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Obama's Candidacy and Racism

Kevin Merida wrote a front-page story earlier this week reporting that Sen. Barack Obama's "phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president."

That story has been at or near the top of readership on since it appeared late Monday night and has generated more than 3,300 comments from our readers, an unusually high number. The comments include the usual nonsense, partisan sniping and name-calling that comes from our regulars on political stories; they include some blatantly racist or otherwise inappropriately worded remarks, some of which we have deleted. Some reflect significant anger. Some straightforwardly address campaign issues. But the comments also include thoughtful discussion about race in America, a subject that needs more thoughtful discussion.

Some of our readers argue that since blacks tend to vote for blacks, that makes them as racist as whites voting for whites. The negative impact the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has had on the Obama campaign echoes in several remarks. Some of our readers state that racism is declining as older generations die out. Some worry about both the political future of the country and express concern about the state of the nation. Others complain about the existence of the story itself, seeing it as another example of WaPo going into the tank for a candidate or issue. Throughout this campaign -- and sometimes even on the same story -- our readers who comment have accused Post reporters of backing all three of the seriously surviving presidential candidates.

We'll start with LucyPorter, who said, "I had similar experiences when making calls to voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania for Obama. I heard everything from "I just don't feel comfortable voting for people like that," to "I'll never vote for a black man." I realize that these people are out there, but I really hope they're not in control of our political future."

Tupac_Goldstein wrote, "Racism also raises its ugly head when 90 percent of black democrats vote for Obama."

And cm-atl responded, "Mr. Goldstein: Why is it racism when 90% of the black folks vote for Obama and not racism when 90% of white folks vote for a white candidate? What is the difference?..."

woody21 said, "...When the Black community overwhelmingly votes for Bill Clinton they are Democrats - when they vote for Barack Obama they are racists."

amadeus56 suggested, "...this election will be about race. If Hillary was the nominee, it would be about gender. The country is not yet ready for a minority president, or a woman president."

vancouver1999 said, "It's a generational divide. Many recent books and studies show this. Students today in schools and colleges are interacting in a more diverse culture and embrace that fact as the beauty of America. Many others, mostly older, did not grow up with the diversity of today, therefore, they are simply scared. Sad, sad, sad in 2008."

tellthetruth wrote, "Whether you're an Obama supporter or a Clinton supporter, articles like this have to make you a little sad for the future of this country...and even more determined. This election is an incredible opportunity to turn around the nation's course--regardless of who the nominee is... If we can't get past our differences, we're sunk."

hjmartin said, "...the generations behind us are benefiting from the slow, sure, progress that society inevitably makes - the greatest example of which is the place where we find Sen. Obama today. The young adults we know who are politically active couldn't give a rip about Obama's race; indeed most of them seem oblivious to it... Yes, there are racists out there, but they are a pitiful and dwindling lot."

jd-winterbottom, wrote "...Racism is being set up by Obama as an excuse for losing a key demographic... He cannot connect with blue collar voters, but that's not his fault - it's THEIR fault because they are racist. Obama through his surrogates and his fawning lackeys in the press tars a majority of the electorate as racist, simply because they do not favor him with their vote. These are the tactics of this snake oil salesman..."

Ploughshares said, "...We seem to use two modes to look at ourselves. One mode shows cherished images of us as a kind people without a bigoted bone in our bodies while the other strips away the camouflage and reveals stark racism, even cruelty, which don't match some people's picture of us as nation. Each one of us decides which mode is serviceable for an honest look at America."

Georgetowner1 wrote, "The color Of Senator Obama's skin is not what scares me. It is his naive foreign policy views. It is his uninformed plans for universal healthcare (which the middleclass will pay for). It is his elitist statements that imply people "cling to their religion" out of fear, not faith."

knight1977 said, "Oh I see. The Post is going to frame the issue in a way that anyone that doesn't like Obama is a racist..."

To which Gary12 responded, "Oh, please. I've heard countless people say they would NEVER vote for Obama... bacause he is black. The Post is reporting FACT. Get your head out of the sand, look in the mirror and face your own racism."

garryh wrote, "This is why Senator Obama would be a turning point for this country as the next President... The best thing that could happen in American is for a man born part of each community to be President. He is not wholly black, he is not wholly white, he is what America is, a mixture of what makes America the greatest nation on earth. But we will not continue to hold that spot if we cannot get past our own outdated, and indefensible prejudices..."

fairfaxvoter said, "...if a voter votes against a black candidate because they would never vote for any black candidate, that is voting "against," not "for." It is indeed racism. If a voter decides he or she hates the idea of a Jew in office and would never vote for one, that's anti-Semitism. And if a voter thinks a woman should never be elected and votes for a man only to keep her out of office, that's sexism... Please don't use the surge of black voter support for Obama, the exact equivalent of Catholic support for Kennedy or Southern support for Jimmy Carter, to justify racial slurs, anti-black voting, race baiting of Obama volunteers, or vandalism. It's just not the same thing."

expat1 said, "...Face it folks, if you want to live in a safe neighborhood then choose a white one. If you want your children to learn then don't send them to a majority black school. If you want quick service at the check out then use the white cashier."

krogersmd wrote, "...Here, again, we have the race card being played, this time by the media... Obama has injected race into this campaign, looking for every opportunity to cry racism even when he had to make it up... If he ends up losing, it won't be the racists to blame--it will only be himself."

dyck21005 said, "...Now we hear pained remarks from the Obama camp that many white men won't vote for any black. Oh really? No one was complaining during the early races in Iowa, Maryland, Virginia and Wisconsin, when most of the white male participants backed Obama. That was before the Rev. Jeremiah Wright ugliness became public..."

kennysgirl wrote, "...For one moment in time... we have a candidate who represents hope for change, a good thing for healing in this country where so many of our forefathers and ancestors gave their lives, and we are proud to be alive to see this moment. So what you see is not racism, but pride in being able to witness, participate, and support this historical moment... I too want to get past the old way and heal, for our children so that their lives can be better."

tlrasnic, said, "The great (or not) thing about America is that we have the absolute right to be as prejudice as we please...I truly hope Barack Obama is elected President so that the red necks & racists can see that when the skin is ignored, we are all Americans from somewhere else."

Last word goes to BadMuthaEffer who wrote, "This campaign says more about the paranoia of Americans.. scared of everything different; and thats all anyone has to do in order to pull the wool over your eyes, just to simply suggest there is a boogie-man out there waiting to get you.. whether its a jewish person, a homosexual person, a brown skinned person, a non-christian person, a country with no nuclear arms... anything. The American way: "Its different? Well then lets kill it..." Stop being so afraid, you might be surprised; these supposed 'boogiemen (or women)' may actually be good for you...."

All comments on Merida's article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  May 15, 2008; 7:42 AM ET
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