So I am in a cab this morning on the way to the airport and the driver has on the local NY affiliate for National Public Radio. I am not a big fan of NPR, if only because I have never understood why the few outlets of broadcast media being propped up by our federal tax dollars (NPR, PBS) have been so historically to the left of center in the political spectrum. Given that the last two U.S presidential elections have been decided but such a markedly thin margin, does it not make sense that our nation’s media market reflect both ends of the political measure (or at least show some semblance of compromise between the two?)
But, in spite of myself, I admit that NPR does put out some genuinely interesting programming from time to time and the mere fact that it was the radio station selected by my cab driver is not what is irritating me at the moment. What proved troublesome for me were the comments made during an interview of some Maine voters regarding their state’s recent presidential primary.
Specifically, the NPR representatives were asking African-American voters from the Democratic primary who they had chosen to vote for and, more importantly, the reasons why they had done so. The selection of interviews was small (it was not a very long report) but nearly every one of the comments irked me to some degree. It seemed as though, when asked for the reason they supported him, nearly every African-American Barack Obama supporter’s predominant reason for voting for this man was that he is black.
What the hell kind of reason is that to vote for someone? Casting your vote for one candidate or another based on the color of their skin is not only ignorant but it is also, by definition, racist. I understand that many people (of all races) are excited to see the first serious African-American contender for the White House in our nation’s history but by making this man’s race into a selling point for his campaign you give legitimacy to the very racial differences against which you claim to fight. Does this not fly in the face of the concept of all men, regardless of race, creed, age, socio-economic status, etc. being created equal? Isn’t the point of equality to ensure that each of the candidates has a level playing field from which to woo potential voters?
This is not to say that such prejudiced votes are not cast by many other groups of people for many other reasons. I know that Mitt Romney recently swept through the Utah Republican primary with nearly 90% of that state’s vote due, to a large degree, to the fact that Romney was the sole Mormon candidate running in a state known to be the Mecca of the Mormon religion; but that does not seem to be quite as knee-jerk of a vote as the African-American issue. Mormons are a religious group whose family and social ideals are clearly defined by their adherence to the rules and norms of their church. Moreover, they are a group in which membership is a matter of choice, not genetics. To say the same about black people would be to imply that their entire race is predisposed to act a certain way. That is, of course, not true and is also a racist sentiment.
Many African-Americans are obviously going to share some set of social norms and values as they are (for the vast majority) born into African-American families who pass on these traditions from one generation to the next (just as any racial, religious, family group does.) Americans are not, however, voting to decide who should be the head of African-America or the leader of the Mormon religion; we are voting to decide who should run this nation and as much as I may be inclined to vote for a white Catholic from Massachusetts (as such a person would be wholly representative of my personal background,) I have never voted for anyone with the last name Kennedy because none of these people represented what I wanted for my political leadership or governance.
Perhaps the most disturbing sound-byte from the whole NPR segment came from an African-American woman who expressed her reasoning for choosing Hillary Clinton over Obama. She stated that she “loves Obama” (without delving into any reason for this admiration) but that she was voting for Hillary because the New York senator has pledged to “double funding to black universities” if elected.
There are two serious issues with the sentiments expressed by this woman. First, why is there such a thing as a ‘black university’ that receives any public funding? This is an institution whose very goal is to further the progress of one specific racial group above all others in a nation where ‘all men are created equal.’ How does one justify that? Such an institution is either attempting to unbalance the already level field of racial play in America or trying to advance a racial group which they themselves have determined to be inferior to the others in some way. Can you even begin to imagine the outcry if someone attempted to start a ‘white university’ let alone secure its funding from tax dollars? Those involved would be lambasted as evil racists and probably convicted of some sort of ‘hate-crime.’
The second issue I have with this woman’s reason for choosing Hillary is that she wants to see the funding for these ‘black universities’ doubled. This begs many questions: What is the deficiency in these schools that has caused them to need twice the funds currently allotted to them by our government? Will doubling this funding really solve these problems or just set the stage for further financial increases down the line? How much of an increase in funding will the public university system as a whole see under President Hillary? How should I, as a Caucasian-, Hispanic-, Middle Eastern-, or Asian-American, feel knowing that my tax dollars are being set aside for group of people who wish to exclude me based solely on my race?
The bottom line here is that if you feel you have been disenfranchised in some way because serious candidates for the American presidency have always been white males then you should really have some sort of concrete evidence as to what you have missed out on. With all the whining I have heard from the anti-Bush lobby over the past eight years about how the President duped the nation into launching an unnecessary war or how he is a moron incapable of leading anyone you would think that these people might be able to come up with a slightly better rationale for choosing our next president than race or gender. If you don’t want to see our nation at war then why not choose Ron Paul, a former Libertarian candidate whose political ideals would certainly not have the U.S jumping into any overseas conflicts. If you think that George W. Bush is an idiot then why not review the GPAs and IQ scores for each candidate and simply choose the one who is the most intelligent? It’s odd that in spite of all the years of Bush-bashing and the current trend of voting along racial- or gender-lines I cannot recall a single instance of Bush being called ‘too-white’ or ‘too-male’ of a Commander-in-Chief.
In spite of voting for him in both elections, I do not agree with many things that President Bush has done over the past eight years. I do believe, however, that I would be facing a much longer personal laundry list of issues with actions that Bush’s alternatives would have taken had they been residing in the White House. That being said, I know that I can feel confident that I have made the correct decision each time I enter the voting booth by selecting the candidate who best represents my desired leadership style and personal values rather than someone whose skin color or chromosome make-up matches mine.