Our Acceptance of the Code

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Barack Obama won three primaries last night.

I watched the election results for quite a while, listened to him give another inspiring speech, and then watched all the talking heads discuss his win, and thus, Hillary Clinton's loss.

As I watched the pundits, I found myself stepping back and listening to what they were saying. Code words were flying back and forth as they discussed Obama and Clinton's election chances. Before I knew it, I developed an unease that followed me into the wee hours of a sleepless night.

Was it only a week ago that I complained about a woman assuming that I was voting for Obama? Indeed, it was fun playing a prank on her by telling her I voted for Ron Paul. But unfortunately, the assumption that people are voting according to race continues to be made on a wide scale basis.

We get so used to hearing and reading statements like, "Obama won (Pick a State) because the black vote turned out in record numbers."

This sort of thing continues to be said by reporters and Clinton spokespeople alike. It doesn't seem to matter that Obama has won in a whole host of states where there's like two black people total in residence. More than two black folks in Maine and Idaho you say? Okay, three. I'll give you three tops.

And what about the states with more than three black people in residence? Well for them, we get to hear how, "The Obama camp is celebrating last night's decisive win, a victory boosted by (Pick a State's) sizeable black population."

It doesn't matter if 60% of non-black folks voted for Barack. If a bunch of black folks voted for him, he only won because of that. Heck, if only one black person voted for him, that vote just tipped the scales!

I don't believe in voting by looking at a person's color. In my world, woting decisions should be made in a thoughtful and humble manner because we're accountable to the greater good for our decisions. If you think about it, voting is an incredibly sacred responsibility and as such, voters should take the time to independently investigate each candidates stance on issues, their voting record and their character. You should know why you want to vote for someone, and it shouldn't be because of some blogger's opinion or a politician's endorsement. It shouldn't be because Oprah and Rush Limbaugh told you to vote (or not to vote) for a candidate. And it sure shouldn't be solely because of the color of their skin.

I recently commented on another blog that there are lots of black folks I have nothing in common with and share no values with. I'm not voting for 50 Cent or P. Diddy if they run for office. Even if L'il Kim finds God and repents for subjecting our eyes to her myriad plastic surgeries, if she decides to run for Los Angeles City Council, guess what? I'm not voting for her!

Celebrities aside, there are also plenty of black politicians you couldn't pay me to support either. Remember Marion Barry smoking crack in the hotel room? Put away the CIA setup theories for a second because regardless, I wouldn't have voted for him for mayor a second time. Heck, I might not have voted for him the first time and I'm confused as to how he's in office right now!

That being said, I, and every other black person, should have the luxury everybody else does to follow a candidate for the most ridiculous reasons ever. If I tell you I'm voting for Hillary simply because I like her blue power suit, so be it. If I like McCain's comb over, so what? Who could possibly not like that comb over! If I'm voting for Obama because I really just want to see his wife in the White House as a fly First Lady, fine, I should have that right!

And once Michelle Barack gets elected, I'm going to send emails begging her to flip the script, get rid of that straight hair and get a big afro to scare America!

Just kidding. I think.

It just seems like black people have to come up with incredibly articulate, issue-focused reasons to vote for Obama and nobody else is being required to do so.

That's especially annoying since only a few months ago, Barack was supposedly struggling to be seen as black enough. Remember Tavis Smiley's "State of the Black Union" last year? If you didn't see it, count your blessings because you missed out on the whole, "All skin is not kin!" comment.
Yeah, until a few months ago, black people were supposedly standing around saying, "Barack's not really black. He's mixed and his momma's white. Vote for Clinton because her husband really is black."

In the meantime, it's OK for other groups of people to vote for Hillary Clinton precisely because she's white.

We get used to hearing coded language like, "Clinton is counting on the sizeable Latino vote to turn out in Texas and push her ahead." This translates into, "We believe Latinos are a homogeneous group of racist folks who won't vote for a black man."

That's alright according to the Clinton campaign if that gets their candidate elected and it's just fine with all the talking heads, too. How do I know this? Because I don't hear anything coming from either the Clinton campaign or from the TV and newspaper pundits unequivocably saying this sort of thing is not the way our country should be. Instead, if our nation's racial sicknesses help a campaign, that's just the way things are.

In fact, I don't hear any campaign loudly saying, "If you are only voting for me because I'm white or black, don't vote for me. Vote for me because you believe I'm a leader and you respect my stance on the issues."

Have you heard that said? Check me if I'm wrong and somehow missed that in all of the pundit and campaign spokesperson upchuck.

I also don't hear these folks talking about how the mere fact that we regularly break down candidates' votes along racial lines proves that we are not in the post-racial existence we'd like to sometimes think we are. I mean, every news show analyzes votes according to how whites, blacks, and Latinos voted.

Actually, I'm starting to wonder why we never get to hear how Asians vote. California has the largest Asian population in the United States and we didn't hear about their super Tuesday vote. What's up with that? C'mon, pundits, don't leave Asian people out of the insanity. They might feel left out!

