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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

October 20, 2008

Written by C.N.

Racists Who Support Obama

I’ve written several times recently about how the issue of race has affected the presidential campaign. Much of the conventional wisdom, on which many of my posts are based, is that Whites who hold racist views would never consider voting for Obama. However, as CBS News reports, a new study argues that “racism” not so cut and dry and that quite surprisingly, many Whites who hold racist views actually support Obama:

The poll asked voters whether they agreed with the statement that “African Americans often use race as an excuse to justify wrongdoing.” About a fifth of white voters said they “strongly agreed.” Yet among those who agreed, 23 percent said they’d be supporting Obama.

“This result is reasonable if you believe that race is not as monolithic an effect as we might easily assume,” Franklin said, noting that 22 percent of those who “strongly disagreed” said they’d be supporting McCain. . . .

Some argue that elements of Obama’s story and persona make him specifically acceptable to voters who hold broadly negative views of African Americans. “Not all whites associate the generic African American with Obama,” said Ron Walters, an aide to Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns. “They give him credit for having half a Caucasian ancestry, and give him credit for his education, and give him credit for his obvious ability to take complex subjects and parse them.” . . .

“Obama’s personality – his speech, his look – he provides [white voters] with a non-threatening way to move forward on this issue, and that’s a very positive development,” said David Waymire.

Those last two paragraphs that I quoted above are worth highlighting. They suggest that while many Whites hold racist views of African Americans, they don’t see Obama as a “typical” African American — he is not uneducated, or on welfare, or a street criminal like what they tend to see in the media.

Instead, they see Obama as “not like the rest of them” — he breaks the mold of their traditional, stereotypical image of Blacks.

In fact, my guess is that many Asian Americans have probably been in situations in which Whites may be criticizing Asians/Asian Americans but will turn to them and say, “But you’re not like them — you’re different.”

Obama seems to be in that position. Combined with economic concerns being at the topic of the list for many White voters, that may explain why so many Whites who would otherwise have quite racist views of Blacks are willing to support Obama.

So the question becomes, is this situation good or bad for American society? Does the fact that so many “racist” Whites see Obama as an “exceptional” Black mean that the glass is half full or half empty?

To be honest, I’m still thinking this through. In the meantime, let me know what you think, and whether that means American society is becoming less racist, or just more of the same kind of racism.


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Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Racists Who Support Obama" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2008/10/racists-who-support-obama/> ().

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