Commentary: No, Blacks Don't Just Support Obama Because He's Black

Commentary: No, Blacks Don't Just Support Obama Because He's Black

Despite the fact that this question seems to come up at least once a year, it bears repeating that Blacks have a long history of supporting Democrats, not just Black democrats.

Published October 16, 2012

It’s a new election year with Barack Obama as a candidate, and you know what that means: It’s time for the media to speculate about whether Black people vote for Obama just because he’s Black. That’s the exact question posed in a new Associated Press story, in fact, whose headline reads, “Do black people support Obama because he's black?”

Writes AP National Reporter Jesse Washington:

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.

As we’ve said in this very space, letting Stacey Dash vote as her heart tells her, which is what Washington references in this passage when he discusses the “black actress,” is important. But African-Americans decrying Dash for voting Republican has little to no bearing on whether Blacks vote for Obama out of racial solidarity. And as for the question of whether Blacks vote out of racial solidarity, well, they don’t. PostBourgie’s Gene Demby gets to the heart of why this accusation — despite its tenacity — remains silly no matter how many times someone brings it up:

If only there was just some history of Black voters casting ballots for presidential candidates who weren’t Black! That 88 percent of Black voters who sided with John Kerry in the 2004 general? A fluke. The 90 percent of Black voters who cast ballots for Al Gore in 2000? Outliers, prolly. The 83 and 84 percent of Black voters who voted for Bill Clinton, the 89 percent who favored Michael Dukakis in 1988, the 91 percent who rode with Mondale in 1984 or the 83 percent that voted for Carter in 1980 and 1976?

In other words, there’s a long history of Black voters choosing the Democratic presidential candidate over the Republican presidential candidate by wide margins, even when that candidate is a white man. Do Blacks perhaps feel a slight affinity for Obama they may not have for a white president? Probably. But a slight affinity is far different from wholesale, zombie-like, racially motivated support. Let’s stop pretending that they’re at all alike.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Written by Cord Jefferson


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