There's that old saying that sometimes if you stand too close to the wall you can't see the whole picture. Well, when I step back from the speeches, the analysis, the blogs and the newspaper articles, I can't help but think about how the way we discuss the candidates, voting and our electoral process is inherently corrupt. And the icing on the campaign cake is how steeped we all are in the sickness of racism.

We take it in, tune it out, regurgitate it without thinking and slowly accept it as reality. We become numb to it and feel crazy if we think about it too much. It's like we're living in the Matrix.

How do we break free?


none said…
I wish people could stop being black, white and brown and just be Americans. The race issues these days are really tiresome.

I agree with your point though,

Even though I'm Mexican, Irish and Native American doesn't mean I'm Voting for "Juan Running Horse O'Malley" unless he stands for my core issues.
Anonymous said…
Not only does the Clinton campaign not denounce the racial politics, but they actively feed into it. At one point her team stated that it will be difficult to get Latinos to vote for a Black man. When questioned about the comment, Hillary retorted that they are not making it up, but rather it is a "historical fact" that the communities have had issues.

Fortunately, and SURPRISINGLY, it seems like many voters are seeing through the racial coding, or at least determined to defy it. Not only did Obama win in Iowa, Nebraska, and other white (& Republican) states, but he won the majority of white and Latino votes in Virgina.

Also, I'm tired of Tavis Smiley.
Jameil said…
we are so here and i was so close to saying something about it. its really annoying. i'm tired of people willingly going along with by the numbers stuff with the race break downs. every time i watch it i think why are they doing this? why do we have to know how the blacks and catholics voted? it just makes no sense. and "black people have to come up with incredibly articulate, issue-focused reasons to vote for Obama and nobody else is being required to do so." i refuse. i like him most of all because i can't stand billary. i like his hope, i like his change, i like the fact that he's not been ensconced in the old boys network. i LOVE that he NEVER SUPPORTED THE IRAQ WAR. that he's not using people's racial issues or lack thereof to try to win votes. i'm not going to come down on his campaign for not getting into the race thing. if you start talking about it now, you will never stop. they are already having to spend too much time addressing it instead of talking about the issues that will really decide the direction of our county for the next x number of years or decades. some things the president does can shape this country for decades with a few strokes of a pen. that is power. and i don't want that in the hands of someone i see as unethical and cutthroat-- BILLARY AND MCCAIN!! so i'm going with the most trustworthy candidate. sorry you got me stumpin for barack b/c i'm pissed off about these number break downs after every election. you haven't done it before, STOP DOING IT NOW!! have we ever known where all the black people voted in every single primary? WE KNOW HE'S BLACK!! ENOUGH!!
Also, nobody gives a damn about the Native American vote. I'm just saying.

I have received many emails from feminists who assure me that I will rot in hell if I don't vote for Clinton because we (allegedly) have the same kind of private parts.


That is not the part of my body that votes. And it's insulting to be considered such a single-celled creature that I will mindlessly waste my vote on the candidate who most closely resembles me (in a VERY dark room filled with blind people.)

It is also insulting to assume that all Black people vote in unison. Candidates who pander to that kind of racism (and encourage it) will never get my vote.

And Michelle will be a kick-ass First Lady,no matter how she wears her hair.
What is going on with Tavis? Can we said "Hater"?

I agree that many people are seeing right through the Clinton code words.

I am a big Michelle fan. I hope she does flip the script. Conservative Black folks would then say "No don't go natural! That is too black." :)
Anonymous said…
I love this post. You hit the nail right on the head. The media is trying to make this about race but I think everyone else knows it's about hope, trustworthness and integrity because Obama keeps winning!!!

If you don't want no drama better vote for Obama!!
Ms Angela said…
Liz, if you didn't discuss this on your blog, I would have only a headline idea of what's going on. I purposely avoid campaign coverage because of the nonsense I know goes on. I used to be a reporter, and it's so easy to get caught up in the heat of the story.

In fact, part of me misses the adrenaline rush. Believe me, news reporters, regardless of what medium they are in, are all adrenaline junkies. It isn't until they step out of the game that they realize what has been going on. And not even then, for some of them.

Can you trust that a report from an adrenaline junkie is going to be thoughtful, unbiased and based in clarity instead of highly charged emotions? I wouldn't, and I don't. They think they are being "fair and balanced", but they are all in too deep to see what's going on. It's like you said, they can't see it because they are too close.

But I enjoy reading your thoughtful analysis of the situation, Liz. It helps me to see the potential of news reporting and writing, should certain thoughts and behaviors become the norm. But for now, the bright lights, deadline pressures and race for better ratings creates the madness that you've been watching.

One question though--what's up with Tavis Smiley? I used to enjoy his commentary. Is he entrenched in the Clinton camp or something? Is so, that's sad. The line between reporting and editorializing has always been thin, and way too easy to cross.

