(Yawn) Obama’s elephant in the room, again

By Kydalla Etheyo Young

A while back, George Will complained of the national media’s obsession with Obama’s least interesting feature: the color of his skin. Of course, we should be deeply proud of the progress that allowed Obama’s success as another glass ceiling verges on collapse, but we have far more pressing concerns to address independent of the next president’s skin color. Pundits have recently amplified their warning that white racism among Democrats and Independents could cause Obama’s defeat in an especially close race. Nicholas Kristof recently suggested that concerns about Obama’s religious background are often proxies for white racial prejudice. In that vein, I strongly suspect that Obama would fare far worse in the polls if he, like McCain, were prone to geopolitical gaffes and sudden ideological shifts on issues, and chose, having met him once or twice, a “folksy” running mate who reveled in his lack of a “big, fat resume,” with a sophomoric grasp of America’s domestic and international challenges.

No Democratic presidential candidate, however, has won a majority of the white electorate since 1964, and Obama has the same level of white support as the previous two Democratic presidential candidates. Recently, Donna Brazille noted that the profiles of whites that don’t support Obama resemble those of whites that don’t support Democrats overall. Instead of focusing on the minority of whites who wouldn’t vote for Obama simply because he’s black, she suggested that we pay more attention to the majority that would, and get THEM to the voting booths. Whether or not some dwindling portion of white Americans is ready for the inevitable unfolding of history is irrelevant: it is only when the informed portion of Americans (of ALL colors) becomes apathetic that such an unfolding is stalled. That has nothing to do with race.

Kydalla Etheyo Young

graduate student