Does voting for Barack Obama erase racism in America?

“Ironically, if you are a racist you should vote Obama. There will be no more excuses in America for anyone to claim that they don’t have an opportunity because of their skin color.”

Above is a comment an Obama supporter put up on a blog on washingtonpost.com.

Below is an excerpt from David Greenberg’s opinion piece in the “Washington Post.”

“Obama’s rhetorical gifts clearly contribute to his allure. But that allure resides not simply in the mellow timbre of his larynx but, more deeply, in his near-perfect pitch in talking about race to white America. Obama doesn’t shun race altogether — if he did, he would provoke suspicions — and he certainly doesn’t “transcend” race, whatever that means. But neither, as the social theorist Shelby Steele has written, does he rub white America’s face in its corrupt history of slavery and segregation. Traditionally, whites have appreciated such gentleness…

And racism is a far fiercer demon in America than anti-Catholic or anti-Jewish prejudice. Nor is this analysis of what stirs his enthusiasts meant to deny that an Obama presidency would be a watershed. But neither would the election of Obama be quite the same thing as the election of Jesse Jackson or Shirley Chisholm.

Ultimately, it is a fantasy of easy redemption. America’s racial history — mixed into our culture at its foundation — will be with us always, even as personal prejudice recedes and inequality is chipped away. For all we know, a President Obama might make the so-called underclass his top priority. But Obamamania — the phenomenon, not the man — leads us to believe that if only we vote for an African American, an avatar of “change” and healing, we can slough off the burdens of our past — the burdens of finding answers to problems such as the rising number of out-of-wedlock births, the obscene size of the black male population behind bars, the rotten state of city schools, the simmering white resentment about affirmative action, the black-white gap in life expectancy and the cascade of government failures that turned Hurricane Katrina from a breakdown of emergency relief into a disgraceful racial scandal.

Obama’s boosters are not fired up about finally confronting those intricate and intractable problems, for which the answers lie not in identity but in politics and policy. Inspiring and exhilarating as it is, Obamamania allows us to sidestep the hardest challenges, at least for now.”

I think as I reflect on things, there’s a part of me that is afraid that for many people, voting for Barack Obama is a way to say that race isn’t a big problem anymore. If we can elect a black president, then people of color can’t complain anymore that race is a big deal anymore. There’s something that really scares me about that. Maybe I’m stuck thinking about race in a certain box. However, it’s a way for many people to dismiss the realities of racism in this nation and just pat ourselves on the back.

I am not trying to minimize the historical significance of Obama’s candidacy. Obama’s election would mean that this nation has come a long way. There’s no way to deny that and we should celebrate that to the fullest.

Moreover, I know Obama has to run a campaign that cannot explicity talk about race because he doesn’t want to scare away the white vote which is necessary to win any election. However, I hope that doesn’t let people think that race wouldn’t matter anymore if they vote for Obama. For many white people, especially the affluent and college students, I just hope this is not their way of wiping their hands of racism in this nation. I hope this means we will not forget about those suffering so much at the hands of institutional racism. I hope I’m really wrong about this. Maybe I need more faith in people. I just know this. There are hundreds of thousands people affected by Hurricane Katrina that are hoping that they will not be forgotten.

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8 comments

  1. I don’t think it has anything to do with racism or wiping one’s hands clean. I think it’s apathy towards racism. Obama like myself, doesn’t care about skin color. He’s not running a racial campaign because it doesn’t matter, his race isn’t the issue. About 90% of the American population think similarly I believe. When the other 10% catch up, racism will finally be where it belongs. In the history books along with the Nazis.

  2. I don’t know why race has to be brought into this at all. I don’t care if Obama is purple with pink stripes. It has nothing to do with his ability to lead this country. As Bob Marley said “The color of a man’s skin is no important than the color of his eyes.” Get over it people.

  3. This is really weird. I was about thinking about this very topic few hours ago before coming across your article. And you say everything! Well done! I’ve wondered if it would be politically correct to ‘talk’ about racism if Obama is elected.

  4. i’ve found it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to say anything negative in this country about barack obama. so glad you posted this, the comments about not caring about color just reinforces what you’re saying even more.

  5. thank God for that wonderful insight to mr obama. there are times that I living in the heart of east tx feel the choke of racism and the hopelessness of never being as successful as my white coworkers. Obama as president gives me hope for my unborn child to have a brighter future in the USA. I love my country but moreso I love God and this is a prayer answered a man that is not throwing slavery and 40 acres and a mule in the face of this nation. Obama is the face of change it inspires me to see a man of color love his wife and children and stand up for his beleifs. Mr. Obama we’re praying for you God Bless!!!!

  6. It’s not about “easy redemption.” There’s nothing easy about stopping racism. My hope in Obama is about validating our belief that all men are created equal. It’s about fighting for the future of this country, not necessarily the present.

    Of course racism will continue to exist for decades after Obama’s campaign is over, but if he is elected, it would mean that we truly are a nation that is moving towards a more unified society instead of the segregated one we have right now. And if you don’t think segregation still exists, come to New York City sometime.

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