Viewpoint: Will Blacks Vote for Obama “Because He’s Black”?

The question itself is offensive and racist. Here's why

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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images

President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during a campaign event at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Oct. 17, 2012.

When the president said, “Can you say that a little louder, Candy!” after moderator Candy Crowley corrected Romney during a crucial moment in their second debate, sending the audience into laughter, I heard black barbershop dozens signifying. Or asphalt basketball court trash talking. Obama has not been shy about bringing black cultural signifiers with him onto the national stage — from fist bumping his wife in the 2008 campaign to refusing change from a fast food cashier by saying “Nah we straight.” An insightful new book, Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S. by professors H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman, catalogs Obama’s particular linguistic manner and the ease with which he verbally communicates blackness. It is these moments that begin to explain why the question of whether blacks vote for Obama just because he’s black is so dumb.

(MORE: The Magical Negro Falls to Earth)

The question has become an Internet meme over the last week, fueled mostly by people like author Kevin Jackson, author of The Big Black Lie, who told Fox News, “Racists that they are, [blacks] voted for [Obama] because he’s black, not because he’s qualified.” Conservative author Ron Christie echoed him saying blacks voted for Obama because of “straitjacket solidarity.”

This is mostly conservatives complaining about why they can’t get a serious look from black Americans and break up the demographic firewall that Obama has because of overwhelming support from blacks and Latinos. It would be too psychologically difficult to blame their decades old problem with black and brown voters on an ideology that is anti-affirmative action, anti-choice, anti-the social safety net, pro-voter ID, pro-tax breaks for the wealthy, pro demonizing of welfare and accepting of birtherism. A party that engages in what many have called the Southern Strategy 2.0, which means trying to attract poor whites through enraging them via coded racist appeals like the “Obama is removing the work requirement from welfare” claim” that was widely debunked but still remained at the heart of a Romney ad. 

(MORE: How To Read Political Racial Code)

But instead of looking at the Republican ideology and realizing that it is hostile to blacks, they call blacks racist for their supposedly thoughtless skin-color-based support of Obama. An August poll showed Obama leading Romney among blacks 94% to 0%, but this is hardly an historical outlier. Al Gore won 90% of the black vote in 2000 and John Kerry won 88% in 2004. Obama won 95% in 2008.

Instead, the idea that blacks support Obama just because he’s black is itself racist because it suggests a lack of political sophistication and brain power, as if blacks would vote for anyone who shares their skin color, even though most blacks didn’t support Herman Cain, Allen West, Alan Keyes and don’t respect Clarence Thomas. And the question ignores the nuances of reality. Yes Obama’s blackness is part of why many blacks support him. Another reason is Obama’s policies: saving Detroit, supporting universal health care, and fighting to protect the social safety net and a woman’s right to choose will win lots of black votes. But if we like a candidate because we like him personally, i.e., feel a kinship with him because of a feeling of shared culture, and because we like his policies, well, that seems awfully like the calculus many voters use in their decision of who to support.

Besides, too much has been written about the spiritual uplift inherent in Obama’s success to take seriously the idea that blacks voting for a black man is a vapid choice, rather than a soul-affirming one. Blacks voting for Obama are also voting to redefine blackness in the American collective mind via the radical act of having a brilliant black man be the leader of the country. There’s a love of self in that vote, and his election in turn impacted black national self-esteem, the way Kennedy’s victory helped Irish-Catholics feel fully American.

(MORE: Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown and the Myth of Race)

In order to think blacks reflexively support Obama because of race you have to ignore so much evidence. You have to close your eyes to his black critics from the brilliant Cornel West to Michael Jones, the undecided voter at the debate who asked why he should vote for him, to the clueless Stacey Dash. You also have to believe that whites never take race into account which would suggest that the Bradley Effect doesn’t exist and demand you dismiss a recent Esquire Magazine/Yahoo poll in which 26% of respondents said they personally know someone who’s not voting for Obama simply because he’s black. And you have to believe that race is merely a skin color and not something that becomes a deep shaper of your life, a significant part of your soul, such that the revolutionary success of a black person on the nation’s most important stage is critical to your life and worthy of support, if he’s also got policies you like.

89 comments
DamienCross
DamienCross

The fact that black people consider Obama the first 'black' president is racist towards white people to its highest degree and as his mother is white is also an insult to her. As a much higher majority of black people are more racist towards white people and they feel the word racism only applies if your skin is black then racism will always exist as it is fueled by black people looking for it in places it does not exist

BenjaminMLopez
BenjaminMLopez

I ride the bus.  During the last 2 presidential elections I must have heard HUNDREDS of confessions during my ride to work of black voters voting for Obama solely because he is black.  Not only did they admit to it, you should have heard how proud they were to admit it.  I am a minority voter myself, and such ignorance is incredibly disappointing.  

