Sunday, October 12, 2008

Race as an Election Factor

By Alan Caruba

I find it remarkable that so little attention has been paid to the role of race in the 2008 election, especially since, for the first time in the nation’s history, one of the parties has nominated a man who, though biracial, identifies himself as Afro-American or Black.

Throughout most of America’s elections, race was a factor, going all the way back to the way opponents of Thomas Jefferson spread rumors of a relationship between him and his slave, Sally Hemmings. Turned out the rumors were true, but Jefferson became our third president anyway.

Slavery, a racial and moral issue, would eventually lead to a rupture among the states, much as the Founding Fathers had feared when they created the Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederacy. A Civil War would be fought to settle the matter. What followed was a century of suppression of blacks and a resistance, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, that would erupt in the 1960s.

A lot of people, following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, concluded that at last America had put the issue of race and bias behind it. Not so. The vast majority of those in poverty today are descendents of those Black Americans who were granted a further layer of protection of their constitutional rights in the 1960s.

Add to them a whole new layer of society in the form of a huge influx of illegal aliens, primarily Mexicans and those of Hispanic descent, some of whom were granted citizenship via an amnesty in 1986. A second effort to provide amnesty to an estimated twelve million illegal aliens was defeated in 2006 due to a massive public outcry.

In a new book, “Segregation: The Rising Costs for America”, its authors argue that, “By the middle of this century, today’s minorities will constitute half of the U.S. population and that fast-growing population is disproportionately impoverished, ill-housed, poorly educated, and tenuously linked to labor markets.”

The book was published just as the financial system of the nation crashed, due almost entirely to laws that required mortgage loans, called sub-prime, be made to minorities in order that they be able to live in homes that they could not afford.

Thus, a liberal program based on the view that the poor have a “right” to live beyond their means has created a crisis that has destroyed several banks and investment firms, and imperiled one of the nation’s largest insurance firms. Much of the value of stocks has been lost as well. This is a financial crisis that is the direct result of a foolish notion that was entirely rooted in the politics of race.

The problems associated with crime in America are largely rooted in race and the failure to stem the tide of illegal aliens. The nation’s jails are filled with minorities. A recent study indicates that one out of every nine Black males, aged 20 to 34, is behind bars. Hispanics make up a third of those incarcerated. By 2003, the nation’s prison population had passed two million.

It is one thing to open doors to opportunity. It is quite another to get people to walk through them. In the case of the illegal aliens, even the fences at the border could not keep them out and, once here, they are instant criminals breaking our immigration laws.

One man, Barack Obama, has risen to challenge for the highest position in the land. He has been received by cheering crowds. And he is indisputably Black.

I think it would be a great mistake to think that Barack Obama’s racial identity would contribute to a reduction in any of the social problems afflicting America’s Black community. If anything, a Democrat controlled Congress is likely to repeat and exacerbate the same kinds of mistakes that produced the current financial crisis.

Indeed, just as politicians used race in former times to influence the outcome of an election, Obama is the consummate politician and will do the same. If anything, Obama’s race, if he is elected, could lead to unrealistic expectations and possibly even social unrest.

Some may vote for him out of “white guilt” over offenses done to Blacks in a previous era, but no one living today ever owned a slave. Those whites who grew up in the segregated South, as often as not will tell you they were as trapped in its constrictions as Blacks. Most are glad to see the Jim Crow era gone.

But in countless ways segregation is not gone and it is practiced every day on a purely voluntary basis. Watch how students segregate themselves by race in a high school cafeteria. Watch how their parents segregate themselves by race when they attend church on Sunday. Watch how the two races tend to congregate in largely separate sections of a community.

Segregation or human nature? Discrimination or the choice of people to live among those who share their race, their heritage, their values, their culture? There is a historic reason one can visit San Francisco’s or New York’s famed China Towns. Depending on where you live recent tides of Russians, Asians and of course Hispanics have created their own “towns.”

Remember, too, that even in Congress there is a Black Caucus. On October 12 Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and veteran of the civil rights movement, said that the negative tone of the Republican presidential campaign reminded him of the hateful atmosphere that segregationist Gov. George Wallace fostered in Alabama in the 1960s. It doesn’t get more absurd than that. The politics of race is alive and well.

If anything, I think whites can take a bow. They have proved themselves capable of eliminating the barriers that previously existed for racial minorities. A lot of white people voted for Obama in the primaries; more than voted for Hillary Clinton.

What barriers exist appear to be endemic to the vast majority of America’s Black community, long passed the marches of the 1960s, long past the 1995 Million Man March, and now, if Obama is elected, soon to be launched into an era where there will be no one left to blame.


denialator said...

Well put! If the truth be said, we've long sinced passed the point at which this salient reality would satisfy the racist minorities.

The mere fact that we have nominated a member of a minority, albeit a self-proclaimed member, as a candidate for President & CEO of our nation should demonstrate and prove, without doubt, the lack of racial barrier based on background or color, the only dividing line in question to my recollection. Whether or not this candidate wins the election is immaterial and academic, at this point.

Alan Caruba said...

Good points. It's likely that just being black is not enough of a qualification for the job. ;-)