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Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's a racial identity thing.


I want to move away from the term "racism" because it carries too much emotional baggage. When you start using that word, everyone's blood pressure starts rising. Most people would agree that xenophobia and racism are closely related. They're fairly strong synonyms of each other. Xenophobia is the fear or distrust of those different from us either racially or culturally. A white American who is xenophobic might distrust blacks, Hispanics, or even a white guy who happens to be from Russia. It's a broader term that encompasses a larger cross-section of bias. For the purposes of this discussion, please consider the two terms—racism and xenophobia—interchangeable.

If you ask a white person whether the unprecedented unanimous black vote for Obama is racism or being pro-black the average white person will say it's racism and the average black person will say it's being pro-black. Please take note of the fact that the term [pro-white] doesn't really exist. If you do a Google search for "pro-white" all you're going to find is toothpaste, graphics software, and sneakers. Therefore it's meaningless to ask black people if whites voting for Romney are racist or pro-white. A better way of framing this question is to ask if it's the case that whites voting for Romney are xenophobic or perhaps ethnocentric. By ethnocentric I mean possessing some degree of bias favoring those who are of the same race or perhaps of the same cultural upbringing. I.E. the opposite of xenophobic. I realize many will criticize my usage of ethnocentric in this way, but honestly I couldn't think of nor find a more appropriate word. I'm certainly open to alternative suggestions.

I'm asking the question: is there really any difference between being xenophobic and being ethnocentric—i.e. being a racist and being pro-black? Unfortunately I must conclude that I am unable to separate myself from the question and answer it from a completely unbiased perspective. Furthermore I must also conclude that very few people—perhaps nobody—could answer that question from a perfectly unbiased perspective. We are all either xenophobic—or perhaps ethnocentric depending on your perspective—to a varying degree. I'm just slightly xenophobic, although it's my own opinion that I am not unduly so. It's my impression that whites in general are not unduly xenophobic, while in absolute contrast, blacks are very strongly ethnocentric. Here's my evidence:
Black support [of Romney] is at 0%, according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (PDF) reported in late summer. The reasons for this may have powerful implications for the future of black political strength in presidential elections.

It's worth recognizing that the unwillingness of black voters to offer any measurable support for the Republican presidential candidate is unprecedented. It's not enough to say that blacks are voting for President Obama because he's black and that racial solidarity trumps politics. Or to note that black voters are overwhelmingly affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Sen. John McCain and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin ran against a considerably more charismatic and untarnished Obama -- who was still black in 2008. McCain received 4% of the black vote. Black voters offered measurable levels of support to George W. Bush, 8% in 2000 and 11% in 2004; Ronald Reagan, 11%; and even Richard Nixon, 18%.
Indeed, what this study proves is that while blacks vote in far greater numbers for Democrats in general—they voted for Obama overwhelmingly in 2008—but even more strikingly, in 2012 they will vote for Obama unanimously and unambiguously. It just doesn't get more ethnocentric than 100%. In 2008 Obama got 95% of the black vote. It's beyond dispute that the black voting block is monolithic and votes in perfect lockstep. The fact that Colin Powell endorsed Obama in 2008 and now again in 2012—despite his ostensibly Republican party affiliation—is just another foot set on the left side of a balance scale that already holds every other black person in America.
WASHINGTON — Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to pro-black sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to anti-black attitudes.
I find the language in the quotation from Huffington Post intriguing as should you. Notice that I could reframe the statement as such:

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of pro-white ethnocentrism, Obama could lose 5 percentage points to his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to racist sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to pro-white attitudes.

Finally, we have Colin Powell who everyone in America fully expected to endorse Obama. He has a variety of reasons which nobody believes has anything thing to do with his decision. Sadly, sometimes being a member of a particular group is irrelevant to the argument but this particular example is no ad-hominem fallacy. Colin Powell is black therefore he will pull the lever for Obama. It's a black thing, and they tell me I wouldn't understand. They're right.

To me, racism, pro-black, xenophobia, and ethnocentrism are all merely different words describing inherent bias due to racial identity. In case you're interested, I tracked down the AP poll cited by Huffington Post. Take particular notice of pages 18 through 24. These are the questions devoted solely to racial identity. If you're like me the thing that will strike you most is that there wasn't really a difference between the racism shown by whites and that shown by blacks.

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