Do Black People Support Obama Because He’s Black?

Jesse Washington, AP, October 14, 2012

Surviving slavery, segregation and discrimination has forged a special pride in African-Americans. Now some are saying this hard-earned pride has become prejudice in the form of blind loyalty to President Barack Obama.

Are black people supporting Obama mainly because he’s black? If race is just one factor in blacks’ support of Obama, does that make them racist? Can blacks’ support for Obama be compared with white voters who may favor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, because he’s white?

These questions have long animated conservatives who are frustrated by claims that white people who oppose Obama’s policies are racist. This week, when a black actress who tweeted an endorsement of Romney was subjected to a stream of abuse from other African-Americans, the politics of racial accusation came full circle once again.

Stacey Dash, who also has Mexican heritage, is best known for the 1995 film “Clueless” and the recent cable-TV drama “Single Ladies.” On Twitter, she was called “jigaboo,” “traitor,” “house nigger” and worse after posting, “Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future.”

The theme of the insults: A black woman would have to be stupid, subservient or both to choose a white Republican over the first black president.

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Antonio Luckett, a sales representative in Milwaukee who is black, called the attacks on Dash unfair. But when people speak out against a symbol of black progress like Obama, he said, “African-Americans tend to be internally hurt by that.”

“We still have a civil rights (era) mentality, but we’re not living in a civil rights-based world anymore,” he said. “We want to say, ‘You’re black, you need to stand behind black people.’“

Luckett said one reason he voted for Obama in the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton was because Obama is black: “Yes, I will admit that.”

Is that racism? Not in Luckett’s mind. “It’s voting for someone who would understand your side of the coin a lot better.”

Such logic runs into trouble when applied to a white person voting for Romney because he understands whiteness better. {snip}

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Clinton got 83 percent of the black vote in 1992 and 84 percent in 1996; the third-party candidate Ross Perot probably sliced away some of Clinton’s black support. Al Gore got 90 percent in 2000; John Kerry got 88 percent in 2004. Obama captured 95 percent in 2008, and 2 million more black people voted than in the previous election.

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