic that I will discuss this week about race and politics…If we keep talking about this and if it is out in the open, then we can really deal with rather than sweeping under the rug and hoping that it will some how go away.

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