Newsweek Cover Story on the Effects of Race in Barack Obama’s Presidential Bid
Senator Barack Obama was on the cover of the July 16th issue of Newsweek. The stories in the issue continued a theme of the media's coverage of Sen. Obama's presidential campaign: What Effect Does Race Have on Barack Obama's Bid to be President?
Across the Divide, a story by Richard Wolffe and Daren Briscoe chronicles Obama's juxtaposition of black and white on the campaign trail. There were a number of quotes from the article that struck me:
Barack Obama: I think America is still caught in a little bit of a time warp: the narrative of black politics is still shaped by the '60s and black power. That is not, I think, how most black voters are thinking. I don't think that's how most white voters are thinking.
Michelle Obama: Barack poses this interesting dilemma because we are still a country that puts people in boxes. (He) kind of shakes up those notions because his life has crossed so many different paths. He grew up in Hawaii but he was indeed a community organizer.
Bobby Rush (former Black Panther): You know, Moses could not have been effective had he not been raised as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Moses had a relationship inside the palace, he knew the ways and wherefores of the palace … So therefore he was accepted…
There were also other quotes in the article that struck me:
* Officially, Obama became the earliest presidential candidate to get Secret Service protection because he's attracting such huge crowds. But NEWSWEEK has learned that a key factor in that decision was a string of racist e-mails sent to his Senate office
* He also needs to win the backing of a wide swath of white America. Can he appeal to both black and white, while still being true to himself?
* Obama abruptly changed plans and asked his pastor (Rev. Dr. Jerimiah Wright) not to deliver the invocation prayer(for Obama's official announcement)….in the days before Obama officially launched his campaign, Wright was also caricatured as a "radical" for his Afrocentrism and his focus on black issues.
This is why so many black folks have high blood pressure. African-American's in all walks of life can identify with the idea of leading a dual existence. On the job and at school is different that at home and in church.
Many can relate to the tightrope Obama is walking during this campaign. In many ways he's too black for white folks, and too white for black folks.
However Obama's appeal is widespread, as evidenced by his fundraising prowess. In the 2nd Quarter of this year, Obama raised $32.5 million, $4M ahead of rival Hillary Clinton. What's even more impressive is the fact that the money was donated by 250,000 individuals.
In order to keep the money and supporters rolling in, some of Obama's long time acquaintances may have to remain at arms length. Some of those, like Dr. Wright mentioned above, who helped Obama gain inroads on Chicago's South Side may be seen as liabilities on a national stage. They still have an audience with the senator, but for the moment it's a private one.
The junior senator from Illinois had a good showing at the 98th Annual NAACP Convention. But many in the black community are undecided on Obama, as evidenced by Hillary Clinton's strong support among African-Americans. That support is grounded in former President Bill Clinton's popularity among black voters (not her Selma Alabama Sermon).
Surveys tell us that white voters are ready to elect a black president, but the reality is more complex. Historically Anglo-Americans respond positively to questions about black candidates, but actually pulling the lever in the polling booth is a different story. Some attribute the demise of high profile African-American Republicans to this phenomenon of political cold feet.
The advantage that Obama has is that he doesn't have to act white or black, because he's both. The black bourgeoisie loves him because they relate to his plight, and have grown tired (and ungrateful) of the Jackson/Sharpton political model as well as their influence. Young White American's have flocked to him because he has embraced the technology of the day and speaks the same language that they do.
In the same issue of Newsweek, Ellis Cose touts the Signs of Progress. One of the points Cose makes towards that end is that "Obama can't take the 'minority vote' for granted. That reflects how far we've come in the struggle to get beyond race." I hate this argument.
The fact that black folks abandoned black businesses post Jim Crow proved we got over that problem long ago. How can African-Americans prove that the country has moved away from race when we didn't put up the barriers in the first place? Is the fact that George W. Bush garnered the vote of so many Evangelical Negroes supposed to be some sort of racial breakthrough?
Not to confuse the issue, but a number countries (Great Britain, France, Liberia, Israel) have already had female heads of state while this country asks, "Is America ready to elect a woman President?"
The Newsweek articles are worth reading as well as talking about, but covers little in the way of new ground. Sen. Obama is however covering plenty of new territory each and everyday. I have a question though: If Black America's penchant for the Clintons is an example of how far this country has come, what does hate mail addressed to Sen. Obama show us?