Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Should We Vote for President Obama Because He is Black?

The Washington Post reports that:
Even as Obama and his campaign play down the suggestion that support among African Americans is flagging, a cadre of powerful allies is snapping back at critics in the black community and making explicit appeals for racial loyalty.

“Let’s not even deal with the facts right now. Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride — and loyalty,” Joyner wrote on his BlackAmericaWeb.com blog. “We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man.”....

But the focus on sticking together has prompted criticism from some who call it an overly simplistic view that shuts off dialogue about Obama’s achievements and his failures.

“It truncates vibrant conversation in the black community,” said Eddie Glaude Jr., a professor of religion and African American studies at Princeton University. “What I hear them saying is, ‘Black folk need to get in lock step because we don’t want Republicans to take the White House.’ There is a kind of disciplining of the black polity that doesn’t lend itself to a vibrant and detailed consideration about political issues.”

The calls for racial solidarity have not come from the White House, and Obama has been careful to speak in broad terms, even when talking about how his policies have helped African Americans. At the same time, his campaign has welcomed the support of black media figures. Those “validators” make clear that they back the president’s policies, and a White House aide noted that their support is deeper than the color of Obama’s skin. “You don’t see them supporting Herman Cain or Alan Keyes,” the aide said....

Sharpton said he learned an important lesson about supporting black politicians in the early 1990s, when David Dinkins, who was New York’s first black mayor, was running for reelection. Sharpton criticized Dinkins’s “deliberative” style and thought his policies were not progressive enough. Dinkins was hurt by the diminished enthusiasm and turnout among black voters.

“We beat up on him. He went down and we ended up with eight years of Rudy Giuliani,” said Sharpton, who has been among Obama’s most aggressive supporters. “I said I’ll never make that mistake again.”
This article raises interesting political and philosophical issues. Here are my thoughts.

It is inappropriate for African American radio hosts and commentators to urge their listeners and viewers to vote for President Obama just because he is black. Such appeals tread dangerously close to demagogy and prejudice. If a white person urged their listeners and viewers to vote for a candidate because the candidate is white, the black blogosphere would strongly condemn that person as a racist.

Rather than appealing to the intellect of the listeners, such arguments appeal to the emotions. They reinforce and perpetuate the false and stereotypical notion that African Americans are politically unsophisticated people who vote for candidates based on race, not policy.

Instead of telling listeners and viewers to support the President based upon his skin color, Tom Joyner and other African American public figures should provide substantive reasons as to why African Americans should continue to support President Obama. They should be able explain how President's policies have improved or will improve the lives of African Americans. If they are unable to do that, they need to just be quiet and let more qualified individuals fulfill that role.

Such appeals are problematic for another reason. While surrogates such as Warren Ballentine and Tom Joyner urge voters to support the President because he is black, the President continues to speak in broad, non-racial terms. He continues to propose general policies, without developing targeted policies designed to address the disproportionate unemployment and poverty in the African American community.

Sadly, when people make such arguments, they are quickly dismissed as "haters" and told that Obama "isn't just the President of black Americans."

In sum, we must be interests driven, not personality or pigment driven. Otherwise, our issues will never be addressed.

This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.


  1. Liberism is a Mental Disorder. Where was the Black supoort for Allen Keyes when he need it???????????
    All Americans FIRST period!

  2. Like Herman Cain, Alan Keyes' positions on the issues are contrary to the interests of black people. Consequently, Keyes and Cain will never receive the same level of support from the black community as Obama.