Election shines light on long path to post-racial America

November 8, 2012

So much for post-racial.

Supporters watch as U.S. President Barack Obama celebrates his re-election during his election night rally in Chicago, Nov. 7, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Supporters watch as U.S. President Barack Obama celebrates his re-election during his election night rally in Chicago, Nov. 7, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

When President Barack Obama won his historic bid for the U.S. presidency in 2008 as the nation’s first black president, there was a lot of talk about a new era for America.

But his re-election on Tuesday showed that in U.S. politics, race has far from become a back-burner issue.

The Democratic victory driven by strong support from Latinos, blacks and Asians leaves many re-examining the impact of minority voters not only on future elections but on policies ranging from immigration to education.

Latinos are the fastest growing group in America, as my colleagues Patrick Rucker and David Adams report in their story, Hispanic vote tilts strongly to Obama in win.

There are other changes afoot, too, as more Americans marry people of a different race and the number of minority births climbs. In a few decades, the United States will look far different, data show.

“In 1950, we were an 87 percent white nation. In 2050, we will be a 47 percent white nation,” said Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center. “We are about midway or two-thirds of the way through this century-long passage that will take us by the middle of this century to a ‘majority minority’ nation.”

Obama embraced that picture in his acceptance speech Tuesday night:

“What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth … it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old, or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight — you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

But that poses a dilemma for Republicans, who largely saw older white voters line up behind Obama’s challenger Mitt Romney, some experts said.

“The country’s changing and the people our party appeals to is a static group, and that is a recipe for extinction,” Republican consultant and analyst Mike Murphy told MSNBC this week.

Republican commentator Rush Limbaugh, however, said his party isn’t getting credit for its minority supporters.

“But we’re not getting the votes that Obama got … because we have Condoleezza Rice, and she is (the) pinnacle of achievement and intelligent, well spoken. I mean, you can’t find a more accomplished, better person than Condoleezza Rice, Marco Rubio,” he said on his radio show on Wednesday, referring to the former secretary of state and current Florida senator. “And just speaking in street lingo, we’re not getting credit for it.”

So is it racism?

Some experts yesterday pointed to simple cultural misunderstanding. Others say race is of course still an underlying issue.

The Associated Press reports that racial slurs spilled forth at one University of Mississippi protest after the election. There were other signs of racial political shifts as the last white House Democrat won re-election in the Deep South, my colleagues report from Georgia:

“There are no white Democrats in the U.S. House from the other Deep South states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina as white voters in the region have increasingly switched to the Republican Party.”

Ethnicity is not the only factor when it comes to race. Obama also won with strong support from voters age 34 and younger, many of whom experts say lack the racial baggage of previous generations although they are not immune to it.

That could reshape the debate as today’s increasingly diverse children soon become voters themselves — but probably not anytime soon. As Washington Post blogger Janice D’Arcy reports, for now their parents still have to face racial stereotypes and the lack of color-blindness head on.

“We may have re-elected the nation’s first black president, but few of us can walk away from the 2012 campaign thinking we’re a ‘post-racial’ society,” she writes.

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Given the topic of immigrants in recent elections, an interesting new book that helps explain the role, struggles, and contributions of minorities and immigrants is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to understand crazy American culture, people, government, business, language and more.” It paints a revealing picture of America for those foreigners who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs Americans who want to learn more about the U.S. and how we compare to other countries around the world on many issues. As the book points out, immigrants are a major force in America. They and the children they bear account for 60 percent of our nation’s population growth and own 11 percent of US businesses and are 60 percent more likely to start a new business than native-born Americans. They represent 17 percent of all new business owners (in some states more than 30 percent). Foreign-born business owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California and nearly one-fifth in the states of New York, Florida, and New Jersey.
Legal immigrants number 850,000 each year; undocumented (illegal) immigrants are estimated to be half that number. They come to improve their lives and create a foundation of success for their children to build upon, as the author’s grandparents did when they landed at Ellis Island in 1899 after losing 2 children to disease on a cramped cattle car-like sailing from Europe. Many bring skills and a willingness to work hard to make their dreams a reality, something our founders did four hundred years ago. In describing America, chapter after chapter identifies “foreigners” who became successful in the US and contributed to our society. However, most struggle in their efforts and need guidance. Perhaps the book and concerned Americans can lend a helping hand. www.AmericaAtoZ.com

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