Why do black leaders support Barack Obama?

America’s black leaders have overwhelmingly endorsed Barack Obama for president. Ask Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, or Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. whom they are going to vote for and it is Obama, Obama, Obama. The question is “Why?”

Ask one of these guys why black Americans aren’t doing better in school, in steering clear of the judicial system, or in finding jobs and they will say that it is white prejudice that is impeding black progress. Rev. Wright said “Fact number one: We’ve got more black men in prison than there are in college. … Fact number two: Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run.” (source) The prevailing theory among black leaders seems to be that when a white person sees black skin, he or she will deny the person inside the skin a job, an educational opportunity, a house in a nice neighborhood, etc.

Along comes Barack Obama, inside a skin that he claims is black and that these same leaders claim is black. White people have given this guy good grades in school. White people have hired this guy for high-paying jobs. White people have given this guy millions of their hard-earned dollars to buy his books. Tens of millions of white people have voted for this guy to represent and/or govern them. In his autobiography, he does not mention having to make any special efforts to overcome white prejudice nor does he cite any incidents in which white prejudice had an effect on his educational opportunities, job opportunities, social opportunities, or housing opportunities.

If Barack Obama’s black skin has not held him back, it would seem to discredit these guys’ explanation of what is holding back others in America with black skin. Why then would they recommend voting for the very person whose success is discrediting their logic?

[Note that in December 12, 2007, I predicted in this Weblog that Obama would win the general election.]

12 Comments

  1. Daniel Jalkut

    May 18, 2008 @ 2:02 am

    1

    I don’t think Obama’s black skin discredits the gist of what Jesse Jackson and others are saying: that the uphill battle for the average black person is still steeper than for the average white person.

    An exception to the rule doesn’t disprove this. Obama is a brilliant example of success against the odds. So is Jesse Jackson, and so is Louis Farrakhan (for better or for worse). If you want to use the example of a successful black man as a discrediting evidence against Jackson’s or Farrakhan’s views, you don’t need to look any farther than the men themselves.

  2. JG

    May 18, 2008 @ 9:27 am

    2

    They never said all black people’s progress was impeded. They’re saying in comparison to whites, the % of blacks who are incarcerated, go to college, have high paying jobs or are in jobs that have a high status in America is lower, proportionately. It does not mean no black person can succeed. Like it or not, there are still clear prejudices to other people. They aren’t the majority, but they still exist in big numbers. Also, wouldn’t they themselves discredit their own logic given their success?

    As to your question about why black leaders (and the black electorate) support Obama overwhelmingly, I think it’s pretty simple: They like what they hear from Obama. I think because they are black, they are more likely to give him a fair chance (If being black was the only prerequisite to get support from the black electorate, others would’ve done better in the past) because they will want to hear what he has to say. They’ll want to see where he stands on policies. Then they tell the people they know about him instead of passing along things like “he’s a Muslim” or “he’s unpatriotic”, etc. Once most people pick a candidate, they don’t switch. They’re willing to overlook things like Rev. Wright or Bosnia Sniper Fire.

  3. Ben

    May 18, 2008 @ 10:47 am

    3

    Yep, Obama provides a counterexample to some of their arguments, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they shouldn’t support him.

    Sure, race is probably a factor. But probably not the only factor.

    Could it be that Obama is a better candidate than McCain? Could it be that all the people you mention disagree with the Republican party platform more than the Democratic party platform?

    Could it be that they believe Obama is more likely to enact policies that would be beneficial for the black community than McCain would be?

  4. anon

    May 18, 2008 @ 4:43 pm

    4

    I share your curiousness on this issue. In a similar vein, I’d be surprised if B’nai B’rith supported a potential Jewish candidate. And certainly every feminist who believes in glass ceilings for women would *not* vote for Hilary. I call on all supporters of supposedly discriminated groups to renounce the black male, the successful and opiniated woman, and the elderly white male who do the disservice to their cause by succeeding.

  5. jen

    May 18, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

    5

    For a long time people have been saying that the bias has turned
    from racial bias to economic bias. From the way some people have
    tapped into racial bias in this election it seems the race prejudice is still
    quite alive.

    However to your question, Wright and – less vociferously – other black leaders have had bursts of extreme testiness about Obama’s success. Wright has built a career of lifting African Americans up. I suggested at the time that perhaps having someone walk out of his church and win threaten to win Presidency rattles his sense of his life’s mission.

  6. philg

    May 19, 2008 @ 12:53 am

    6

    Daniel and JG: Jesse Jackson, Rev. Wright, and Louis Farrakhan are not examples of success despite white prejudice and they can become arbitrarily successful without discrediting their own theory that Whitey will never give a black man a fair shake. You don’t find a lot of white folks who are customers for the speeches or philosophy of these men. When Jesse Jackson ran for public office he attracted very few white votes. Jackson, Wright, and Farrakhan have found the vast majority of support among black Americans.

