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Clinton, Obama, and the “Race Chasm”

I just came across a column that  finally makes some sense of the voting in the Democratic primaries in various states.  This is David Sirota’s article in In These TimesThe Clinton Firewall“.  He points out that for states where there has been a head-to-head matchup between Clinton and Obama–where the Hispanic vote is not a large factor–the primary predictor of the outcome is the percent of the population that is African American.  Where the Black population is quite low [<6%] the White population seems not to be threatened by the idea of a Black president, and Obama does well.  Where the Black population is large [>17%], the polarization of the White population is overwhelmed by the support of the Black population.  But in between, the polarization of White voters gives an edge to Clinton.  Not surprisingly, a significant part of the Clinton strategy is to remind voters that Obama is Black in order to increase the polarization of White voters.

Sirota goes on to explain the roles that the mainstream media has had in obscuring this phenomenon.  He names two approaches of mainstream media–“the ostrich”, who ignores that race is an issue, and the “minstrel show producers”, who portray African Americans as less than human but entertaining.

Among “ostriches” for example, he cites a pundit who sought to explain the voting results by the pattern of migration of German and Scandanavian immigrants from the Nineteenth Century.

The soundbiting of Rev. Wright is just the most egregious example of the “minstrel show producers”.  More significant is the way that pundits contrast “regular people” and black people.  Or contrast “working class” with African Americans, as though there is no overlap.  There are lots of other examples.

The final paragraph of Sirota’s newspaper column summarizing the In These Times article:

Some will read this and  go on pretending the Race Chasm doesn’t exist, while others will keep insisting that the black vote is irrelevant.  Both sides will claim they aren’t prejudiced.  But racism, whether from ostriches or minstrel show producers, is racism–and it will persist until we recognize it and reject it.


One Response to “Clinton, Obama, and the “Race Chasm””

  1. Kathryn Says:

    Amen, you and David Sirota. Thanks for finding this, Bob, and for passing it on. It’s important.

  2. Posted from United States United States

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