Assume Obama Becomes President: Racism In America Re-Defined?

If Obama should become President, how will that affect the attitude of blacks in urban areas?
Would that immediately destroy the common complaint of black males that “we can’t make it through normal channels” in white America?
Would it make any difference in racial attitudes towards blacks in the South, or in other conservative communities?
Could people openly like or dislike Obama purely for political reasons and not throw in the race card?
Would the fact that he is black ever be a non-issue at some point in his term?

I’m not going to opine on most of them, but…

Could people dislike him on his merits? Sure. Some do so right now.
Would race become a non-issue? Highly implausible.

Whether or not it’s an actual issue, some people will raise it. Guaranteed. Just run a search on this board, for example, for “brown people”. If you can stomach it. The race card is tossed around, in a manner that would warm the heart of a methed-up arsonist tossing fire bombs. It’s tossed around in discussions as diverse as American foreign policy, illegal immigration, the Israel/Palestine conflict, attitudes towards military enlistees, discussing what a typical Bush supporter might be like, questions of whether or not Bush is willing to negotiate with Iran in good faith, hypothetical flights of fancy as to who America will go to war with next… and so on, and so on, and so on.

And no… not even most of the instances are by members of our lovable lunatic fringe talking about how evil Americans (except for them) are. Nor are such lovely little rhetorical stink bombs limited to the Dope. Wade through google if you really feel like it.

So will Obama being black be an issue if he becomes president, for each and every single year he’s in office? Of course. Some rhetorical bomb chucker, somewhere or another, will be pretty much guaranteed to answer criticisms of Obama with 'What, you don’t think brown people can…"

If by some glitch of history Obama finds himself in the White House he’ll make William Henry Harrison’s length in office look like FDR’s. :wink:

I don’t believe urban youths who would hold such an opinion would identify with Obama, given his background.

I don’t believe so. There is a similar although fairly different test we could look at: did JFK being POTUS attenuate anti-Catholic feelings?

There’s just a different standard at this level in my experience. Just look at what our imaginary racist thinks of Powell or Rice: “Hell, this guy/gal is pretty good. Why can’t these other…”

Yes. He has held political power before, after all.

No, just like the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon, Rudy is Rudy, and Clinton is a woman with a very interesting husband would never ever be a non-issue during their hypothetical presidencies. It would seem as if, no matter what happens, the late night comedy writers win big.

In regards to the spirit of FinnAgain’s post, I have the germ for a one liner to ideally be posted all over the Little Orange Footballs upon Obama’s first joyride: “A brown POTUS bombing brown people. Someone pinch me!” Well, OK, it needs some work, but you get the idea. Personally, if I could choose to bust open a stereotype I’d like to see Clinton win this one, just because too many racists associate black men with violence anyway. There are certainly plenty of historical examples of blood thirsty women leaders but not many in this country know about them and it’d be nice to have one to call our own.

There’s a big generality to say the least. But I hope that, over time, it would convince people (and not just black people) that more avenues of success are open to them.

No. Let’s be realistic here: nobody would about Obama as a contender if he wasn’t palatable to white people.

I think it would make the idea of a black leader less foreign to younger white people and gradually erode racism that way. Other differences would depend on how he does in the job, and how he is perceived to be doing.

Would the fact that he is black ever be a non-issue at some point in his term?

No. He’d always be the first black president.

Couldn’t that be said about any candidate, regardless of race? I think palatability to the majority of the constituents is a minimum requirement that all candidates have to meet.

Of course. I’m just saying that his election wouldn’t prove anything we don’t already know in that regard. I think most black people would probably tell you that a black man can make it “through normal channels” if he is generally liked by white people.

I think that the Democrat primaries will be a good gauge to that. If his opponents use his “blackness” (or lack thereof, someone will revive the “not black enough” thing) against him or he makes it a big issue, then we’ve got the answer.

Mere facts won’t stop some people from believing that they’re victims, and using that victim status to excuse their low achievement. Certainly Mr. Obama might inspire blacks who are already achieving and upwardly mobile, but he’s unlikely to change the victimization ideology of the “urban areas” you refer to.

Unfortunately, this question has already been answered.

I was old enough in 1960 (and lived in a Bible Belt area) to remember the vitriol directed against the Roman Catholic John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy was elected and showed he was not taking secret orders from the Vatican, that completely ended the discussion of religion and political office.

Certainly when Joe Lieberman was running – 44 years later – no one suggested his being Jewish would be seen as any kind of problem..

And the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon doesn’t even merit mentioning, especially since his father ran for President in 1968.

Clearly, we’ve moved past religious bigotry in the U.S. So Obama’s election would bring down the last vestiges of racial prejudice.


That’s a really interesting point I hadn’t considered. While I’d love to see the increasing presence of racial minorities and women in politics make their color/gender a non-issue, there is something to be said for people assuming black president = perfect racial harmony. If a black guy can be president, what’s all this about Mr. Jones complaining that black guys still get cast in the buddy role, or Ms. Jackson saying she gets followed in department stores? They’ve got one of their own as president! What are they still complaining about?

I think the point was that his blackness has to be acceptable to white people. That cannot be said for other candidates.

