The Pew Research Center recently released a report on racial attitudes in America. The report is based on a telephone survey conducted in October and November 2009.
The survey included a question about people’s perception of President Barack Obama’s racial identity. Here are the results:
Source: Pew Research Center
Question: How does Obama perceive his own racial identitiy? That’s discussed here in the post Barack Obama, Black, Biracial, Whatever.
Right after Obama’s presidential election win last November, I made this comment:
Here are my own election winners and losers, plus some “too early to tell” entries…
Too Early to Tell:
Black Voters: They were huge this election. Blacks were 13% of the total vote, up from 10% in 2000 and 11% in 2004. That helped make the difference in close elections for several states.
The question is, can they be depended on in future elections? Or will their turnout drop without Obama at the top of election ballots?
I think a lot more work needs to be done to make black voters a dependable election force, in close elections or elections in the South. Because if they’re not a dependable political force, that lessens their power and influence in the long run.
It will be interesting to see how much of the black vote turns out for the Georgia Senate runoff election between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin. Martin has no hope of winning if black voters stay home; we’ll see if they sit this one out.
In the aforementioned Georgia Senate race, Jim Martin did wind up losing, and low black turnout was a factor.
Yesterday, Republicans won the governor’s election in New Jersey and Virginia. In both cases, the young and black voters who were key to Obama’s election success were not decisive in their support for the Democratic candidate.
Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press made these comments:
In another troubling omen for Democrats, the surveys also showed that more of the Virginians who turned out on Tuesday said they supported Republican John McCain in 2008 than said they backed Obama. That suggests the Democrats had difficulty turning out their base, including the swarms of first-time minority and youth voters whom Obama attracted as part of his diverse coalition.
A loss in Virginia could suggest that the diverse coalition that Obama cobbled together last year in Virginia and elsewhere — blacks, Hispanics, young people, independents and Republican crossovers — was a one-election phenomenon that didn’t transfer to the Democratic Party when Obama wasn’t on the ballot.
I share Sidoti’s concern, although I disagree with her comment that the Obama election win was a one hit wonder in terms of pulling together what I call the “Obama coalition” of young, black, Hispanic and independent voters.
Witness, for example, 38-year old Democrat Anthony Foxx in the Charlotte, North Carolina mayoral election. Voters in the city ended more than two decades of Republican leadership in Charlotte Tuesday by electing Foxx, who is the city’s second African-American mayor and the youngest in memory. Foxx won a close race, getting roughly 51 percent of the vote over Republican John Lassiter in unofficial tallies.
Foxx benefitted from a strong black turnout. African Americans are 35% of Charlotte’s population. The Democrats need to find and promote more candidates like him, who appeal to diverse constituents.
The bottom line is, if the Democrats are going to win “the Obama way,” they need to embrace the kinds of voters that put Obama into office. Failure to do so is perilous. Consider these comments from the Washington Post, concerning the election campaign in Virginia governor’s race:
Senior (Obama) administration officials have expressed frustration with how Democrat R. Creigh Deeds has handled his campaign for governor, refusing early offers of strategic advice and failing to reach out to several key constituencies that helped Obama win Virginia in 2008, they say.
A senior administration official said (Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh) Deeds badly erred on several fronts, including not doing a better job of coordinating with the White House. “I understood in the beginning why there was some reluctance to run all around the state with Barack Obama,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “You don’t do that in Virginia. But when you consider the African American turnout that they need, and then when you consider as well they’ve got a huge problem with surge voters, younger voters, we were just a natural for them.”
A second administration official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Obama, (outgoing Democratic governor Tim) Kaine and others had drawn a road map to victory in Virginia. Deeds chose another path.”
And it goes without saying that black voters can’t afford to be apathetic or unengaged simply because certain kinds of candidates aren’t running. Not everyone who runs for political office is exciting or charismatic. And sometimes it is about voting for the lesser of two evils. Black folks need to be willing to come out to the polls even in those kinds of situations.
I guess the Republican Party just can’t help it. Making crude comments about African Americans, even one who has reached the position of POTUS, seems to be in their DNA. Consider these clumsy remarks by the Republican Party about Barack Obama and his wife Michelle:
• From Newscoma: Tennessee GOP state Senator Diane Black (R-Gallatin) sent an email with this image of our country’s presidents.
• From the Indigo Journal: Mike Green, a Republican operative who is helping to run the campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Gresham Barrett, posted the following joke about President Obama on his Twitter account:
JUST HEARD OBAMA IS GOING TO IMPOSE A 40% TAX ON ASPIRIN BECAUSE IT’S WHITE AND IT WORKS.
