Black People Supporting Obama Because of Color – Good or Bad?
(ThyBlackMan.com) Sometimes I have random thoughts while sitting and waiting for other things to happen: I come to a realization about politics while I’m at the grocery store, or I’ll figure out the meaning of life while doing my laundry. I’m always thinking, probably a bit too much. Today, the question that came to mind was the one being asked at TheGrio.com, which is “Do black people back President Obama because he’s black?”
One could easily argue that such a question is both intriguing and insulting. It’s intriguing because no presidential candidate has ever received the level of black support that’s been given to President Obama. To disconnect this massive outpouring of political affection from the color of his skin would be nothing short of nonsensical. President Obama could drop drones on little babies, back ideas that are in direct contrast to biblical principles and damn near join the KKK without losing black support (I’m sure Al Sharpton would give him credit for diversifying the Klan). The consistent language coming from Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey and every other black public figure in Obama’s camp is not based on policy decisions or sound logic. Instead, the message is “If you don’t support Obama, if you demand anything from him or if you question him in any way, you’re nothing but a sellout.”
The reason that the question is insulting is because it presumes that African Americans can’t think for themselves. Both Democrats and Republicans rarely give African Americans credit for being able to make our own decisions, support our own candidates and advocate for our own issues. It’s as if the Democratic agenda is handed to black people every year, and we’re expected to eat it up like pigs on a farm. This is White Supremacy 101 rearing its ugly head once again.
The question being asked here reminds me of a debate I had with a wonderful judge from the south. We were discussing the Obama presidency in an open forum during an Eastern European cruise hosted by the National Professionals Network. The audience was full of Obama supporters, some of whom (sadly) booed down a woman who said she was voting for Mitt Romney. I don’t like Romney either, but the degree to which you value democracy is measured by your ability to tolerate ideas which differ from your own. This test was failed miserably.
Someone asked the judge on stage with me if African Americans support President Obama because he’s black. Her immediate answer was clearly, “No.”
The judge said, “If that were true, we would have supported Clarence Thomas and Allen West, and they’re black too.” After hearing the thunderous applause from the audience after the judge’s remarks, I noticed that she failed to mention one important fact: Thomas and West are both REPUBLICANS and Obama is a Democrat.
So, are black people supporting Barack Obama just because he’s black? No, they are not. But millions of African Americans support him because he is a black Democrat who has been given enough support from white folks to be given a chance to win. Before President Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the Iowa primary during the 2008 presidential election, most black people weren’t going to give him their vote. But after he appeared to have support from white America, we felt that we had “permission” to support him.
So, in many ways, African Americans are getting their man, but their man is the top pick primarily because he’s been validated by white America. Getting into the White House, no matter how it is accomplished, is the holy grail of black achievement for some folks who’ve been trained to believe that having access to predominantly white institutions is the key to gaining equality. So, in some ways, we still live in a world where we are tempted to feel that validation from the descendants of our historical oppressor is necessary for us to make the choices that are best for our own lives. This is NOT a post-racial society.