Voting by the color of your skin

Voting by the color of your skin


I was in line at the TSA security checkpoint at Chicago’s O’Hare airport yesterday and had just reached the kiosk where the TSA agent checks your boarding pass and ID. The agent happened to be black. The woman behind me, a white woman in her 60s, asks him excitedly out of the blue: “Are you ready to vote for Obama?”

I know we’re in Chicago, Barack Obama’s hometown, but I think it would be a little much to assume everyone is voting for him. There must be some Republicans in the city. So why would this woman assume that a perfect stranger is voting for Obama?

Could it be that she saw the color of the man’s skin and made an assumption about his preference? This is just plain old racism, as if a black person could not possibly have considered policy stances or character or any other factor and found he preferred John McCain.

Whatever happened to Martin Luther King’s dream that someday we would judge a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin?

And yet maybe this woman’s assumption was not so far-fetched. I received an audio file in my email from a friend the other day of a clip from the Howard Stern show, of all things. Someone had gone up to Harlem in New York to interview folks in the street, pulling aside black people in particular and asking them who they were voting for. All of them said Obama. So then the interviewer listed off a bunch of McCain policy positions, characterizing them as Obama’s, and asked if this was why they were voting Obama.

“So which of Obama’s policies do you support more: his pro-life beliefs or wanting to stay in Iraq until the job is done.” The most common answer was “both”. The interviewer even asked, “Do you like Obama’s pick of Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate? What do you think of her?” They all thought it was a great idea, they thought she was wonderful.

Maybe the woman in Chicago wasn’t so far off in her assumption. Maybe it’s the people who are voting for Obama because of the color of his skin who have betrayed the legacy of Martin Luther King.

Photo by Daniel Schwen via Wikimedia Commons. Used with permission.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli