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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.

March 30, 2009

Written by C.N.

Gary Locke and the Future of Asian American Identity

As news organizations are reporting, the Senate has confirmed Gary Locke as the new Secretary of Commerce. Below is an Associated Press news clip of President Obama introducing Secretary Locke:

If you’re keeping track, Sec. Locke is the third Asian American in President Obama’s cabinet, following Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Three Asian American cabinet secretaries is unprecedented in American history and needless to say, I join many others in expressing my elation and gratitude at President Obama’s picks for his cabinet.

For those who haven’t heard of Sec. Locke before, as Governor of Washington between 1997-2005, he was the first Chinese American governor in American history and the first Asian American governor of a mainland state. He was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party and a possible Vice Presidential candidate. However, he declined to run for Governor after his second term and returned to private life thereafter.

As illustrated in PBS’s excellent 2005 documentary Searching for Asian America, Sec. Locke is known for being very intelligent and detail-oriented and as such, in many ways personifies some common cultural assumptions about Asian Americans. That’s not to say it’s good or bad, just to say that he represents a “safe choice” for President Obama in that way and was an attractive option since Obama’s first two nominees for the position both dropped out.

But I think another reason that President Obama chose Gary Locke is because, as also pointed out in the PBS documentary, Sec. Locke has many ties to the land of his ancestors, China. Therefore, it’s probably safe to assume that President Obama felt those personal and professional ties to China would come in handy as our nation and its economy tries to navigate through this recession and the 21st century global economy in general, one in which China will play a major role.

As such, Sec. Locke is the latest example of a theme that I’ve been writing about for some time — how Asian Americans are forging a new identity for themselves, one in which our “foreignness” or more specifically our transnational cultural ties and networks back to Asia, are seen as assets, rather than liabilities as we assert our identities as legitimate Americans in the 21st century.

In other words, in this era where American society is inevitably becoming more racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse and where economic issues are likely to be a paramount concern for Americans individually and American society institutionally, we as Asian Americans now have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to American society. In the process of doing so, we can also help to reshape the image and definition of what it means to be an “American.”

This expanded definition of being an American includes not just emotional attachment and patriotic loyalty to an American identity, but also involves helping to achieve greater economic prosperity for American society. As we’re seeing right now, economic issues have emerged as significant factors and challenges to American society and its overall sense of national identity.

Within this contexts, Asian American are poised to make significant contributions to rebuilding the American economy and helping it become more competitive in the 21st century. These opportunities can involve many different examples. First, we know that at the aggregate level, Asian American households have the highest median income of all the major racial/ethnic groups.

Even when it comes to personal/per capita level, as data is beginning to show, US-born Asian American have matched or even exceeded the income level of Whites. Of course, we have to be careful and recognize that not all Asian Americans are economically successful, but overall, I think our community is doing well.

In fact, a recent article at New America Media noted that said communities of color have an estimated $282 billion in purchasing power, with Asian Americans possessing about $90 billion of that.

There was also the recent commentary in the NY Times which suggested, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that one way to stimulate the economy is to let in more Asian immigrants, who would buy up all he sub-prime homes, work 14 hour days to do it, improve the national savings rate, and start up businesses that will employ American workers.

More realistically, we’ve already seen examples of Asian enclaves proliferating around the country — in both urban and increasingly suburban areas — that have resulted in these areas becoming revitalized, with new businesses, jobs, homes, and other amenities being created.

The point is, the economic contributions of Asian Americans to the American economy is undeniable.

The second way that Asian American can contribute to a new and stronger American society relates more to the cultural level. As I mentioned earlier, it is clear that the world in general and American society in particular is becoming more diverse, globalized, and transnational. With that in mind, Asian Americans occupy a very central role in this evolving process.

As the U.S. seeks to maintain its influence around the world, it has no other choice but to embrace these global trends and to build more mutually-respectful connections with countries around the world, particular in Asia. In fact, Hillary Clinton has been doing just that as Secretary of State — in February she made high-profile visits to Japan, South Korea, China, and Indonesia.

