Dog, It Ain't The Same: The Myth Of The Black Racist Voter

One very foolish meme that's made it's way into the primary is this notion that black people voting for Barack in large margins is the equivalent (or on the scale of racism, arguably worse) of white people breaking for Hillary in similar margins. I doubt that anyone who reads this blog thinks like that, and truthfully, I haven't seen it in any of the blogs I read. It's one of those notions that you hear from beefheads like Joe Scarborough or in the Huffington Post comment section. I know, I know, those sources are roughly equal in credibility, but I just want to venture a quick response.

Blacks have been voting for whites for president since they've gotten the vote. There is no question about black people's ability to vote for a white man for president. Even in cases when blacks have a so-called black leader in the actual race, they still--in crucial times--have voted for the white guy. This is why it was patently foolish to infer that Latinos voting for Hillary were racist, when in fact Latinos had supported black candidates on several occasions.

Whites enjoy no such record. Whereas we have several anecdotal reports of folks categorically voting against Obama because he's black, I've yet to hear a black voter say she couldn't vote for Hillary--under any circumstance--because she's white. Part of that is function of numbers--there have been way more white candidates than black. But white Democrats rarely have to worry about being able to attract the black vote when running for national or state-wide office, it's black Dems who have to worry about the white vote. The lone exceptions are in mayoral races in big cities where whites are a minority. I imagine a white Democrat running for mayor of Atlanta or D.C. would be at something of a disadvantage. But nationally, white Democrats haven't worried about the black vote in probably half a century.

Furthermore, the black support of Obama hasn't been knee-jerk. Whereas Obama would likely never have competed for the white vote in West Virginia, Hillary actually was competing for the black vote in several states. This Time story, beginning with the phrase "There is no doubt Barack Obama can appeal to white audiences," (Oh how things--or media narratives--quickly change), goes on to note the reverence black women hold for Hillary Clinton, and shows Clinton's support among blacks as nearly DOUBLE Barack Obama's. Some of this was unfair. In that piece, you'll see a lot of weak, opportunistic, short-sighted machine pols talking smack. Furthermore, the support for Hillary really reflected a sense that Obama wasn't serious. Listen to this laughable bit of defeatism:

Robert Ford, a South Carolina state senator, said supporting Obama was too risky for the Democratic Party. "Obama would need 43% of the white vote in some states to win, and that's humanly impossible," said Ford.

That isn't the statement of a loyal Clintonite, as much as the foolish musings of political hack. Ford is the wise-guy who claimed Obama's candidacy would cause everybody else to loose. Obama, of course, responded not by talking, but by beating Clinton in Ford's district. Anyway, Hillary's problems began as soon as Obama won Iowa. It was basically a wrap after Bill Clinton's made that foolish Jesse Jackson remark.

Now, all of that said, I want to say something in defense of white folks. I know I don't do this much, so guys gather around. White voters are not all the same. It's really been enlightening for me to watch Obama's share of the white vote change state by state. It's really obliterated this idea that all white people everywhere think the same about blacks. It's even obliterated the only slightly more nuanced idea that white voters in the South are somehow more racist than white voters in the North. What does it mean that Ohio and Wisconsin whites voted so differently? What do we take from the idea that Obama lost the white vote in Pennsylvania but won it Virginia?

Well, quite a bit as my super-intelligent commenters have pointed out. It seems that it isn't even a matter of poor whites versus rich whites, or educated whites versus non-educated whites, although all of that factors in. We've seen that the percentage of black folks doesn't really make a difference either. There is something beautiful in this, because you see a complexity in the great monolith that is often simply labeled White America. It's a complexity that, as a black person, I often miss. Even the one simple fact buried inside is beautiful--the biggest predictor of the white vote seems to be age. The point? The racists aren't the future. We are.