The true race of ’08

Melissa Keller

August 22, 2008

As the 2008 election heats up and we are heading into what is sure to be remembered as one of the most historical presidential races in recent history, we now ask ourselves whether our nation is voting for a man that will make change for America, or a black man that will change the face of America.

It is no secret that the US has not been held in high regard for many years by other countries. Many have cited American policies a demonstration of political arrogance that all Americans have the same ideas and beliefs as George Bush. This is what has attracted many foreigners, like the French, to Barack Obama and his new vision for change. The French, as well as many new voters in America, see Obama bridging together ethnic differences and putting away minority policies that have divided this country for so many years. His new ideas for an equal America have attracted the majority of our youth as well as minorities. This is why many have predicted that his vote will sweep the US and will count for the largest demographic in history. Never have so many minorities and voters under the age of 24 been so involved with the presidential elections until now. Not to be blunt or anything, but wouldn’t you think that many of these views are associated with the fact that Obama is indeed black and that people see this as taking one step closer to eliminating racism?

So I ask you this, is our country trying to seek change in our nation with Barack’s policies and opinions or are we really trying to resolve our “hush hush” racism issue in turning into a colorblind nation by electing our first black president?

This has been one of the most popular underlying themes throughout this election with both parties accusing each other using racial undertones. But if you were to ask each party about the issue, they would try to deny that race has been a factor in their battle towards presidency. Yet, even though this sensitive issue remains under the breath of our nation, Obama had no problem bringing it to the table in one of his most talked about speeches:

In consideration to all of this, a recent poll asked Americans how comfortable they feel electing an African American president and these statistics show that the US is leaning towards a colorblind nation. But this doesn’t mean that America will lose racism altogether; in fact some believe that by electing an African American president will not only keep racism alive but will enhance a domino effect of diminished programs meant for preserving minorities. Jason Parham believes that by electing a black president it will only bring forth more issues on race rather than solve them.

Is this true? I for one don’t agree. I feel that there is time for dramatic change in one’s nation and that this is our way of making that change. The US has not forgotten its bloody history with slaves and its civil rights movement; and by appointing Obama the highest position in America we will not only change the face of America, but we also might get one step closer to putting an end on racism.


Filed under Democratic Party, Obama

7 responses to “The true race of ’08

  1. Diego Del Campo

    To be completely honest, I have never considered Barack Obama’s race a factor for my vote. Personally, I think it’s not right to vote for someone because of their race (or gender, or religion, or sexual orientation), no matter how historic or symbolic their election might be. The truth is that I find Obama to be a different candidate than the Obama that dazzled the DNC in 2004. He ran incredibly to the left to win the primary, and then ran immediately to the center once he secured the nomination. I ask myself: what kind of “change” is that?

    “Change” elections happen every time a non- incumbent is on the ballot. Clinton ran on that (the first time), Kerry, Dukakis and Mondale did too. It’s the same tired, old message a non-incumbent candidate always runs on. I think it’s disappointing for the Obama camp to not take McCain head on, without tying him to the Bush administration. Bush isn’t on the ballot, McCain is, and I don’t really care to hear how they (supposedly) the same.

    I also find it a bit annoying to hear people talking about how electing Obama might help us end racism. That is huge burden to put on a candiadate, and a fantasy that will never come true. Framing the election that way is fallacious–we should not be voting for someone based on the color of their skin, but rather on the content of their character.

  2. ilasiea

    Yes, Barack Obama being African American plays a huge role in this election however I don’t think that’s the only thing drawing people towards him. Overall, Barack Obama is a good candidate for President of the United States. If he weren’t, he would not have made it as far as he has. Policies, rhetoric of change-these things also have contributed to his success. Being African American yes is important, however Al Sharpton, Alan Keyes, and Jesse Jackson (the three African Americans who ran for President) never got as far as being the Democratic Presidential nominee.

    I also think that whether or not Obama becomes our President, racism is going to exist in America. It exists everywhere. Now to the question on whether or not it will get worse…I don’t know. I almost think of more discrimination. As with the 9/11 attacks, people became more suspect of people who were middle-eastern. Will the people who were dead set, anti-Obama’s (especially those who are white in the south) begin to discriminate against African Americans in that way? Just a thought…

  3. Tony Robinson

    Very important post, with good links to polls and a very important Obama speech.

    Diego notes that it won’t “end racism” to elect a black man as president, and of course that is true. But there is important evidence to consider that it will in fact be significant if a black person ascends to the presidency–and American’s racial dynamics may be expected to change over time because of it.

