Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Any 'lily white' places left?


By PAT MURPHY

Polls in recent days have found a 30 percent minority of voters who feel race will be a factor in their November vote for president. That could work both ways—a factor in voting against Barack Obama or for him.

But assume the 30 percent would vote against him because of race. Imagine how far Americans have come in their feelings about blacks in just a few decades? A black presidential candidate even in the years immediately after desegregation began would've been lucky to get 5 percent support, rather than the overwhelming majority support Obama is reaping in the polls among white and black voters.

Until after World War II, when serious efforts were underway to enforce racial equality, virtually every nook and cranny of U.S. society was lily-white and off-limits to blacks, professional or not.

Barack Obama as the first black American presidential candidate actually is a latecomer to these dramatic changes.

Regardless of where one looks today, black Americans are a part of every one-time, whites-only institution where none could be found 50 years ago.

Try as I might, I can't think of a single public or private sector that excludes blacks. Although black Americans dominate professional sports and some formerly all-white collegiate teams too, they're substantial members in and leaders of science, medicine, aviation and aerospace, military, academic, media, theater and film, music, religion, finance, and more.

(The same could be said of the breakthrough of Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate and the presence of women throughout former all-male occupations.)

It's always been amusing that some of the south's most hateful racists of years past suddenly had a change of heart when blacks, forced on them by court rulings, transformed southern college sports into powerhouses and farm teams for big stars of the NFL and NBA, and turned former segregationists into obsessive fans.

That established, it's therefore baffling why the Republican Party seems intent, according to pundits familiar with GOP plans for the presidential campaign, on using race in its strategy.

When rabid racists of the southern White Citizens Councils were trying to prevent equality and integration, their incendiary message was that blacks were mentally inferior, a threat to the purity of the white race, and born to serve whites.

Is any part of that slime going to find its way into the Republican "race" message?

If not, then what about Obama's race makes him unacceptable as president?

My hunch is Americans, now fully supportive of black Americans, will repudiate any appeals designed to incite racial hatred against Obama.




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