Sunday, September 28, 2008

Spit it Out: The Election and the "R" Word

Having traveled a lot within the United States, and having worked in a number of states as well as having lived in several, I have never doubted that racism is alive and well. I also know it rests heavier in some states and regions than others.

I have heard it, seen it and felt it. I am fairly certain you have, too. Statistics on the current presidential election show it potentially effecting the next election.

What is racism?

Racism is racial prejudice that has been incorporated into the activities and procedures of major institutions, corporations, social systems (such as those related to housing, education, and health), and other arenas of major social activity (such as politics, the media, finance, and banking). Racism serves both to discriminate against ethnic minorities and to maintain advantages and benefits for White Americans.

--American Psycological Association

I started to write on this topic a month ago but found it so personally depressing, I stopped and left my draft to simmer. After some shocking comments I heard yesterday from an acquaintence, I cannot remain silent.

But nobody -- well, hardly anybody -- acknowledged their own prejudices. Both blacks and whites instead blamed "they," a vague and unaccountable surrogate for their own racial attitudes.

Four of every 10 white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, calling them "lazy," or "violent" or blaming them for the ills of black America, according to the AP-Yahoo poll. Such surveys draw criticism from whites who say the numbers are exaggerated and from blacks who say the numbers are too low.
--Associated Press, 9-28-2008

And it's not just African Americans, it is Arab Americans, Mexican Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and what are generally referred to as European Americans. Each doles it out, each gets it back. And this doesn't even begin to cover classism or sexism.

How might this effect the election?

"What kind of choice do guys like me have? A black guy or a woman," Coccia says. "It's a lesser of two evils."
--Associated Press, 9-28-2008

An Associated Press-Yahoo poll conducted with Stanford University has some telling statistics. In the linked article, you can go to the PDF and look at the questions and various stats. The segment on racial beliefs begins on page 12.

But the bottom line is this: Race DOES make a difference in elections and in the case of Obama, perhaps a 6 point difference something the "Bradley Effect" seems to agree with, at least on paper. In a nutshell, the Bradley Effect is a theory about outcome when a white and non-white candidate are running against one another for the same position.

A May 14, 2008 article in the Huffington Post concludes that not only is West Virginia the most racially prejudiced state in the union, but that exit polling shows that 17% of voters had a racial element in their voting deliberations, noting this topped the previous Arkansas standing of 13.7%.

The Republican Party's rise to power in recent decades has largely depended upon the fact that impoverished whites blame blacks rather than corporations for their problems. Without these racist whites, Republicans such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush could never have won. The biggest hope for the future of the Democratic Party is the dying off of the old racists who helped bring the Republicans to power. But West Virginia skews very old, and poorly educated, which is the worst possible demographic for Obama.
--Huffington Post, May 14, 2008

I know racism is a factor because I personally hear it from folks who surprise me and don't. Interestingly, I hear more of it from men than women, and far more from my age group than 18-30 year olds (who hold my greatest hope in helping to conquer racism, sexism, classism, ageism and all the other isms and gender identity issues that drag us down as a nation).

I know I am not alone. And it comes through in other respects, as well.

Anyone that scours the net daily as I do, sees another alarming trend: Increasingly hostile racist comments, and more internet sites dedicated to the white nationalist movement and its variations.

"The truth is, we're finding an explosion in these kinds of hateful sentiments on the Net, and it's a growing problem," said Deborah Lauter, civil rights director for the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate group activity. "There are probably thousands of Web sites that do this now. I couldn't even tell you how many are out there because it's growing so fast."

Neo-Nazi and white power groups acknowledge that they have little ability to derail Obama's candidacy, so instead some have decided to take advantage of its potential. White-power leaders who once feared Obama's campaign have come to regard it as a recruiting tool. The groups now portray his candidacy as a vehicle to disenfranchise whites and polarize America.

--Washington Post, June 22, 2008

This Palm Beach, Florida online new site,, carried a July 26, 2008 article that is almost a must-read on the issue as a primer. The largest white nationalist group in the country is located in Palm Beach (yes, eh hem, that Palm Beach!), and several others, likewise, hearken from Florida.

Remaining silent about the elephant in the room does little to supress its behavior, something I have argued with myself about for a month. We cannot change it in others, each of us, but we can remain vigilant for it's appearance and each of us can let it be known that this kind of talk and thinking is neither appreciated or tolerated. It can be done kindly, but it must be done.

The bottom line is this: We must not stop working for Obama until the polls close on November 4. The race is close if the Bradley Effect and polling are right, and even if they are not it is extremely close at this point with 37 days left.

Please, as Brave Net Films says..."pssst... do something."