• Fitsnews.com reports: Republican Rusty DePass, a former SC State Senate candidate, supporter of former President George W. Bush, and Longtime GOP activist, made this comment after hearing about the escape of a gorilla from a zoo in Columbia South Carolina:
“I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless.
And yet they wonder why they can’t get more black votes…
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
- Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor, in a speech as quoted by the New York Times
Freedom of speech… just watch what you say…
-Rapper Ice-T, “Freedom of Speech”, from the album The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say
So here you have a racist. You might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs, of course, say that minorities cannot be racists because they don’t have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone, because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power. Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he’s appointed one.
Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, as quoted in Media Matters
Yes… watch what you say.
Right wing extremist and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh is apparently using the above comments from Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to paint the narrative that the Judge is racist. I doubt that charge will stick, but this is a cautionary tale about watching what you say in matters concerning gender and ethnicity.
Judge Sotomayor, whose family is from Puerto Rico, made those comments while giving a speech about diversity in the Judiciary.
And certainly, there is value in having diversity in the American Judiciary, as with the rest of American society. That value was certainly a factor in her being selected by President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice David Souter.
The sentiment in Judge Sotomayor’s comment was well-intentioned, and not at all vile or pernicious. But it does violate one of the rules of talking about ethnicity, gender, and race: never say one group is better at doing something than another. And as a corollary: never say that being in one group somehow makes you better at doing something than a person of another group.
Just imagine if a white person had said: “Being white, I feel that I can adjudicate lots of cases better than non-whites, who don’t have my breadth of experience.” That would set off some fireworks, and deservedly so.
Again, I doubt that the Sotomayor’s faux pas will derail her placement on the Supreme Court, Limbaugh’s comments notwithstanding. She has a solid resumé and more than enough experience. But it does show that if you’re a public official in any kind of setting, you need stay aware of the rules and etiquette associated with comments on gender or ethnicity. Failure to do creates grist for the mill of the haters, and that’s certainly not helpful for career advancement.
UPDATE: A story in the New York Times reports:
The White House said Friday (5/29/09) that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, used a poor choice of words in a speech eight years ago when she suggested that a Latina judge would reach a better conclusion than a white male judge who doesn’t have the same life experiences.
“I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point that personal experience are relevant for the process of the judging,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.
I think this is a good move from the White House. By admitting it was a bad choice of words, they’re no longer in the position of having to “defend” the comment. And it shows the White House has some sensitivity (empathy?) for the concerns that have been raised about the comment.
This won’t make the controversy go away, though. Her comments will be a point of contention until her confirmation, and maybe beyond.
Alphacat, who’s done a lot of video spoofs featuring Barack, has a hot number which riffs off Jamie Foxx’s Blame It video.
Here’s Alphacat’s version:
Best line, from faux Michelle: “Red or blue don’t matter cause we’re not gangs, don’t fight… y’all better act right.” (The political junkies will get that.)
I like Alphacat’s version better than the original from Jamie Foxx, which follows.
This is sorta silly season in politics. - Barack Obama, during the 2008 Presidential campaign.
When is it NOT silly season in Washington? Our politics have become so shallow, so stuck on things that don’t matter, that they border on being irrelevant.
That’s true for many Washington politicians in general, and Republican politicians in particular.
Case in point: Republican Newt Gingrich, who was once Speaker of the House and a respected deep thinker. It seems he’s gone off the shallow end. For Gingrich, no attack on Obama is too trivial or trifling.
A couple of weeks ago, in the wake of the Somali pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama, Gingrich said it was time for Obama to show the world he was tough on piracy. As Gingrich noted on the ABC show This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
Look, this is the administration [Obama's] which keeps trying to find some kind of magical solution that doesn’t involve effort, and doesn’t involve risk, and doesn’t involve making hard decisions….. we ought to simply, as a civilized world, say we are gonna stop the pirates in the region. Period. It’s very good for the rest of the world to see that there’s someplace in the planet where people are willing to draw a line and say certain things won’t be tolerated.
Gingrich went on to say that piracy was a global threat along the lines of Iran, North Korea, and Mexico, and represented a test of the President’s resolve. That led Stephanopoulos to ask conservative commentator George Will whether the pirates were in fact a test for President Obama. Will responded
Good Heavens, no. The Speaker’s very litany of nuisances around the world — some rising considerably above nuisance — indicates just how down on the chain of concerns this should be. Again…. this is well below what mugging was in New York City, because as Paul [Krugamn] said the sea’s really quite safe.
