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Is America Ready to Elect a Black President?

By mreynolds
Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 12:47 pm in 2008 presidential election, Political conventions, Political events, Political studies.

By Martin G. Reynolds
FROM THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
DENVER _ Those who rose early Monday morning to catch the “Convention Conversations” forum at the Denver Athletic Club were treated to some serious eloquence, passion and good old fashion humor.
On the panel to discuss this very heavy question were such a formidable bunch, I almost had to do a double-take when Denver Post Editor Greg Moore and I sat down with our yogurt and coffee. On the stage were House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., television host and journalist Tavis Smiley, and last but not least, Dr. Cornel West, the Princeton professor and best selling author.
They wouldn’t have had to say a word to have my attention, but the discussion was fascinating. To read the complete story, here’s the link: http://www.denverpost.com/politicswestnews/ci_10298258?source=dncWidget

These gentlemen had very similar, yet differing views on what an Obama presidency would mean for this county, or what an Obama defeat may mean.
Dr. West said his election could establish a new era in how America is viewed and received around the world.
There was also more talk about what Obama has to do to appease Hillary Clinton supporters. But people I’ve spoken to here say that is more media hype than reality. One woman who said she’d done work on Hillary’s run for the nomination, was glowing following Michelle Obama’s speech last night. She said she is more than happy to throw all she has behind Obama’s run for the White House and thinks Hillary supports will do the same.

Could it be the press is making a mountain out of a mole hill? Say it ain’t so!
Tavis Smiley had some criticism for the press and its coverage, or more importantly what it has not covered in the run up to Obama’s nomination.
“I think we have really missed the boat in this campaign on covering race,” Smiley said. “I look at how quick we were to jump on the language of ‘post-racial,’ the language of ‘race transcendence.’ That’s not possible yet in America.”
To Smiley’s comments about “post-racial” America or `race-transcendence’ as it relates to people voting for Obama, Dr. West said that was a term used only when talking about whites voting for blacks. Blacks have been voting for white candidates for decades, nobody used the term “post-racial” to describe that, West explained.
West was saying it’s not as if America has reached a state of color-blind nirvana with Obama’s run for the White House. He questioned why the media used terms like “race transcendence” to describe Obama’s appeal to white voters or “post racial” to describe the social willingness to vote for him, rather than focusing on whether or not he’s simply the better candidate?

I can’t quite remember exactly what he said as he was wrapping up this comment, but it was something like, a vote for Obama should not be considered a black vote or a white vote, it’s a vote for humanity, putting race aside and voting for the best human being, whomever that is.

The mainstream press has certainly not picked up on the nuance of this issue, and it should. Doing so gets to the simmering racial tensions that underly this historic campaign.

It also emphasizes the need for more journalists of color to cover this campaign and the issues around it.

Be well, more to come as the week unfolds.

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