That’s one of the things that scares me about Hillary. I can imagine her feeling a need to prove that a woman can be “strong on defense,” and that we would wind up in another military misadventure because of it.

I would be very happy to see Obama run against Romney or Giuliani, because I can imagine Obama winning some Southern states in such a matchup, and maybe then we can put to bed the idea that the present day South is any more racist than any other part of the country.

I’m glad you started this thread, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how an Obama presidency would help the US move past the race issue. Times have changed a lot in my lifetime, but there is still a lot of racial disharmony and discrimination in the US. Having a Black president would, I think, help heal some of the wounds by empowering Blacks and making Whites deal with having a non-White person in the highest office in the land. It would also demonstrate to the world just what kind of country we’ve finally become.

Now, I don’t for minute advocate an affirmative action vote to get a Black in the WH. I support Obama, and I hope he wins, but the fact that he’s Black is just a little frosting on the cake-- not really central to why I support him. I disagree with some of his positions, but there isn’t any candidate I agree with even 80% of the time. I like the kind of judgement he seems to have, his level of analysis about the issues, and his ability to communicate a positive message. With Clinton and Edwards, I feel like we’d be looking backwards. With Obama, we’re looking forward. As for the Pubs, well, they need to get something going that’s better than what’s being served up right now to get my attention.

Immediately? You gotta be kidding. But I think it will help the country when the first Black man breaks the ultimate color barrier.

Hard to say. I don’t know that there are a lot of fence sitters these days on the issue of race. To the extent that there are, I think it will.

I think they’re doing that now. Look at how well he’s doing in Iowa-- a state that is 91% white.

I think for most Americans it would be. Especially since he’s really a perfect bi-racial guy. In this country he’s seen as Black, but the fact is his mother is White and he grew up in a mostly White environment. To him, race is secondary, and I think he helps other people see things that way as well.

I’m wondering about the assumption implicit in this question. Should Obama win the election, that’s still just one guy getting one job. It doesn’t magically change everything.

For an excellent example, I’d recommend This American Life’s one-hour investigation into the mayoral tenure of Harold Washington in Chicago. Getting a non-white guy elected is just the beginning.

First, I find it interesting that whites like Obama so much more than blacks do!

Now, in part this is understandable. He’s one of the only charismatic orators in either party. Onm the other hand, I have to wonder- would a white Senator the same age with the same credentials be so popular? And I’m pretty sure the answer is “no.”

Strangely, I believe there are a lot of white Americans who want desperately to vote for a black man like Obama (or, a few years back, Colin Powell) to “prove” that they aren’t racist, and to send a signal to young black males everywhere, “See, we’re not bigots! If you’d just speak Harvard English and dress nattily like that nice Mr. Obama, we could all get along!”

That’s a pretty big assumption. Got any actual, like, evidence to back it up?

The fact is, many unlikely candidates get thrust into the spotlight by fortune or whatever. I have no doubt that a White senator with Obama’s background wouldn’t get as much media attention, and wouldn’t be on the national ticket at his level. But that’s not my fault, or any other voter’s fault. Bush would never have been on the slate if it weren’t for Dad (and even Dad might not have got going without Gramps). Same for Gore and HRC.

But you gotta vote for someone who is running. We had Carol Mosely Braun running last time, and she didn’t get the “White guilt” vote. If your thesis is correct, then why not? She’s actually quite a good speaker herself, and I thought she did very impressively in the debates.

Or prove themselves by responding to a poll, but not in the voting booth. :rolleyes:

Columnist Clarence Page blames that phenomenon on a defeatist attitude he calls the “slave mentality”.

However, it’s worth noting that recent polls show Obama cutting deeply into Hillary’s support among black voters, and Obama now leads Hillary among that demographic 51% to 27%.

It’s also worth noting that there’s some generational conflict at work. A lot of the old-time civil rights leaders have ties to the Clintons (and undoubtedly expect to be rewarded for their support if Hillary should win). These old-timers fear a loss of power if Obama wins.

Who is it that they want to prove this to? Blacks? Why? Other whites? Why? Themselves? Why? What could be causing such a massive simultaneous need to prove the unproveable? Why do they want to send a message to black males everywhere? Do black males everywhere think that all white Americans are bigots? Why would white Americans want black males to speak “Harvard English”? Do all white Americans want everyone to dress like Obama? Is Harvard the standard for all white Americans? Why don’t white Americans want black women to receive the message also? How are you able to read the minds of a lot of white Americans? Why are they feeling desperate? Can’t they have a write-in vote?

I agree that you believe strangely. Best o’ luck!

Zoe, consider the same point for Hillary: I think a lot of male Americans want to vote for her to “prove” they aren’t sexist or chauvinist. If women would get their act together and not spend all day shopping and cooking, we’d all get along! Would you jump on that with the same vigor?

Honestly, I think Obama would make a pretty lousy president. There’s always the pressure of not screwing up, which would ultimately make him completely ineffective. And he would probably end up blaming that on racism somehow, like the establishment won’t accept a black man because everybody in Washington is a bigot. I think Obama is all talk. I’d rather have a head honcho be able to get things done than just talk about it.