So with this mind, Asian Americans can serve as a valuable facilitators in these connections because on the individual, community, and institutional levels, we still have strong ties and networks to Asian countries. This can take many different forms — maintaining relationships with friends and family and sending remittances back there, or using our bicultural skills and resources to do business back in Asia, or bringing our educational expertise to work on issues and projects focused on environmental sustainability, social equality, or human rights.

In the case of Secretary Locke, I think he represents this new form of Asian American identity — a “real” American of Asian ancestry but whose Asian ancestry can be a significant asset and advantage in terms of making significant contributions to strengthening our country, our economy, and our society.

Many Asian Americans (and for that matter, Americans from all kinds of backgrounds) are in a similar situation and as such, also have the same opportunity to become leaders in their community and in our society in the 21st century.


March 16, 2009

Written by C.N.

The Language of Obama and Black Politics

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to recognize that Barack Obama is not like most of his predecessors. This can be applied not just to the obvious fact that he’s our nation’s first African American President, but also in regard to his “style” or more specifically, the way he expresses himself, verbally and non-verbally.

Politico.com recently had an interesting article that explores Barack Obama’s sense of demeanor, presentation, and language, how it has different effects on Whites and Blacks, and how it compares to George W. Bush’s style of expression:

On his pre-inaugural visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark for Washington’s African-American community, President Barack Obama was asked by a cashier if he wanted his change back. “Nah, we straight,” Obama replied. The phrase was so subtle some listeners missed it. The reporter on pool duty quoted Obama as saying, “No, we’re straight.”

But many other listeners did not miss it. A video of the exchange became an Internet hit, and there was a clear moment of recognition among many blacks, who got a kick out of their Harvard-educated president sounding, as one commenter wrote on a hip-hop site, “mad cool.”

On matters of racial identity, many observers in the African-American community say he benefits from what’s known as “dog-whistle politics.” His language, mannerisms and symbols resonate deeply with his black supporters, even as the references largely sail over the heads of white audiences. . . .

“The code words matter, how you dress matters, how you speak matters; it’s all subliminal messaging, and all politicians use it,” said Michael Fauntroy, professor at George Mason University. “Ronald Reagan used to talk about making America the shining city on a hill, which is about America as divinely inspired, and it has a deep vein in the evangelical conservative movement.” . . .

[George W.] Bush used phrases lifted from church hymns and the Bible to signal an affinity for like-minded Christians. The phrase “culture of life,” became part of the political lexicon when Bush used it weeks before the 2000 election — it was a less political, more evangelical version of “pro-life.” . . .

Beyond speech, blacks have picked up certain of Obama’s mannerisms, particularly his walk, that signal authenticity. Bush had his cowboy strut, and Obama has a swagger — a rhythmic lope that says cool and confident and undeniably black.

The article basically notes that virtually all Presidents have their own unique “style” of verbal and non-verbal expression and they use subtle words, phrases, or mannerisms that reflect and appeal to a particular group of constituents to let them know that he’s “one of them,” but without making it so obvious that it turns off more mainstream Americans.

What makes Barack Obama’s style different of course, is that it’s a “Black” style, something Americans have never seen before from our President (Bill Clinton came as close as any previous President could, but obviously he had his limitations).

So what should we make of Obama’s unique style, or should it even matter? As a fervent fan and supporter, I personally love his style and find it to be a welcome change and a breath of fresh air for Washington DC and our country as a whole. But does it risk alienating White Americans who aren’t used to it?

That’s a hard question to answer. On the one hand, we’ve already seen and I’ve written before about the ways in which some Whites are reacting negatively to his victory and the growing racial, ethnic, and cultural diversification of American society in general. So it’s possible that these particular White Americans will use such examples of Obama’s “blackness” to reinforce their extremist and racist views of him and non-Whites like him.

But on the other hand, I’m confident that most others will recognize that different doesn’t have to mean bad or inferior. That is, I hope that the vast majority of Whites in this country will understand that America is inevitably changing — politically, economically, and culturally. With that in mind, there is now more room for different forms of an American identity to emerge, one that expands on the “traditional” image of American as being White, middle class, and Protestant.

Rather than denying or resisting such an evolution of American society and our national identity, my hope is that we can embrace them and use them as a source of strength and unity to create an inclusive collective identity as Americans in the 21st century. Sure, we’ll still have our differences, but my point is that such differences are good for America and will make our society stronger, not weaker.


January 19, 2009

Written by C.N.

King, Obama, Tet, and the Diversity of Change

As you know already, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the national holiday when we celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy of racial equality and justice. This year, Dr. King’s birthday is accompanied by another very auspicious and momentous occasion — the inauguration of Barack Obama to be our next President.

It is also during this time of the year that billions of people around the world prepare to celebrate Lunar New Year (occurring on January 26 this year). For Vietnamese Americans like me, our version of Lunar New Year is of course Tet. As I describe in more detail, Tet traditionally is a celebration of rebirth and renewal.

Each year, in our effort to commemorate Lunar New Year and Tet, my wife and I usually do a small presentation in our daughter’s elementary school class about the traditions of Tet. We will be doing this year’s presentation tomorrow in her class. Since the presentation will be almost a week before actual Tet, we thought we would try to do a presentation that links these important events together — Dr. King’s Day, Obama’s inauguration, and Tet.

The theme of our presentation is the title of this post — “King, Obama, Tet, and the Diversity of Change” and I’d like to summarize it here for you (fyi, the text is simplified because it’s directed at elementary school students).

Around this time, billions of people all around the world celebrate the new year, based on the cycles of the moon, which is called the lunar calendar. One of the earliest lunar calendars was invented by the Chinese around 4,000 years ago and is still one of the most widely used lunar calendars. Because the Chinese lunar calendar is the most famous, many people call this occasion the “Chinese New Year.” But we prefer to call it Lunar New Year because it’s more inclusive.

Each Lunar New Year is symbolized by one of 12 different animals and the traditional legend is that the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius called a meeting of all animals and 12 eventually showed up and he gave them each a year on the Lunar calendar. On Monday, we’ll celebrate the Year of Ox — anyone born starting Monday until the next Lunar New Year will be born into the Year of the Ox, along with anyone who turns 12, 24, 36, 48, etc.

Along with the Chinese, many other nationality and ethnic groups celebrate Lunar New Year. Because my family came from Viet Nam, our version of Lunar New Year is called Tet. Like many Lunar New Year celebrations, Tet is one of the biggest and most important holidays in Vietnamese culture, almost like New Year’s Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all rolled into one.

Here in the U.S., you have probably seen Chinese or Lunar New Year celebrations that involve parades and Lion dances. But in more traditional terms, Tet also symbolizes “rebirth” and “renewal.” This means that whatever happened to you personally, to your family, or to your country in the past year, the New Year is your chance to start all over again to have a happy and prosperous new year.

In preparation for Tet, many families clean and even paint their home in anticipation of spring, they settle old debts and disputes, buy new clothes, and pledge to behave nicely and work hard in the new year.

This Lunar New Year occurs around the same time as another very important event that’s taking place a little later today in our nation’s capital, Washington DC — Barack Obama’s inauguration — when he officially becomes our next President.

It’s a very exciting and emotional time for many Americans. One of the reasons why it’s so exciting for many Americans is that, in many ways, Obama’s inauguration also symbolizes the rebirth of our country. In terms of his policies, he has said that he plans to do many things differently from what our last President has done, and this was one of the main reasons why so many people voted for him.

But more generally, he represents rebirth in many other ways. For example, as you probably already know, he is the first African American President of the United States. This is a very big deal — this country unfortunately has not treated African Americans and other people of color very well throughout its history. In many ways, African Americans and other people of color are still treated badly and still face many kinds of prejudice and discrimination in American society.

This kind of change was also symbolized by the person whose birthday we celebrated yesterday as a national holiday — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Especially as Barack Obama becomes our nation’s first African American President, it’s important to remember the life and words of Dr. King, especially when he talks about change and rebirth. Here are some excerpts from Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech that talks about change:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. . . . With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, and to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Dr. King’s word have inspired many Americans, such as Barack Obama, to do what they can to change America for the better and in the process, to help people start anew toward a better life for themselves, their families and loved ones, and our entire world.

It’s with this in mind that we celebrate these three wonderful and important events taking place all at the same time — Dr. King’s birthday, Barack Obama’s inauguration, and Tet, the Lunar New Year celebration of rebirth and renewal.


January 15, 2009

Written by C.N.

Counting Down to the End of Colonialism

Like millions of Americans, I am anxiously awaiting noon on Tuesday, January 20. This is the hour when Barack Obama is scheduled to take the oath of office and officially become the next President of the United States.

I’ve written before on the sociological and personal significance of this momentous event and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But in the meantime, my Vietnamese American colleague Andrew Lam of New America Media has written a very eloquent post about what Barack Obama’s inauguration means to him.

Andrew begins his piece by recounting the plot of Daniel Defoe’s The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and how Crusoe “saves” an indigenous man, names him “Friday,” and basically teaches him the ways of acting “civilized” according to White, European standards. Andrew then relates the story to his own experiences:

[W]hen he was christened, when he called Crusoe “master,” Friday essentially lost his autonomy and his past. When he was taught a new language, Friday lost his bearings and the articulation and the enchantment of his old tongue. . . .

For a while, as a Vietnamese refugee to America, I grieved. Then I resigned myself to the idea that I was fated to live at the empire’s outer edge, living in a world in which Friday’s children were destined to play subservient roles and sidekicks. I knew this because I saw it on TV nightly.

Friday became Tonto, Mammy, Pocahontas, Kato, and (play it again) Sam. I saw too, the complexity of my own Vietnamese past ignored or, worse yet, simplified and reduced to faceless figures in black pajamas and conical hats, to serve as props or to be gunned down by American GIs, the wielders of history. . . .

Five hundred years after European conquest began, the glory of Crusoe continues to play out. “The Swiss Robinson Family,” and “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” and dozens more movies were direct spin offs but its mythos provides the backbone for tv shows like Star Trek, where the captain is white and his crew are ethnic and aliens, and contemporary films like Men in Black, Jerry McGuire, Pulp Fiction, and Lethal Weapon, just to name very few. In them the ethnic sidekicks help make the main character who he is, reinforcing his centrality. . . .

Who knows then when the story began to shift? . . . It may very well have begun with Frederick Douglass. . . . [H]e learned the alphabet from his master’s wife. He stole books. He learned how to read and write. He taught others. He became an abolitionist, editor, a suffragist, author, and the first African American nominated vice president in 1872 on the Equal Rights Party ticket with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President of the United States. . . .

For this is the way the new power lies: Those who once dwelled at the margins of the Commonwealth have appropriated the language of their colonial masters and used it with great degree of articulation as they inch toward the center, crossing all kinds of demarcations, dispelling the old myth. If Crusoe contends that he still is the lead actor, Friday is far from being content to playing subservient and sidekick any longer. . . .

[O]n that fateful Tuesday in November 4, 2008, Friday spoke up loud and clear and eloquently, and declared himself an equal, and the whole world danced. He tells us to dare to dream big, even this once considered impossible dream: Son of Africa becomes the new patriarch of America.

I think Andrew captures the sentiments of many of us very accurately.


December 11, 2008

Written by C.N.

