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The 800-Pound Elephant September 15, 2008

Posted by Kate Ryan in National Politics, Racism.
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According to the most recent polling data, the Republicans’ naming Sarah Palin to their presidential ticket has caused white, working-class women (“Wal-Mart” Moms”) to support McCain in droves.  It apparently has  caused a break toward McCain in the white working-class in general.  The pivotal question is – Why?  How could the placement of an inadequately qualified Governor of a sparsely-populated state change everything so quickly?  The answer is race; the 800-pound elephant in the room that everybody sees, but nobody will confront.

I come from the “white working-class” and I have many friends and relatives that are part of it.  I can tell you with some authority that what bothers these people about casting a vote for Obama is that he is black.  Some of these folks will freely admit their racism, most of them do not want to discuss it.  [sidebar:  When my husband and I talked about this the other day, he said, “But Obama’s not BLACK.  He’s bi-racial.”  News flash, my dear, in these United States, bi-racial IS black.]  These are the folks that will say, “I just cant put my finger on it, but I just don’t like him” or “I don’t know enough about him” or “he’s no different than McCain at all”.  I just shake my head in disbelief.  This campaign has been going on for almost two years.  If you can;t identify what you don’t like about the man, or you don’t know enough about him, or you think he’s like McCain – you’re either a moron or a racist.  Since most of the working-class folks that I know are NOT morons…….

The Republican party KNOWS this about the working-class voter.  They exposed themselves when they voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in PA, WV, KY, and OH.  The GOP is out there exploiting this for all it is worth.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s start by examining the GOP convention.   I don’t know about you, but when the television cameras focused on the attendees, all I saw was a homogeneous sea of white faces.  I read a statistic that less than 6% of the GOP convention delegates were minorities.  I even think that 6% is too high!  

Then, there were the speeches.  What made me particularly gasp were the sneering references to “community organizer.”  Everyone who is one step above a slug on the intelligence chain knows that a “community organizer” is a scary black person in an inner city.  It’s Al Sharpton; it’s Jesse Jackson.  The way they said it, they may as well have been saying “shiftless, uppity N-word.”  It took my breath away to see a whole room full of people who just the day before had said they were committed to service (by soliciting donations for hurricane victims), dripping venom and spitting out the words “community organizer.”

Then there was the emphasis on “small-town” values.  Can anyone explain what a “small-town” value is?  Is it taking care of and helping your families and neighbors, working for good schools, and keeping our community safe and healthy?  If it is, we care about that in cities, too.  I don’t think our values in the city are any different than yours in East Podunk.  What I do think is that the phrase “small-town values” equals white values – because every racist knows that only white people work hard, take care of their families and children, and care about their communities.  And what kind of people overwhelmingly live in small towns?  White people.

I was worried about racism affecting Obama’s success from the very beginning.  Early on in the campaign, I was discussing this with a family member who said, “Oh, I don’t know.  If he gets to be president, he’ll just be a president for the blacks.  Those blacks just want everything.”  I asked what was wrong with wanting everything.  Didn’t he want everything for his family and children?  He couldn’t answer.  What Sarah Palin does for voters like my family member is give them an out.  They can vote against their best interests for another Bush Republican and they can still say that they are progressive.  How sad.

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1. Racists, Republicans, and Negroes « Kate’s Kitchen Table - December 30, 2008

[…] September 15, I posted a column entitled “The 800-Pound Elephant” regarding white working class voters and incipient racism.  At the time, I was concerned about […]


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