Politico: Labor confronts race issue

Politico

Labor confronts race issue

Since Barack Obama gave a dramatic speech on the subject of race this spring, the issue has lingered over the election, a quiet, awkward factor that the candidates, their campaigns and their surrogates have brushed aside or would rather not talk about at all.

But there’s one place the “national conversation” Obama suggested in March is taking place: among white, Rust Belt union workers, who generally voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary. Their leaders have led a large-scale, direct and under-the-radar conversation about some members’ discomfort with a black Democratic nominee.

“I think a lot of people expected when he made that speech about a national conversation about race that it would be formalized,” Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in a telephone interview from Ohio. “In the labor movements and unions and the way they are composed, it just became a reality.

“Some of our own people had never experienced anything like this before, so the dialogue did take place, the conversation did take place,” he said.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 in Philadelphia, for instance, mailed out a plastic MP3 player to members that featured 60 minutes of local union workers and leaders offering testimonials on Obama’s commitment to labor. 

“This election is not a personality contest, nor should it be about race. So let’s talk about that and get it out of the way right now. The fact that Sen. McCain is white and Sen. Obama is black should not matter. Though I know for some of you it does. You are not alone,” says Local 98 head John Dougherty, through a thick Philadelphia accent. “Don’t let the color of a man’s skin prevent you from doing the right thing. I know Barack Obama. I know him to be a man of great character and conviction.”

Other unions have sent out DVDs to members with the same message.

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Racism wildly overblown in presidential campaign

Racism wildly overblown in presidential campaign

But this othering is more diabolically potent this time because it’s about race, right? No, actually, that’s wrong. The assumption that an inner racist demon lurks latent and uncontrollable in the souls of all white Americans, waiting to jump to the Republican dog whistle, is simply untrue.

Europeans, so easily prone to condescension when talking about Americans, should not throw stones from inside their glass houses. Nor should journalists, who too often use the lazy cliché that, in the privacy of the polling booth, white Americans will do the opposite of what they say they will do.

Barack Obama is not the black candidate. He is the Democratic candidate. He is not just the representative of an ethnic group that has never even been close to winning the presidency. He is also the nominee of a party that has become something of an expert at losing it. That is the reason why, next Tuesday, American voters face a double choice – electing a president of a race they have not previously voted for and, at least as important on the day, electing a president from a party they rarely vote for in modern times either.

Look at it this way. Obama may or may not have a problem getting white Americans to vote for him. But he is doing much better than most of his recent Democratic predecessors ever managed among such voters. In 2004, white Americans split 61 per cent for Bush and 38 per cent for Kerry. Four years before that, they went 57 per cent to Bush and 40 per cent to Gore. In both 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton had a one-point lead among white people. Four years before that, George Bush Sr beat Dukakis by 20 points. Against that historical backcloth, Obama’s onepoint lead over McCain among white voters in the most recent New York Times-CBS poll looks pretty significant, while his bigger leads among white women, white men under 45 and, especially, white independent voters look potentially like a set of decisive turnabouts from recent Democratic experience.

Yes, there is a lot of evidence from things like implicit association tests that racist assumptions still lurk in millions of white American minds (and European minds too, of course). But that doesn’t mean that racism is the only thing you need to know about such people or that it dominates their minds or that they are incapable of overcoming it.

In particular, it doesn’t mean that, when asked to vote for this black man at this time, they will not do so. Americans have spent a long time getting to know Barack Obama. The evidence is that they like what they see and that they are about to do something both right and great.— Dawn/The Guardian News Service

Ta Nehisi Coates: Max Cleland on the Bradley Effect

Ta Nehisi Coates

Max Cleland on the Bradley Effect 

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder if I’m delusional. I have to admit, who knows more about white people in the South, me or Max Cleland? I know there are GOP pundits who’d disagree, but frankly very few of them are to be trusted on race. That may sound harsh, but I can think on one hand the GOP folks who I’ve seen think about this with some degree of honesty and seriousness. Back to the point, you also wonder how much age is playing into this. Again, this is why I can’t have this debate. I could go back and forth on this all day. Better to focus on what we can control than on whether we’re going to have to play in the rain.