Why did Gingrich elevate the piracy incident to the top of the list of foreign policy concerns? Because in the event that the pirate incident didn’t work out well-say, with the unfortunate death of Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips, whom the Somali pirates were holding hostage-Gingrich could call it big failure by Obama on the world stage.
In the previous blog entry, we mentioned that Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, expressed his desire to see more people of color represented within the Republican Party. Steele made this statement at a meeting of Florida Republicans. At the same meeting, Jim Greer, Florida’s party chairman, said that the party would focus on using technology to invigorate younger Republicans.
The folowing charts help to explain why Republicans might be concerned about ethnic and age diversity within their party. These are from the Young Voters in the 2008 Presidential Election Fact Sheet, which was prepared by CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
This first chart is not elegant aesthetically, but it makes a powerful point about the ethnic make-up of voters in the November elections. The chart shows the ethnicity of the electorate, broken-out by different age groups.
I know this is redundant, but let me go over the numbers on the above chart:
• For voters who are 60 years old or more, the ethnic composition of the vote was 85% white, 8% black, and 4% Hispanic
• For voters aged 45-59, the ethnicity was 80% white, 12% black, and 4% Hispanic
• For voters aged 30-44, the ethnicity was 72% white, 15% black, and 7% Hispanic
• For voters aged 18-29, the ethnicity was 64% white, 19% black, and 11% Hispanic
What we’re seeing is that the under-30 population has become more ethnically diverse than older age groups. Whites are a smaller portion of the electorate, while the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics is growing.
The problem for Republicans is that African Americans and Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats. The following chart shows the percentage of people who voted for Obama in the November elections, by ethnicity and age-group:
You can vote for whoever you like. This is the first video that the Ron Clark Academy kids did, before they became a YouTube sensation.
Obviously inspired, now Obama feels he can do whatever he likes. Courtesy of YouTube’s Alphacat:
And it’s good to see how well the white community, disparate though it is, has taken to it all.
I’ve posted several stories lately on some of the negative reaction to Barack Obama’s election to president, from both here in the US and abroad.
I think it’s fair to note some of the positive reaction, too. This is an excerpt from a USAToday article:
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s election has inspired a wave of optimism about the future of race relations in the United States, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken the day after the first African American won the White House.
Confidence that the nation will resolve its racial problems rose to a historic level. Two-thirds of Americans predict that relations between blacks and whites “will eventually be worked out” in the United States, by far the highest number since Gallup first asked the question in the midst of the civil rights struggle in 1963.
Optimism jumped most among blacks. Five months ago, half of African Americans predicted the nation eventually would solve its racial problems. Now, two-thirds do.
I can personally say that I was pleasantly surprised by the election results. Obama got more of the white vote than Kerry did in 2004. He got just under 50% of the white outside the South and southern border states. I honestly didn’t see it coming.
It’s not all good, but there’s more reason for optimism than cynicism.
I just saw this on the Huffinton Post. Here’s an excerpt:
CAIRO, Egypt — Al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader used a racial epithet to insult Barack Obama in a message posted Wednesday, describing the president-elect in demeaning terms that imply he does the bidding of whites.
The message appeared chiefly aimed at persuading Muslims and Arabs that Obama does not represent a change in U.S. policies. Ayman al-Zawahri said in the message, which appeared on militant Web sites, that Obama is “the direct opposite of honorable black Americans” like Malcolm X, the 1960s African-American rights leader.
In al-Qaida’s first response to Obama’s victory, al-Zawahri also called the president-elect _ along with secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice _ “house Negroes.”
Speaking in Arabic, al-Zawahri uses the term “abeed al-beit,” which literally translates as “house slaves.” But al-Qaida supplied English subtitles of his speech that included the translation as “house Negroes.”
The message also includes old footage of speeches by Malcolm X in which he explains the term, saying black slaves who worked in their white masters’ house were more servile than those who worked in the fields. Malcolm X used the term to criticize black leaders he accused of not standing up to whites.
Wow. They went there.
But al-Qaeda has plenty of reason to hate on Obama; he’s vowed often that a major US goal should to be find Osama bin Laden and kill him.
Oddly enough, this is good news politically for Obama, at least in the United States. Many people here believe he’s a Muslim, and have problems with an American president being in that religious faith. Some have have actually equated Obama with Osama.
So maybe this will change the minds of a small number of ignorant people on this subject.
Editor & Publisher chronicles the continuing, disturbing racist pushback to the election of Barack Obama. This is an excerpt:
NEW YORK Earlier this week we started covering (see link at bottom) anti-Obama, often racist, incidents taking place around the country, generally overlooked in the national media — but covered by local papers. This seemed to strike a nerve with many readers so we will continue regular updates.
