Will bigotry doom Obama

Race + politics
By MARY ANN SORRENTINO  |  January 9, 2008

080111_obama_main

Although it might seem like ancient history for 20-somethings, it wasn’t so long ago when women had little chance of stepping outside the kitchen to make real differences in the public and private sector. Because of this, I was elated when Hillary Clinton, who personifies accomplishment and merit-based opportunity, emerged as a legitimate presidential candidate.

I had hoped that the 2000-year bondage of women might end, so I resented Barack Obama’s entry into the race, which threatened that dream. When he won in Iowa, I wanted to be angry.

Obama’s moving speeches, however, made it difficult to keep anger and disappointment alive. I recognize his magic: his intelligence, inspiring oratory, and themes of hope and change are what the nation craves. His appeal is intoxicating — especially to young idealists — but the dark cloud of questionable electability that faces Hillary also looms large over Obama.

Doubtless brighter and more articulate than George W. Bush, Obama has not used race as a crutch, and the media has not made race an issue (as they have gender). In lily-white Iowa, he transcended race. Then, independent New Hampshire leveled the playing field between the potential first female or first black president

The electability of a tough female such as Hillary has been extensively debated. Yet if Obama heads the Democratic ticket, his race may be a negative factor for many voters.  For reasons of “political correctness,” people don’t reveal that they would prefer to elect the devil himself rather than someone they consider a “nigger.” While we may like to think that such thinking is mostly consigned to the past, an otherwise intelligent and accomplished man expressed this bigoted point of view during a recent dinner party. It terrifies me, but I believe he represents millions. 

When a John McCain supporter referred to Hillary as “that bitch,” McCain never distanced himself from the insult to a Senate colleague and former first lady. If the supporter had used the N-word, would McCain have reacted differently?

While the word “bitch” barely causes a ripple, no one can deny the ongoing presence of a reservoir of racial prejudice, overt and subliminal, in this country. And to paraphrase Churchill, Hillary might be a warmer and fuzzier woman by November, but Obama will still be black.

Iowa Republicans chose folksy extremist Mike Huckabee over Mormon flip-flopper Mitt Romney. Democrats need to ask how many similar voters, along with others, will choose a Republican nominee whom they perceive as a bulwark against a black liberal in the White House.

We don’t know the answer, because no one wants to ask that question — and because voters will never admit their bigotry to pollsters.

Despite the chorus that Democrats must win in 2008, lest the country be doomed, most voting Americans just want a president they can love; one with whom they feel comfortable, and who, coincidentally, may guide the country to peace and prosperity. For Iowa caucus-goers, that was Obama; in New Hampshire, women led a groundswell for one of their own. Now a black man and a woman — both pioneers — challenge a nation yearning for “change.”

  Topics: This Just In , Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Elections and Voting,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MARY ANN SORRENTINO
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   FERRARO, A PHOTO, AND A LEGACY  |  March 30, 2011
    Geraldine Ferraro's photograph stands proudly in a silver frame, inscribed to my daughter with the words, "You are my hero."
  •   TWO MURDERS AND AN UNHEEDED CALL  |  December 29, 2010
    When Rhode Islanders mention former Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Fay, they often focus on the scandal that forced him to resign from the bench.
  •   THE DEATH OF IRISH-ITALIAN POLITICAL ENTITLEMENT  |  September 22, 2010
    Angel Taveras may soon be Providence’s first Latino mayor. But his victory in the recent Democratic primary is much more than a triumph of the city’s growing Hispanic population.
  •   RHODE ISLAND’S BIRTH CONTROL CONTRETEMPS  |  July 07, 2010
    Recently OB-GYN Associates, a respected women's health care practice with offices in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, admitted to Rhode Island Department of Health officials that it had implanted in patients birth control intrauterine devices (IUDs) apparently manufactured in Canada and not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  •   TURNING IN THAT LOW-NUMBERED PLATE FOR A PINK ONE  |  May 19, 2010
    Low-numbered plates may be Valhalla for Rhode Island’s vainglorious. But they are hard to come by. So for the average driver looking for attention, “vanity” and “special category” plates are the way to go.

 See all articles by: MARY ANN SORRENTINO