    Ben: Your argument that these guys prefer Obama to McCain for whatever reason does not persuade me. Hillary Clinton’s proposed policies are indistinguishable from Obama’s and these guys could just as easily have supported Hillary without running the risk of being discredited.

  7. George Entenman

    May 19, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

    7

    Philip asks “Why then would they recommend voting for the very person whose success is discrediting their logic?”

    Maybe because they think our country needs Obama? I know I do, and I’m white.

    Maybe because Clinton’s tactics have alienated many African Americans? (This article – http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/columns/story/1060222.html – pretty much sums up my own feelings.)

    -ge

  8. JG

    May 20, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

    8

    Perhaps we are defining success differently. However, there are plenty of black men and women who have been successful in areas that are supported by white people the same as black people. That still does not mean the average black person doesn’t have a more difficult time succeeding compared to a white person, all things being equal. Jesse Jackson didn’t attract the same % of blacks that Obama is getting now.

    If the candidates are the same on policy, doesn’t that leave all the other stuff then? Do you feel their agenda is for black people to never obtain parity so they can continue to preach that they haven’t?

    Bottom line, one person does not discredit their logic. Unless their logic is all black people are held back from succeeding. Which, as far as I can tell, it isn’t.

  9. Jason

    May 20, 2008 @ 6:42 pm

    9

    Why do black leaders support Barack Obama?

    Because he’s a (a) black, (b) liberal, and (c) has a good shot at the presidency, of course.

    Jen said:Wright has built a career of lifting African Americans up.

    No. Jeremiah “USA made AIDS to exterminate black people” Wright, like Louis “gutter Jew religion” Farrakhan and Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson, have built their careers by cultivating hatred of “the other” in their followers. The message that one’s lack of success is someone else’s fault is an easy sell.

    The reaction of Jeremiah Wright’s flock when he calls an accomplished black female political opponent a whore evokes nothing so much as a Nuremberg rally. But hey, Hitler built a career of lifting Germans up, right Jen?

  10. Jason

    May 20, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

    10

    George Entenman said:Maybe because they think our country needs Obama? I know I do, and I’m white.

    If you think of your declaration of support for an American presidential candidate as an opportunity to tell us about your skin color, then you’re a racist.

    I can’t even read the whole article you linked to, it’s so vile. I’ll comment only on the first few paragraphs:

    Many Americans, led by the news media, appear to have discovered African-Americans like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright for the first time.

    No, it was the blogosphere — as usual — which unmasked him.

    Many in the media have covered Wright as if he were some alien whose extreme rants threaten our way of life and, more disturbingly, as if anybody who has associated with him also were a threat. This is mystifying.

    Jeremiah “CIA sells drugs in black neighborhoods” Wright is Obama’s chosen pastor of two decades. Jeremiah “black genocide AIDS is a white invention” Wright was chosen by Obama to baptize his daughters.

    I doubt that there is an African-American anywhere in the country who has not heard the kind of offensive things that Wright has said about America, and worse. A few of the people who say these things may even believe them.

    Not taking people at their word because they are African-American is racist. Don’t tell me what race the author of the piece belongs to. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t care.

    On the other hand, I am not aware that Wright in any way has acted upon the foul things he has said, or has tried to recruit others to act on them.

    Hitler didn’t tell his followers in his Nuremburg speeches to kill Jews.

    Such offensive things are said for many reasons: out of anger, bitterness, ignorance and, often, simply to motivate people to be self-reliant.

    Scientists, and indeed, more generally, the readers of math and physics blogs, ought to understand that well-intentioned bullshit remains bullshit.

    The real question, however, is why is Rev. Wright is relevant to whether Barack Obama should be president.

    Does the fact that Obama continued to be a member of Wright’s church or initially refused to disavow Wright suggest in any way that Obama personally subscribes to the offensive things Wright has said? Does it mean Obama is not patriotic, or that he is a divisive racist?

    We should judge Obama on his own record and words, not on the words of his minister.

    Oh for f**k’s sake. Obama attended Wright’s sermons for two decades, and contributed thousands of dollars to his ministry. Obama chose Wright to baptize his daugters.

  11. MS

    August 25, 2008 @ 11:47 am

    11

    Phil,

    It looks like once again you were ahead of the curve in this observation:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/25/us/politics/25race.html

  12. Linda G.

    November 5, 2008 @ 12:20 am

    12

    I am delighted that Barak Obama has won the Presidency however, I am really dismayed by the African American’s being interviewed right now on television. I voted my ticket which is Democratic but I am hearing from young Blacks that the only reason that Barak Obama won was because of the Black voters. This is what I was afraid of when I voted. I wish that everyone would realize that it took everyone voting Democratically to put Mr. Obama in the White House. It seems to me that if this is what is seen in thier eyes, there will never be unity between the races.

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