Physicist Steven Chu Nominated as Secretary of Energy

Following up on his recent nomination of Eric Shinseki to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Barack Obama has named another Asian American — Steven Chu — to be his Secretary of Energy. As news outlets report, Professor Chu shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics and is the latest Asian American political trailblazer:

Chu, [director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory], shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics and is a former chairman of the physics department at Stanford University in California and head of the electronics research laboratory at Bell Labs.

The Lawrence Berkeley Web site says Chu was an early advocate for finding scientific solutions to climate change and has guided the laboratory on a new mission to become the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy.

I have to be honest again and admit that I had not heard of Professor Chu before today but nonetheless, as always, I trust Barack Obama’s judgment and based on Professor Chu’s recent accomplishments, I have no doubt that he would be an excellent choice.

More specifically, I am also very pleased to see that President-Elect Obama has chosen an academic for a cabinet position. I have long been an advocate for making academic research and data relevant and accessible to as wide of an audience as possible. This very website and blog is my modest attempt to make good on that promise.

Hopefully this position as Secretary of Energy will be an opportunity for Professor Chu to use his expertise to apply academic knowledge to address real-world issues. In other words, knowledge isn’t much good unless it’s turned into action.

Congratulations to Professor Steven Chu and I wish him the best success.


November 24, 2008

Written by C.N.

Post-Election Racist Incidents

Last week, I talked about how many people have observed that Barack Obama seems to have a very calm, cool, and Zen-like approach to his life and the tasks ahead of him as our incoming President. It certainly looks like he’ll need to remain cool as he prepares to tackle numerous problems facing our country.

In addition to the economic crisis that’s at the forefront for many of us, since Obama’s overwhelming victory, plenty of Americans — academics and otherwise — are talking about what it means for race relations for our society. More specifically, one question that keeps coming up is, does his victory mean that racism is on the decline?

There are plenty of opinions out there on this question and I anticipate that I for the foreseeable future, this will be a recurring theme in many of my upcoming posts in this blog. But in the meantime, here is a story that should make things very interesting: as CBS News reports, Obama’s victory seems to have spurred several incidents of racism since the election:

Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting “Assassinate Obama.” Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars. Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the post-election glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been “hundreds” of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes. . . .
Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

The article lists several examples of racist incidents that have taken place since Obama’s win, all of which illustrate the level of hate, bigotry, and intolerance that still exists in American society today.

As I’ve posted about previously, Obama’s win is a significant step forward for American society, but it does not mean that all African Americans have now achieved equality and in fact, racial incidents were common during the presidential campaign.

Therefore, nobody should be surprised that these incidents of racism have taken place and will continue to take place for the foreseeable future. Change is never easy, especially for people who fear that their “country” or their “power” is being taken away from them — politically, economically, and socially. My regular readers know that this has also been a recurring theme in my posts on this blog.

As I’ve also written previously, while I remain optimistic in the long run, in the short run, I unfortunately anticipate that anti-Obama, anti-Black, and anti-people of color racism will only get worse before it gets better.


November 17, 2008

Written by C.N.

Zen and the Art of Being President

Throughout the presidential campaign and nowadays, as he prepares to officially become the next President of the United States, many people have remarked that Obama seems to be very calm and even-keel in almost all circumstances. That is, he doesn’t ever seem to get visibly angry, frustrated, or on the other hand, seems rather reserved when everyone else is celebratory and even euphoric.

In other words, we might say that Obama is very Zen-like in that way. As Buddhists like to say, he seems to be very “equanimous” — he shows his emotion and determination to achieve his goals, but is very cool and unflappable in doing so and even once he achieves victory, maintains his calm and placid demeanor.

I bring this up because acclaimed writer Alice Walker (her most famous work was The Color Purple, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize) just wrote an open letter to Barack Obama, in which she reinforces many of these “Buddhist” observations and characteristics that Obama personifies. Here are some excerpts of her letter (emphases in bold are mine):

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. . . . Seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. . . .

