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Will Racism Cost Obama the Election?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mary Shaw     Permalink
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Most Americans believe that this nation is on the wrong track. We want change.

Why then are Barack Obama and John McCain running neck-and-neck in the polls?

Do people not realize that McCain has voted with George W. Bush 95 percent of the time? That shows you where his priorities lie -- with the neocon agenda and the oil executives.

Or is race an issue, even here in the 21st century?

Sadly, I suspect that it is.

I grew up in a small redneck town in rural north-central Pennsylvania. From the little bit of news I still receive from back there, I can tell that it still harbors the same closed xenophobic culture in which I grew up feeling like a fish out of water.

They don't like outsiders. They don't like anyone or anything that differs from the mundane white Christian blandness that they are accustomed to. Their worldview is very limited, and any expansion of it seems daunting and is therefore dismissed with anger. And so, as Obama so famously observed, they cling to their guns and religion.

I remember walking through that town on a weekend home from college 30 years ago, just after word got out that I had dated a black guy at school. Hostile shouts of "n____ lover!" were hurled at me by the people I had gone to high school with. Just because I had dated someone with a superficial difference. Someone whom they would never get to know as the smart, funny, congenial man that he was -- because of an irrational prejudice.

And, to this day, I will bet that most of those people will not vote for Barack Obama simply because of the color of his skin.

And so they will instead vote against their own best interests.

Despite the fiasco in Iraq and its cost in dollars and in lives.

Despite the sorry state of our economy.

Despite the price of gasoline.

Despite the fact that some 47 million of us have no health insurance coverage.

And despite all those American jobs being shipped overseas by companies who want to take advantage of the tax breaks that McCain helped to enable.

And it's not an issue just in my old hometown. I frequently talk with people all across this nation who recognize that there are a lot of American voters -- not just the rednecks -- who will not vote for a black man.

In fact, a new AP-Yahoo poll reveals that "one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks -- many calling them 'lazy,' 'violent,' responsible for their own troubles." One-third!

And there may also be those who will tell the pollsters that skin color makes no difference; but, when they're alone in the voting booth, with the curtain drawn, can they vote with their brains and not with their fears and prejudices?

I hope so. But I am not optimistic.

 

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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