NY Times Campaign Stops: Race and the Suburbs

NY Times Campaign Stops

Race and the Suburbs

Lawrence C. Levy, a former political columnist and senior editorial writer for Newsday, is the executive director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University in New York.

Everybody seems to have an opinion on race and the race, but nobody knows for sure whether Barack Obama’s skin color will hurt or help him in his quest for the presidency. Even the “Bradley Effect” — the theory that a certain number of white voters lie to pollsters when they say they’re supporting a black candidate — has seen its share of defenders and debunkers.

But if the Bradley Effect holds in this election, the place you’re likely to see it the most is home to the voters who matter the most: the suburbs. It’s not that most suburbanites are racist, but rather that they tolerate more manifestations of racial bias than their urban and rural counterparts. What’s more, although minorities (particularly blacks and Hispanics) are moving in greater numbers to the suburbs, these bedroom communities are among the most segregated counties in America.

The problem, according to research by the Brookings Institution, is that minorities moving into the suburbs tend to be lower income families, and they are choosing (or in some cases are forced to for financial reasons) to live in the same communities, creating pockets of poverty in affluent areas. Indeed, a number of recent studies show that the income gap between blacks and whites is greatest in the suburbs.

Talking Points Memo: All From the Same Script

Talking Points Memo

All From the Same Script

From John Judis

“I mention the Bradley effect because I think, too, that McCain and Sarah Palin’s attack against Obama for advocating “spreading the wealth” and for “socialism” and for pronouncing the civil rights revolution a “tragedy” because it didn’t deal with the distribution of wealth is aimed ultimately at white working class undecided voters who would construe “spreading the wealth” as giving their money to blacks. It’s the latest version of Reagan’s “welfare queen” argument from 1980. It if it works, it won’t be because most white Americans actually oppose a progressive income tax, but because they fear that Obama will inordinately favor blacks over them. I don’t doubt that this argument will have some effect, but I suspect it’s too late and that worries about McCain and Republican handling of the economy will overshadow these concerns.”

Just more McCain filth.

Racism Review: Seeing Racial Bias: Barry Dunham vs. Barack Obama

Racism Review

Seeing Racial Bias: Barry Dunham vs. Barack Obama

new studysuggests that names significantly change our perception of a person’s face and their racial identity.

Indeed, if Barack Obama had taken his mother’s last name, Dunham, and used the first name common in his earlier in life, Barry, people today might have a very different perception of him.   The study, called “Barack Obama or Barry Dunham?” and conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales, set out to test the hypothesis that the presence of racially-suggestive names would influence participants’ perception of identical multiracial faces (image from here) .

Participants were shown a face and name for 3 seconds, then asked to rate the appearance of the face on a 9-point scale, where 1=”very Asian-looking” and 9=”very European-looking.”   The researchers found that the study participants rated multi-racial faces with European names as looking significantly “more European” than exactly the same faces when given Asian names.  In an interview, one of the researchers, Kirin Hilliar a UNSW PhD student, summarizes the study’s significance this way:

“The study reveals how socially derived expectations and stereotypes can influence face perception.  The result is consistent with other research findings suggesting that once people categorize a face into a racial group, they look for features consistent with that categorization.”

Racism Review: Hoping for a Bradley Effect?

Racism Review

Hoping for a Bradley Effect?

 

Like so many others at this point, I’m suffering from election fatigue. Despite promising poll numbers, many argue that McCain shouldn’t be counted out .

After wondering why the heck McCain was continuing to campaign in places like Iowa and Pennsylvania, states in which Obama leads on average by double-digits (see this), there seems to be only one explanation: that the McCain campaign is hoping for the Bradley Effect, along with the Wilder Effect.

The former refers to whites lying to pollsters about supporting the black candidate while actually voting for someone else (i.e., the white candidate), while the latter refers to the remaining undecideds to break overwhelmingly for the white candidate. (Thus, it is more accurately called the “white racism effect.”)

In both RCP averages in those states, Obama’s raw score is above 52 percent, meaning that the Wilder Effect alone would be insufficient for McCain to win in those states. So why spend time campaigning there with such little time left before Election Day? Part of the explanation could be that they have nothing left at this point, but why ignore Colorado at this juncture? Turns out that they may be banking on the older white populations of Iowa and Pennsylvania (along with others like Florida and Ohio), while giving up on Colorado (the youngest state in the union).