Is This Race All About The Race? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

There is a perception that Barack Obama exudes a degree of hubris that may be viewed negatively by a number of voters. The unasked question is whether this impression has its origin in the fact that Barack Obama is actually an over confident candidate or simply a candidate who exceeds the standing or status many voters feel comfortable attaching to a black man. In other words, isn't it possible that a number of white voters have a problem with accepting an intelligent and competent black man as their equal...let alone as their next president?

Part of the problem with America's struggle with race centers on the fact that the issue may have become an unspoken prejudice long before it ceased to exist. Specifically, I think it's plausible to argue that the success of the civil rights era may have inadvertently been to stifle overt displays of racism rather than extinguish the underlying prejudices that motivate acts of intolerance and discrimination.

Take a look at what is happening with the polling on the 2008 election.

From The Chicago Daily Observer:

Obama continues to run substantially worse than the hypothetical generic Democrat, meaning the public has not yet fully made up its mind about him.

Which is to say that if the candidate were, say, John Edwards or any such substantial white guy it would, for all practical purposes, be over right now.

I warned earlier that all polling to date must be taken with large doses of salt, but one pattern has been fairly consistent: Obama's lead has ranged from roughly 4 to 8 points while the generic Democratic vote this time around ranges from 10 to 12.

There are other readily explainable reasons why Obama runs behind the generic Democrat: His exotic background--African father, Indonesian schooling, oddball middle-name and so forth also come into play.

Which gets us down to the real, still largely unspoken question of race.

There are still loads and loads of Democrats and independents who are unlikely to vote for him because of what still remains what Gunnar Myrdal called the American dilemma.

That is the real referendum on Obama.

More importantly, it's a referendum on us.

As such, I'm suggesting that the nature of racism has merely evolved and the 2008 election is our first foray into unearthing the essence of its transformation. I would equate it with the construct of passive aggressive behavior. It's akin to the teenager who is jealous of the academic success of a rival student. Rather than address the issue (animosity) head on, one student attacks the physical appearance of the rival student or promotes the perception that the other student's success comes from being a brown nosing goody two shoes. I suspect many Americans are predisposed to expressing their racial animosities accordingly.

Let me offer another example to make my point. As a gay man, I'm keenly aware of those individuals who describe the visibility of gays as an "in your face" effort to force society to acknowledge or accept homosexuality. Simply stated, the message imparted by this rhetoric is meant to remind gays of their status and their position as lesser members of society who should be grateful that they are allowed to long as they continue to refrain from outward displays of pride (hubris).

In fact, the evolution of gay rights and the assimilation of homosexuals into society mirrors the process whereby outward demonstrations of racism became unacceptable and the laws that institutionalized it were removed. Regardless, the deep seated sources of racism have yet to be extinguished...just as will be the case with homophobia as gays achieve equal status. In the end, while legislative equality may prohibit certain acts of racism or homophobia, it can rarely remove the ingrained bias that can still be expressed without recourse.

In the following videos, The Daily Show uses humor to uncover and expose elements of this very phenomenon. Though the state often acts appropriately to correct institutional injustice, elections remind us that the state is woefully unable to halt the long standing bias that is frequently exhibited in the ballot box. While our judicial structure makes it increasingly difficult to legislate bias once it's been identified and purged, democracy, by its nature, can do little to extinguish it in the individual.

The 2008 election will have a winner and a loser based upon the votes of the people...and history will undoubtedly record it as a valid democratic election. As is often the case, history will also note the validity found in the commentary and cultural observations of the time...which will include satirical programs like The Daily Show that sought to highlight the bias that democracy is unable to expunge from the individual.

In the end, the objective of an enlightened society ought be to endeavor to mitigate the lingering bias of the individual at the same time that it prohibits its legislative imposition by the state. Only then will our elections actually be about the issues and not about the skin color, the sexual orientation, or the gender of the candidate.

Wyatt Cenac Visits With Jewish Seniors In Florida

Larry Wilmore: Bad Timing For A Black President?

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» Is This Race All About The Race? from
Democracy can remove institutional bias but it can do little to extinguish our individual prejudices. The U.S. continues to make progress with the former…but the 2008 election may demonstrate the degree to which we have failed to correct the latter. [Read More]

Tracked on July 27, 2008 12:58 PM

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