Thursday, January 1, 2009

Assuming that voting for or against someone just because, or predominately because, of skin colour is racist, I am not saying that all Black voters for Obama are racist. And I cannot specify a % of Black voters who chose on this basis.

I cannot *prove* that Blacks voted for Obama just because he is Black. And that “just because” is a difficult notion. One reason is that folks generally don’t act out of single minded motivation. What inferences can be permissibly drawn, reasonably drawn, from the Boston Review article and the data its authors cited? --

There are three things I rely on for the inference that Black racism, as above defined, was siginficant factor in the Black vote for Obama:

1. The data cited in the piece—compared to 2004—as to the significantly increased turn out in the Black vote and as to the about 10% leap in the rate of the Black vote for Obama over Kerry including many Blacks who had voted Republican in 2004;

2. Not cited in the article, but the racially staggering Black vote for Obama over Hillary in the primaries, even though their policies were similar. That vote can be fairly characterized as a racially monolithic bloc vote. I am unaware of any other identifiable group, racial or otherwise, who voted so monolithically, including white women, even of a certain age, who were a sizable constituency for Hillary. Understanding that 10—15% of the vote constitutes a “blow out” or “owning” a particular voting group, and also understanding the intense desire particularly for Black voters to elect an acceptable Black president, as opposed say to an Alan Keyes, I am discomfited by the monolithic Black vote for Obama;

3. A particular argument emerging from the Boston Review article tends to hold 2(1) and 2(2) together, I’d claim. Are the B.R. authors implying that racist motives informed the Black vote for Obama? That question is somewhat unfair to the authors because they did not address or deal with racism as such. (And I argue for certain inferences from data they cited.) But there is this argument which emerges from their thesis nonetheless: the authors claim that rather than Obama’s election reflecting anything post racial, the voting data tells them that racial polarization has increased in America; I say, they don’t address it, that racism must be an element of that polarization (how could it not be?); if that be so, completing the circle of this argument, then I say that it must also be so that that racism operated in the last election, and I say that that fits with their polarization thesis.

Here is a counter arguement which goes to the noted elusiveness of “just because or predominately because Obama is Black.” I try to distinguish between race as a factor and racism: in the former race is one factor among many; in the latter race is the only or chief factor. So the argument is: if Hillary and Obama are comparable in policy then the policy aspect of the voting decision has been satisfied and what the voters then are doing is letting race be a factor, not the only or chief one necessarily, and, therefore, by my own definition, the choice to vote for Obama is not racist. This argument can be framed as a “public objective”, of, all others being equal, as politics goes, of wanting a Black President. This makes a pretty good hash of “just because he is Black.” And yet, and yet: I keep coming back to how troublesome I find, how discomfited I am by—even while understanding it—racial bloc voting of such staggering proportion.

I, not an American, am profoundly happy that a highly qualified Black man is President. I am moved by it. So is much of the world. I would also be happy to see a Woman, a Jew, a Muslim, someone gay (" a gay" sounds so awkward), an atheist—the list is virtually inexhaustible—be president, but I cannot, for myself at least, imagine voting for someone for that position for that reason or that reason ranking very high amongst my considerations. I say merit needs decisively to trump identity and identity’s markers as criteria for choice. So, again, I wind up finding the racial bloc vote for Obama, as much as I think I understand it, and particularly in the primaries, deeply disturbing and of a piece with the B.R. authors’ claim of increasing racial polarity.

Itzik Basman

No comments:

Post a Comment