That a significant percentage of black voters voted for Obama because he is black is not an opinion, it is reality.  A sad reality.  I look forward to the day we can look past race and admire a person based on their merits and not the color of their skin.

DeeJamacek
DeeJamacek

I remember a guy at a store going on and on about how there is racism against blacks.  He said people do not like Obama because he is black.

I should have asked him, "well, did you vote for him because he is?"  Yes, the guy is black.  I just let him go on and on with his speech and when he was done, I left.  The funny thing is, we would have voted for Condi Rice Alan Keyes or Herman Cain if they had run.  So you tell

me.

common-place
common-place

Ifyou believe that Mr. Obama received well over 90% of the black vote because ofhis policies, then you are so politically correct & lack common sense thatyou are blind to the world around you.Is it racist?  Well becauseof the historical significance of the first black President, that question isimpossible to answer.Theanalysis in the article that other black leaders don’t have total support fromthe black community as a argument that blacks supported Mr. Obama due hispolicies and not race,  is invalidbecause there are dozens and dozens of black leaders in multiple levels ofgovernment, so there is no historical significance to that particular vote,policy would take a much greater precedence in thoseelections.Asfar as Herman Cain, it’s fairly obvious why his Presidential campaign waspublicly torpedoed the way it was by the Obama campaign.  Mr. Cain was the biggest threat to Mr.Obama because having 2 black candidates takes Mr. Obama’s monopoly of the blackvote away.  In addition, because theBlack community’s work ethic, religious & family values have much more incommon with conservatives than liberals, a Black conservative businessmancandidate was a major threat and no doubt would had garnered significant supportfrom the black community had he become the nominee.

ChuckAngeline
ChuckAngeline

Anyone, white or black, that seriously considers the skin color of the candidate they're voting for is a Bigot. Period.

sjgriffin
sjgriffin

Everyone knew Obama was going to win. Most of his votes were because of his color. Thetruth doesn’t mean he is not qualified for the job. It just means most of hissupporters only care about one issue (his color). If you look at the votes ofcitizens (not the Electrical College votes) Romney won in Ohio. The Board ofElections clearly show only 32% of Ohioans voted for Obama. Now, nothing standsin his way for making more dept and further destroying our economy. It is known as Obama-nomics. His next goal is to amend our rights (his words). Americais screwed. Good going dumb A@@#@. I hate Obama. Not because of his skin,because of his shitty way of running this country. All of us (Americans) need toprotect our rights, no matter what race or nationality. Too many officials wantto take them away.

Dyrell
Dyrell

It's about time blacks WAKE UP and stand up for ourselves and quit believing everything we hear from the democrats.  Obama supports the planned parenthood genocide of black Americans.  He can call it a woman's choice and keep feeding the abortion doctors their money,  but 14 million dead black babies cry out for justice against this murderer and others like him.

See www.blacklife.us for more info! 

filmmakerharryb
filmmakerharryb

@LeePinkerton @toure @timeideas question is will Whites vote for Romney because he's white? Why aren't we asking that question?

toddrobbinss
toddrobbinss

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeas Well, I'm voting for Obama, because he is Black.. & I'm "Ghost-White; The other White guy is not qualified.

ThePokerBrush
ThePokerBrush

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeas I am Black. I not vote for Obama. I vote against Romney. Why?? Romney looks like evil white man.

DadeCityMan
DadeCityMan

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeas First inclination 4 yrs ago was yes but even then began listening. Now causes 1st then pride.of what's done.

clsteely
clsteely

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeas Who the hell cares,I am white and want Obama,I hope every black person alive votes,& latinos,Obama FORWARD

bnDrEddie
bnDrEddie

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeas Probably ... but why not!

5Rhonda
5Rhonda

@LeePinkerton @toure @timeideas I want to say No because it Herman Cain I definitely wouldn't Vote for Him!!!

SecretCharmed1
SecretCharmed1

@LeePinkerton @TIMEIdeas Will you help nonviolent offenders by passn the 2nd Chance Law in all 49 states @KMarcusBrandon has already in NC.

abaacquah1
abaacquah1

@LeePinkerton @toure @timeideas how many times are we going to ask this question ?! My god

TheUNEEK1
TheUNEEK1

@LeePinkerton Is anyone asking: "will whites vote for Romney because he's white?" @Toure @TIMEIdeas

aaronsmom1
aaronsmom1

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeas i am a white republican and I am voting for obama

ajaniman
ajaniman

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeasWe will vote Obama because he is competent and Romney is a desperate fool.