    First of all, there is a real difference in how race is discussed, thoughout about and dealt with, when either classrooms or the halls of power actually include people of color within them. Racial discussions in a classroom filled entirely with white people are of course different than racial discussions in a room with significant diversity. Its the same in congress or the white house. Imagine how a Senate of 100 white men would think about, talk about or prioritize issues of race/gender–and imagine how those discussions immediately change if the Senate is 40 white guys, 25 women, 15 blacks, 15 latino, 5 asian and 5 native american–or some such makeup. Very different discussions, very different priorities, very different thinking on the matter inevitably results when diverse voices come to the table. This not to say that only black people can speak to black issues–its simply a recognition of reality that we all come from different communities, we all TEND to focus on issues most relevant to our own communities our own heritage–Diversifying the people in control of congress or the white house will diversify the discussion and thinking.

    And there is also the power of example. A black man successfully winning the presidency certainly will influence young people’s thoughts about what is possible in America, and might influence the course of their life. When young people integrated law schools in the south under threat of death back in the 60s, it was quickly followed by an explosion in other black students applying to law school. When Jesse Jackson had his historic run for president, it was followed by a significant growth in black and latino office seekers across the country, and by an increase in black voting registration.

    It’s hard to deny that American culture was changed over the long run, and that our very spirit was elevated, as Jacky Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, and it will be similar if Obama can shatter the color barrier to the presidency. Yes, it matters that Barack Obama is black.

  4. Stephen Noriega

    I believe that the entire discourse about Obama and race is racist. To refer to Plessy v. Ferguson, the plaintiff who was barred from using a white street car was 1/8th black. This is a function of the human stain idea that any black blood in a person made them black and thus removed in some manner from the rest of society.

    When we talk about Tiger Woods, we don’t talk about him being the first Asian person to win all four major golf events. Homer Plessy was not the 7/8th white person barred from a street car.

    If Barack Obama becomes the first black president, he will also become the 44th white president. The fact that we even talk about it in these terms means, I believe, that we still have a long way to go.

  5. Hawzien Gebremedhin

    It is true that Obama’s race plays a role in his movement of change, but without the policy to create this change, race is insignificant. Obama has a plan to create change and through his rhetoric, he is moving millions of people all around the world to fight towards the same goal.

    If Obama was just running on a basis of race then what about the black leaders that choose to run before him like Jesse Jackson? He was a black man just like Barack Obama, yet he had different views on how to change America. Its these views that make Obama different from other black presidential hopefuls and even white ones. Obama brings a different story to the American public and finds a way to connect with most of them and bring his dream of change to life.

    Yes, the fact that Barack Obama is black encourages more people to believe in his dream of change than say, a white man, but he also has a plan to back up his words.

  6. kvalentine2008

    I personally have to disagree with the majority of this post. I don’t feel like a lot of people are trying to hide voting or not voting for barrack because of his race. As we talked about in class today, many people still view blacks as boastful, complaing, lazy and violent; none of them were ashamed to tell the pollsters this. The fact that people use Obama as a scapegoat for ending racism is ludicrous when Obama hardly ever identifies with his African-American side in a way that would dramatically impact many African-American lives; he only does this when it is to his advantage; prime example the 2004 DNC. Obama’s race I feel is a big reason that is keeping the Hilary voters from backing him, and if people think that Obama is ending racism in America and its taking a step in the right direction, then they must have not seen the republican ad that BLATANTLY spins Obama’s slogan of CHANGE into a flying advertisement to HANG him; not only does this play off of the historical racist tendencies of this country, but it brings out a lot of emotion in people. Some for the worst, some for the better. I’m not saying that Barrack doesn’t bring out a feeling of hope in many peoples lives because he does. Not just African-American, but people across the board. But this election is going to be interesting, not because it is ending racism, but because it is bringing it more to frontline American politics. It’s the ELEPHANT in the room that people have wanted to pretend has left for a long time and then act shocked when it isn’t. Racism is not gone when people like this are on fox news laughing about killing Obama, and the KKK hinting at plots to kill Obama. I would argue racism is not going to simply be eliminated by this election.

  7. balaban13

    Stephen, I have to disagree with you. In a country where only white Christian men were elected to the presidency, I think a “change of scenery” would be a big deal. Obama might only be a 44th President to some, but to the people on the African Continent it’s a totally different thing.

    I have to be honest: one of the main reasons I stood in line for almost 2 hours in a bitter cold to cast my caucus vote for Obama was because he is different not only policy wise but because he is African American. This country can talk Democracy and Diversity all it wants, but if it can’t elect a women or a minority to the highest office, how good is that talk? I think that the only way this country can finally bury its horrible history of racism and sexism is to elect minorities to high governmental offices, although they still have to posess proper qualifications.

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