Should We Vote for President Obama Because He is Black?


Written by Anson Asaka, Jack & Jill Politics

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 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 post was originally published by Jack & Jill Politics.


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SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

It's racist for a black community to decide to vote or not vote for a candidate because of the color of his/her skin. Goes to show that racism can occur amongst people of any color.

Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian6 years ago

I agree with most of the article. My only disagreement is that I do not believe the current president's policies have helped. If his supporters are unable to make the case that they have, then they might need to do more than just wait for someone more knowledgeable to do so.

I ran the statistics on government-spending, revenues, and GDP-growth (adjusted for inflation). Stimulus doesn't just fail to help. It appears to hurt under normal conditions. There is a negative correlation between spending and growth no matter which way I run the time-delay. It's weak, but it appear in every decade since the 1950s (after the adjustment back from the wartime economy) except the 1970s. The stimulus spending failed not because there wasn't enough, but just because stimulus-spending never works.

His foreign policy, selling out Poland for nothing, apparently dropping the ball on Iran, not even looking at North Korea, going into Libya with no clear interest, etc. are not a reason to support him either. He got operational victories against Al-Qaeda from policies put in place by Bush, but mostly not from things he actually did.

Sadly, I'm not entirely convinced any of the Republican candidates are better.

Lika S.
Lika P6 years ago

Voting for someone because of their skin color? That is so shallow and asinine that it's NOT funny! I am not black. I voted for Obama because he was the face of change I was hoping for in the last election. Of course I thought Hilary was a better candidate, but, she wasn't on the ballot. Out of the choices we had, he was the best choice because of his stance. Black had nothing to do with why I voted for him.

Yvette S.
Past Member 6 years ago

If we wanted any narrow minded person black or white, either gender, touting for the rich, and/or religious zealotry we could vote for any Republican presently duking it out to the primaries.

If we wanted someone intelligent and, regardless of color, gender, touting to pass a jobs bill, and taxing the rich, with a distinct lack of religious zealotry we can vote for Obama. Seems simple to me.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle6 years ago

Agree completely with Ira L.'s comments. The major reason President Obama hasn't been able to complete a more progressive agenda, is because of the total lock-step animosity of the repub Congress, and more so, since the 2010 tea party candidates were voted in. To say that racism has been rampant, is an understatement.

Ira L.
Ellie L6 years ago

I am white. I voted for Obama because of his attributes, brilliance and compassion. I don't think of him as "Black," only racists do that. I will vote for President Obama to be reelected, not because he's Black, but because considering what he accomplished with a racist, obstructionist republican congress, he's done outstandingly well, and will do even better when all the tbagger/republicans are voted OUT of office so he can fulfill his promises to the American people and protect the Middle Class. Obama 2012

Lilliana G.
Lilliana Garcia6 years ago

A mi me tiene sin cuidado el color de la persona , hay miles millones de gente que no quiere a ninguno por ser negro , homosexual , porque tiene una religion contraria , etc. etc. yo Voy a Votar por Mr. Obama porque el esta tratando de sacar adelante mi pais (USA) , porque le tiran tanto y cada vez que quiere solucionar un problema le dan un jake , porque ? los republicanos lo unico que saben hacer es llevarle la contraria al presidente ellos no viven , ellos suenan con el dia siguiente para darles un golpe contrario al presidente ...como quieren que el senor presidente salga adelante ? no hay ayuda de nada , esa es la razon que votare todos democratas , esa es la razon que votare por Mr. Obama arriva Mr. Obama , es negro ? no me habia dado cuenta

Christine Stewart
Christine S6 years ago

I am voting for Obama because he is a Democrat. i know things suck right now, but don't believe for a second we would be better off with the Republicans. (or we might seem better off, but the environment would have been raped to shreds in the process...)

Nancy L.
Nancy L6 years ago

How completely racist to vote for someone because of their race!!

Beth Davis
Beth D6 years ago

David V, you are so misimformed! Or perhaps under-informed. Foreign policy - killed bin laden, killed the 2nd in command, kodaphy now dead. Ended with Libya not losing any lives, it's over..getting out of afganistan, and iraq by years end. Saved the US from another great depression, saved the auto industry, and the many smaller industries tied to auto manuacturing. You know, the list goes on, however, I feel like I'm talking into a vast wasteland where the truth and facts are not acknowledged or understood, simply because it doesn't fit the right's views and opinions. I feel sorry for you choosing to be closed-minded, there's so much more to life. When you open your mind, you open your soul and that's good. You are open to new ideas and possibly progress can be made to improve, well, anything.