Local stories show that anti-Obama incidents (including physical and verbal abuse, KKK outfits worn, flags burned on front lawns) are occurring on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.
AP reports today that “in a Maine convenience store, an Associated Press reporter saw a sign inviting customers to join a betting pool on when Obama might fall victim to an assassin. The sign solicited $1 entries into ”he Osama Obama Shotgun Pool,” saying the money would go to the person picking the date closest to when Obama was attacked. ‘Let’s hope we have a winner,’ said the sign, since taken down.”
From the Orange County (Ca.) Register, concerning an incident in Fullerton: “Two gang members pleaded not guilty Thursday to hate crime and attempted robbery charges in connection with the beating of a black man who was trying to buy cigarettes at a Fullerton liquor store.” The two men shouted racial and anti-Obama epithets in the attack.
In Snellville, Ga., Denene Millner said that a day after the election, a boy on a school bus told her 9-year-old daughter that he hoped “Obama gets assassinated.” That night, Millner said, in an AP account, someone trashed her sister-in-law’s front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door.”It definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with,” said Millner, who is black. “And makes you wonder what they’re capable of and what they’re really thinking.”
In Idaho, the Secret Service is investigating a “public hanging” sign erected by a man upset with the election outcome, the Bonner County Daily Bee (Sandpoint) reported Thursday.
A handmade sign posted on a tree reads “FREE PUBLIC HANGING” written in large letters beneath a noose fashioned from nylon rope. The sign then names former Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, current U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and civil rights activist Al Sharpton. The most prominent name on the sign is “OBAMA,” according to the Bee.
This is just too scary. If hundreds of people are doing this, thousands of others are probably thinking about it, but don’t have the time, energy, or guts to follow through on their feelings.
Our country has come a long way, but clearly, we’ve got a long way to go.
As reported by the Washington Post in its article Racism Rears Its Head in European Remarks on Obama, the election of Barack Obama to US president hasn’t been hailed universally across the globe:
Europe erupted in cheers to celebrate Barack Obama’s election as president, but the continent is seeing its share of insensitive racial blunders, too.
Over the past week, a number of European lawmakers and journalists have made foot-in-mouth comments regarding America’s black president-elect, suggesting that some otherwise respected public figures in Europe are far from enlightened on racial matters.
The day after Obama’s victory, a leading Austrian television journalist said on camera that he “wouldn’t want the Western world to be directed by a black man.” A Polish lawmaker stood up in Parliament and called the election result “the end of the white man’s civilization.”
Some racist comments have come from people who have expressed such views before. “Africa Conquers the White House,” read a headline on the Web site of the National Democratic Party of Germany, a political party that sympathizes with neo-Nazi groups. In an accompanying article, Jürgen Gansel, a party leader and an elected lawmaker in the German state of Saxony, blamed Obama’s victory on “the American alliance of Jews and Negroes.”
Who says black Republicans don’t have a sense of humor?
The National Black Republican Association posted this wonderfully laughable piece of satire on their website. Share in the amusement:
White Guilt Emancipation Declaration
We, black American citizens of the United States of America and of the National Black Republican Association, do hereby declare that our fellow white American citizens are now, henceforth and forever more free of White Guilt.
This freedom from White Guilt was duly earned by the election of Barack Hussein Obama, a black man, to be our president by a majority of white Americans based solely on the color of his skin.
Freedom is not free, and we trust that the price paid for this freedom from White Guilt is worth the sacrifice, since Obama is a socialist who does not share the values of average Americans and will use the office of the presidency to turn America into a failed socialist nation.
Granted this November 4, 2008 – the day Barack Hussein Obama was elected as the first black president and the first socialist president of the United States of America.
Ha ha ha!
Here are my own election winners and losers, plus some “too early to tell” entries.
Barack Obama. Duh. This Hawaiian born and bred biracial intellectual with minimal experience has become perhaps the most unique and remarkable politician in American history. Now we’ll see if he can fix the mess that George Bush and congressional Republicans have made of this country.
Michelle Obama. The Right tried to demonize her into being an anti-white angry black woman who does terrorist fist bumps with her pals-with-terrorists husband. But like her husband, the more you saw of her, the better you felt about her.
I think she benefitted from not being a silent trophy wife; her speech at the Democratic National Convention and numerous media appearances showed her to be articulate, smart, and personable. I have no doubt that America is embracing her as the new First Lady.
