Obama Advance: ‘Get Me More White People’

Ben Smith, Politico, April 8, 2008

From the account in Carnegie Mellon’s paper, the Tartan, of a Michelle Obama event in Pittsburgh:

While the crowd was indeed diverse, some students at the event questioned the practices of Mrs. Obama’s event coordinators, who handpicked the crowd sitting behind Mrs. Obama. The Tartan’s correspondents observed one event coordinator say to another, “Get me more white people, we need more white people.” To an Asian girl sitting in the back row, one coordinator said, “We’re moving you, sorry. It’s going to look so pretty, though.”

“I didn’t know they would say, ‘We need a white person here,’” said attendee and senior psychology major Shayna Watson, who sat in the crowd behind Mrs. Obama. “I understood they would want a show of diversity, but to pick up people and to reseat them, I didn’t know it would be so outright.”

I’m not sure there’s any real reason for outrage here; every campaign, at least implicitly, includes race in the staging of events like this—even a campaign whose supporters chant “race doesn’t matter.” But they don’t usually get caught doing it this explicitly.

And (if you didn’t pick it up from the bowling) it does give you a sense of the community Obama’s trying to reach in Pennsylvania: whitefolks.


Only a week after her husband drew throngs to Soldiers and Sailors, Michelle Obama wooed a small crowd at Skibo Gymnasium on Wednesday.

Skibo’s risers were packed with community members and students from many of Pittsburgh’s universities. The rally was staffed by volunteers from a number of Carnegie Mellon student organizations, including Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama, Student Senate, AB Political Speakers, and College Democrats.

{snip}

While the crowd was indeed diverse, some students at the event questioned the practices of Mrs. Obama’s event coordinators, who handpicked the crowd sitting behind Mrs. Obama. The Tartan’s correspondents observed one event coordinator say to another, “Get me more white people, we need more white people.” To an Asian girl sitting in the back row, one coordinator said, “We’re moving you, sorry. It’s going to look so pretty, though.”

“I didn’t know they would say, ‘We need a white person here,’” said attendee and senior psychology major Shayna Watson, who sat in the crowd behind Mrs. Obama. “I understood they would want a show of diversity, but to pick up people and to reseat them, I didn’t know it would be so outright.”

{snip}

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