We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about. . . .

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. . . .

We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate.

One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. . . .

I would further advise you not to take on other people’s enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. . . . It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely.

However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children.

A good model of how to “work with the enemy” internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies.

And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

As someone who feels connected in many ways to Buddhism, Alice Walker’s words capture many of the same feelings that I have towards Obama and the task ahead of him. And based on his character and his equanimity, I am very confident that he will do just fine.


November 6, 2008

Written by C.N.

14 Exit Poll Statistics About Obama’s Victory

There’s not much more that I can say that others have not said already regarding the significance of Barack Obama’s election as our next President: historic, monumental, amazing, inspiring, emotional, and quite simple, awesome. As a sociologist and demographer, I’d like to offer a few statistics on his election to be our next President:

  • 136.6 million Americans voted, representing a 64.1% turnout rate, the highest since 65.7 percent in 1908.
  • Obama is the first Democrat to receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

From CNN’s exit poll tabulations:

  • Obama received 49% of all the male votes (vs. 48% for McCain) and 56% of the female votes (vs. 43% for McCain). But once you break it down by race, Obama only received 41% of the White male vote (vs. 57% for McCain) and 46% of the White female vote (vs. 53% for McCain).
  • 95% of African Americans, 66% of Latinos, and 61% of Asian Americans voted for Obama. Along with the previous statistic, what this tells us is that while large numbers of Whites supported Obama, ultimately non-Whites helped put him over the top.
  • 66% of voters under the age of 30 voted for Obama.
  • 52% of voters making $200,000 or more voted for Obama (vs. 46% for McCain).
  • By level of education, the groups that voted for Obama the most were those at both ends of the spectrum — those who have no high school degree and those with a postgraduate degree.
  • 54% of Catholics voted for Obama (vs. 45% for McCain), although among White Catholics, 47% voted for Obama while 52% for McCain.
  • 50% of voters living in the suburbs voted for Obama (vs. 48% for McCain).
  • Among voters who felt that their taxes would go up if Obama were elected President, 43% still voted for him.
  • 64% of all voters felt that McCain unfairly attacked Obama, while only 49% of all voters felt Obama unfairly attacked McCain.
  • 47% of all voters felt that, regardless of who is President, race relations are likely to get better in the next few years, and of those, 70% voted for Obama. In contrast, 15% felt that race relations are likely to get worse and of those, 70% voted for McCain.
  • 9% of voters said that the candidate’s race was an important factor and of those, 53% voted for Obama.
  • 58% of voters said that issues, rather than personal qualities, were more important to them and of those, 60% voted for Obama. In contrast, 59% of those who believed personal qualities were more important to them voted for McCain.

For me, the most telling and interesting of these statistics is first, that shows 52% of voters making at least $200,000 voted for Obama versus 46% voting for McCain. In my opinion, that is pretty astounding — those in the upper 6%-7% of the nation in terms of wealth supported Obama more than McCain, even though their taxes are likely to go up slightly. I give these voters a lot of credit for supporting Obama and goes a long way to counteract the stereotype of them as caring only about their wallets.

But perhaps the most significant statistic is how Obama captured almost all of the African American votes and a huge percentage of the Latino and Asian American votes and how, most likely, this was likely a big factor in helping to put him over the top.

It is certainly true that White votes still outnumbered non-White votes for Obama and that in the end, the scope of Obama’s victory shows that he has significant, broad-based support from Americans of all racial backgrounds. Nonetheless, I think it’s pretty clear that the Latinos and Asian Americans did constitute a crucial “swing vote” and ultimately, they overwhelmingly rallied to Obama’s support.

While observers, commentators, and scholars will debate this particular issue for the foreseeable future, it does appear that, combined with their continuing population growth, Latino and Asian American voters are poised to have this kind of potential impact and power for years to come.


November 5, 2008

Written by C.N.

Yes We Can. Yes We Did!

