Black people are simply not in the picture in this part of Colorado. What that means, said many people in the nearly all-white corridor through Chaffee and Lake Counties along the spine of the Rockies, is that race is not on the table much when talk turns to Senator Barack Obama’s bid for the White House.
“Because there’s not any sort of daily interaction to sway us either way, to make us prejudiced in either direction, it makes it more of a candidate choice,” said Laurie Benson, 36, who owns the Buena Vista Roastery, a coffee supplier on Main Street, with her husband, Joel. “It’s more just who is the best candidate.”
But in a sign of the limits of tolerance, some white voters also expressed a vague fear that if they did experience daily life in black America, their opinion of black people might change for the worse.
Peggy MacKay, a 63-year-old supporter of Mr. Obama and resident of Buena Vista, tried recently to imagine an alternative universe. What if she lived instead in an urban neighborhood where race, poverty and crime were the backdrop of life? Would she still vote for a black man?
“If I were an inner-city person, and I was confronted with those problems every day, I would hope that I could rise above it,” said Ms. MacKay, a corporate consultant and trainer. “To be honest, I don’t know that I could.”
Hugh Neas, a retired engineering worker who described himself as a Republican (he supported President Bush in 2000 and Senator John Kerry in 2004, and he plans to vote for Mr. Obama in November), said that voting for a black man was simply easier in a place where social problems were divorced from a discussion of race. He said he had been thinking lately of a police officer friend who took a job in a black neighborhood in Los Angeles years ago and came out a racial bigot.