Muslimnature
Muslimnature

@LeePinkerton @Toure @TIMEIdeas I'm voting for him because he's human.

bebob360
bebob360

yes black people are going to vote for Obama because he is black. i would way vote for Obama then the liar Romney. every country would vote for Obama except Pakistan. look up the graph on the internet for other country's.  its the truth it on the chart the reason Pakistan is because we killed Osama bin laden.

stevenson
stevenson

every culture has a stigma ie whites racist , blacks needy , mexicans scurge , asains intelligent so on and so on , but really it's the vast majority that soak these labels up and popularize it shame on media and their true goals leading the sheeple to slaughter!

stevenson
stevenson

wow this is truly dumb , the other candidates (whom were african american) didn't get one quarter of the support and publication as obama ! the republican idea is most likely to jolt the obama voters to actually look at whats going on , not what is "pop culture" which all of this is misdirection at it's best

ILUVUSA2
ILUVUSA2

The question may be racist, but the answer may be, for the most part, yes.  I believe, however, that blacks are more informed this year and many will vote for Romney, because they are becoming aware of the cycle of dependence that the democrats impose upon their electorate.

its_lindz
its_lindz

@sassycnut @Toure @TIMEIdeas honestly, i.did the 1st time, this time I did bcuz.he earned it &.the alternative is a.shape shifter #NoContest

ScrewBeingPC
ScrewBeingPC

Toure is black. Well guys, I guess we have to find a more politically correct answer as to why 90% of African Americans are votingto re-elect Obama.

SNMinCT
SNMinCT

@sassycnut @Toure @TIMEIdea. Nothing to do with Color. Romney is a liar and you can't miss that with that silly smile. He flips period.

Bishop_BBC
Bishop_BBC

@HSamyAlim @Toure Would the equally brilliant Ms. Rice, espousing much of Romney's agenda as she surely would, garner more than 0% v Obama?

CnoirBlaque
CnoirBlaque

@sassycnut @Toure @TIMEIdeas Some will vote for Obama because he's Black, just like some other ethnicities will vote against PBO bc he's Blk

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@common-place  Man, please go back to school and learn how to write. You make the American school system look STOOOPIDER than it already is....

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@ChuckAngeline  That would be true in a PERFECT world STOOOPID, but blacks DO and DID vote on color. In light of that, you STOOOPID white bass turds BETTER start changing your politically correct game plan and voting on YOUR OWN PEOPLE. I can't believe how stupid that my OWN people have become. Blacks are laughing all the way to the bank (well, at least to the food stehrimp office and welfayet lines). STOOOPID.

becca.stuart
becca.stuart

@Dyrell  would you rather have those babies dead or running the streets without any parental guidance and probably end up dead anyway?

common-place
common-place

Because most of us payed attention during the '08 election where a majority of whites voted for Mr. Obama...  There is also nothing historically significant of a white candidate.  However, there is something historically significant about a black candidate and my win votes because of this fact.

Jonesdaep
Jonesdaep

@toddrobbinss @leepinkerton @toure @timeideas thanks for keeping it real!!!

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@clsteely  Well, you are just STOOOPID then, aren't you??? 

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@ajaniman  Well you were just STOOOOPID weren't you?????

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@bebob360  Your just stoopid. Proof is in your not even knowing the difference between then and than, bad punctuation and not capitalizing the beginnings of sentences. Musta beent outta skool witcho white gull dat dey...... thit mahn, muh fuh, thit mahn, muh fuh, thit mahn, muh fuh,

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@ILUVUSA2  Boy weren't you wrong when you said:   "....blacks are more informed this year and many will vote for Romney because they are becoming aware of the cycle of dependence that the democrats impose upon their electorate".

Raegus
Raegus

@ILUVUSA2 Are you just trolling? So 90% of black voters voted for Al Gore because he's black? 88% of black voters voted for John Kerry because he's black? I think the best way for someone to slip up and reveal they're racist is for them to make this ridiculous argument.

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@SNMinCT  How's Mexico? Oh....... haven't been there lately?

HSamyAlim
HSamyAlim

@Bishop_BBC @toure Rice wd get more votes, not cuz she's Black, but cuz she's smarter & much more savvy as a politician. See her RNC speech.

YoungRockman
YoungRockman

@Raegus  He's not trolling but I am....for idiots like YOU. That's a lot of cute smoke you're blowing but you forgot to tell these SHEEP that Al Gore and John Kerry WEREN'T running against a BLACK man. If they had been they would have gotten ZERO black votes. Court adjourned.