As someone once said, “Change does not come from Washington — change comes to Washington.”

Barack Obama -- Yes We Can

I will offer a more “sociological” analysis of Obama’s historic victory in an upcoming post but for now, I’d like to share the first thoughts that came to me when all the major news outlets officially declared Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States:

We shall overcome, We shall overcome
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We will walk hand in hand, We will walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

We shall live in peace, We shall live in peace
We shall live in peace, some day.

We shall all be free, We shall all be free
We shall all be free, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.


November 3, 2008

Written by C.N.

Lewis Hamilton: First Black Formula One Champion

Being a fan of Formula One motor racing, I’d like to congratulate Lewis Hamilton on becoming the youngest Formula One champion ever. Hailing from Great Britain, Hamilton won the driver’s championship in dramatic fashion in the Grand Prix of Brazil by passing a competitor in the last corner of the last lap and thereby claiming fifth place, just enough to win the championship over his nearest rival by one point.

However, Hamilton’s age is not his biggest distinction in his championship. He is also the first Black driver to be crowned the F1 champion. Just like a well-known candidate running for President of the United States, Hamilton is actually half White and half Black and just like Barack Obama, has endured many high-profile incidents of racism as he has risen in national and international prominence in recent years.

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain becomes youngest and first Black F1 champion © Associated Press

Now that Hamilton has achieved his ultimate goal of winning the Formula One championship, I certainly hope that by the end of tomorrow, we can celebrate another significant similarity in the careers of Lewis Hamilton and Barack Obama.


October 27, 2008

Written by C.N.

Obama or McCain: Presidential Preferences Around the World

As we all know by now, this presidential election is likely to be one of the most historic and significant ones in recent American history. With that in mind, it’s probably not surprising to know that this election has also captivated the attention of many people from all around the world. So which candidate do people from other countries favor? As Andrew Lam at New America Media reports, the answer probably isn’t that surprising:

The Economist . . . has an interesting interactive map of the world showing which candidate would win if people in various countries voted in the American election. The total cast so far shows 86 percent for the Obama/Biden ticket and 14 percent for McCain/Palin.

Here are samples of a few countries: Russia: 86 percent for Obama and 14 percent for McCain. Germany: 88 percent for Obama and 12 percent for McCain. Vietnam: 91 percent for Obama and 9 percent McCain. . . .

This finding is consistent with several other polls. The BBC conducted a poll on September 10 and found that global citizens preferred Obama 4-to-1, out of 22,000 people surveyed in 22 foreign countries.

A Reader’s Digest magazine poll, released Oct 6, asked 17,000 people in 17 countries – including the U.S. – whom they would like to see elected president. It concluded: “It’s a good thing for John McCain that only American citizens can vote in U.S. presidential elections. If the election were held overseas, or even in the rest of North America, the Republican nominee wouldn’t stand a chance.”

Besides being overwhelmingly for Obama, the polls also found that – on the average – more than half surveyed are fixated on the American election. Basically, the world is following the American election with vested interest, as if it were the World Cup. World poverty and environmental issues rank top as their concerns.

The trouble for Senator McCain is that he is perceived overseas as continuing the legacy of George W. Bush administration – one in which preemptive strikes are the norm, and whose unilateral actions helped isolate it from the world. . . . McCain becoming the next president would mean the American empire remaining steadfast on its warpath, and therefore, keeping the world out of balance.

The collective voice of the world seems to be pretty clear in terms of their preference for Obama over McCain to be the U.S.’s next President. For McCain supporters who scoff at such preferences, they should remember that these countries around the world include many of the U.S.’s best allies.

In other words, the U.S. does not live in a global vacuum. The world is getting smaller, every country is increasingly interconnected to every other country, and globalization is happening all around us, and the go-it-alone politics of the past will not work any longer.

The rest of the world seems to recognize these facts and they apparently feel that Obama does as well, much more so than McCain.


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.