Democrats in the Southeast: Who would have predicted even two years ago that a black Democratic presidential candidate would win in Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida? And how about the fact that Virginia and North Carolina both sent Democrats to the US Senate this year?
The bottom line is, the southeast has become a new battleground for the parties, after being owned by Republicans the prior two elections. And they could have more success there in the future, if they play their cards right.
Democrats in the Industrial Midwest: The last two northern Democrats to be nominated as presidential candidates were both from Massachusetts. They both lost. This year a candidate from the Midwest gave it a try, and found success.
Observers are saying that the proximity of red states like Iowa and Indiana to Obama’s “home” state of Illinois was a factor in his victories there. I bet that a lot of Democrats from the Midwest are looking at themselves in the mirror and thinking, maybe I’m next.
At least, Obama’s victory disturbs the conventional wisdom that only a southern Democrat has a chance of winning a presidential election.
Organized Labor: Make no mistake, labor put a lot of money and manpower into this election. The Democrats’ success in Pennsylvania and other Great Lakes states is owed in part to their efforts.
Now we’ll see what organized labor wants, and how much they can get from Obama and the Congress. A bail-out for the auto industry seems first on the list.
Internet Based Campaigning: The Obama campaign has become a legend in its own time thanks to its masterful use of the Internet to organize, communicate, and raise money. By the next presidential cycle, everybody will be doing it-or at least, they’ll try.
Cornell Belcher and Leah Daughtry: You probably don’t know these two black technocrats who work for the Democratic Party, but you should.
Cornell Belcher is the first African American to serve as polling director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Belcher was also a pollster for the Obama campaign. He had the insight that the Democrats could find enough pockets of strength that even a black man could win the presidency. And he was right. (Although he would be the first to say that the toxic environment for Republicans was a huge key to this election.)
In an earlier post, I said that Barack Obama might have gotten half of the white vote OUTSIDE the South. Based on my review of exit poll information, Obama missed the 50% mark by a whisker, getting 49.7% of the white vote outside the South-versus just 30.2% of the white vote in the South.
Thanks to some great work at the site Gene Expression in the post The Great White Sort, we have consolidated information from exit polls about the white vote in the presidential election. I used that to prepare two tables about the white vote for Obama.
TABLE 1, which is below, shows the white vote outside the South; TABLE 2 shows the white southern vote. Note the contrasts in the voting numbers.
Some comments on the white vote outside the South:
• Obama got the highest percentage of white votes in his native state of Hawaii. He got a whopping 70% of the white vote there.
• Obama got 50% or more of the white vote in the mega-states of California (52% of the white vote), New York (52%), and Illinois (51%).
• Obama’s worst performances were in Utah (31%), Alaska (32%), and Wyoming (32%). In Arizona, Obama got 40% of the white vote.
• Several states with small minority populations, all in New England and the Northwest, provided Obama with a very large share of the white vote: Vermont (68%), Maine (58%), Rhode Island (58%), Massachusetts (57%), New Hampshire (54%), Oregon (60%), Washington (59%).
• In New England, the MidAtlantic, the industrial Midwest, and the West Coast, Obama clearly won the majority of the white vote. He did worse in the Mountain and Midwest Plains states.
• I came to the 49.7% non-southern white vote number using exit poll data, and a weighted average based on the white population of the states. I also used a weighted average to get to the 30.2% number for the white southern vote.
Some comments on the white southern vote:
• Clearly, Obama did poorly among white southern voters. The difference in the voting numbers between the regions is stunning and remarkable.
• One key is that Obama did practically no campaigning or ad spending in the South after the primary elections, with the notable exceptions of Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia – states which Obama won thanks to a strong African American and Hispanic vote. The Obama campaign basically ceded those other southern states to McCain.
• The electorates in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi may have been especially polarized due to some state and local elections. In Alabama and Mississippi, black candidates were running for US Senate seats against Republican incumbents. In Louisiana, black candidates were running as Democrats or independents in three congressional districts. These races, plus the Obama run, may have… I’ll use the word “energized”… white Republican voters in those states to do straight ticket voting.
• White southerners are the strongest supporters of the Republican Party, so these results are not unprecedented. I have not looked at the 2004 presidential results, but Kerry may have done equally as bad, or worse, among white voters that year.
Source for two tables below: The Great White Sort post at the Gene Expressions site.
TABLE 1: White Vote for Obama Outside the South
TABLE 2: White Vote for Obama in the South
Note: Text versions of the two tables are here. The tables are presented as graphics in this post because WordPress had problems rendering the pages correctly in several web browsers when I included the information in HTML tables.