Hammer: "Juan Running Horse O'Malley"! Too funny!
Anonymous said…
I agree, it's idiotic voting for someone just because of their colour, or any such physical consideration. Surely it's their politics that count and what they're going to do for the country. Would I vote for someone with the same colour hair as me, or someone the same height or weight? I think not.
Lola Gets said…
Folks in DC voted for Barry because they felt he understood and represented them. I have never voted for Barry, ever. My grandparents did back in the 80s, but that was before the crack episode. And trust me, that crack incident was the least of his many sins, lol.

Liz Dwyer said…
"Juan Running Horse O'Malley" -- that is really darn funny!

I don't want people to stop being who they are. Who we all are is beautiful, but when identity gets mixed into power constructs and people start being able to decide who gets a job, an apartment and an elected position based on the color of someone's skin, then I have a problem.

I am tired Tavis too. What is his problem? I don't I remember that comment about the "historical fact" from HC. And although we have Latino gangs targeting black folks in LA, that's not the whole story. There is a whole legacy of brown/black unity in this country. Los Angeles was founded by a multi-racial, multi-ethnic group of people that included both black, mulatto, white and Mexican folks. Not to mention that the majority of slaves did not come here to the U.S. so a whole lot of those Latinos are...drum roll please: black.

Such good points. Notice how they don't do the racial breakdown with the republicans. And if they're just dying to slice up some data, I wish they'd put more of the issue-based reasons why people voted front and center.

Nope, you never hear about he Native American vote, not even in states with large Native American populations.

I wonder why I never get those support Clinton emails...not that I'm dying for anyone to start sending them to me!

Michelle will be amazing, that's for sure. I love her. And I love that they are definitely "in love" with each other.

He's a bonafide hater. Such a disappointment. I'm sure tons of bootlicking will happen at this year's event.

Can you just imagine Michelle with the natural hair in the White House? Oh, that would be awesome and yes, folks would say it's too black!

Aww, glad you liked the post. Someone should put C. in a commercial singing his little song.

The media wants a story and they want the ratings. There are only a few of the "journalists" that seem to consistently cut through the crap. I do think it's not just them though. They are definitely manipulated and fed info by all the campaign strategists. Ugh.

I can imagine there's a total adrenaline rush from getting the story. It's so easy to get caught up in the entire facade of it, isn't it?

You're the third person to ask what's Tavis' deal. I sometimes wonder if it's professional jealousy. Or maybe he's still miffed that Obama didn't announce his candidacy from his event last year. Yeah, last year folks were upset that he announced in Springfield, IL and not at the State of the Black Union. I was like, you idiots, he's the SENATOR from ILLINIOS so it makes sense to announce from the state capital! UGH!

Well, you'd think that's how people should vote. But it's oftentimes not. I do think people are maturing to a point where they are starting to look at issues and at character, not at appearance.

Next election, I'm only voting for people who are half black and half Irish. If they don't pass that litmus test, no go! LOL!

It definitely seems like the crack thing was merely the tip of the iceberg! I know a whole lot of politicians could share cells with the most shady crooks. Marion Barry definitely seemed like he was not even trying to pretend there was a fine line between politician and hustler.
Liz Dwyer said…
I meant to say that I don't remember that Hillary campaign quote ever being called to task for being just blatantly racist. They smile when they say it to make it go down easier. BTW, where'd "Kastenbaum" go?
Kate said…
I think all of this makes the campaign more interesting and it challenges (some) people to think outside of their racial/gender/cultural/religious boundaries. It's definitely been a topic of discussion amongst my friends.

Obama spoke here in Boise, Idaho. I really wanted to go but was out of town. I heard from some (incidentally white and female) friends that it was amazing to hear and see him speak. The venue at which he spoke seats 12,000 and they stuffed 14,000 people in--setting a record for the largest crowd ever at the arena. They say that 3,000 people had to be turned away.

I was so encouraged by this given that Idaho is a very white, very Republican, and historically racist state.

As Obama said, "And they told me there were no Democrats in Idaho!"

Good stuff.
Jen said…
I've been thinking about your post all day. And I ended up talking with a friend on the phone about it for over an hour tonight.

I'm sick of the coding. I'm sick of assumptions. I'm sick of groups being targeted or even being grouped by the color of their skin or by their religion.

Racism is endemic throughout our country and it is way time that we move past it. I think Obama has a real chance of creating some healing. He seems to be a true visionary.

And maybe he can find Juan Running Horse O'Malley as a running mate. I think Hammer may be onto something... ;-)

This was a very powerful and beautifully-written post, by the way.
the joy said…
I cant believe I didn't comment on this! I read it days ago! Anyways, while we're on the subject of people we're tired of, add Larry elder to that list. Sigh. And CNN says Asians will vote for hills cuz they are anti change. As for me, they have made me resort to my grandma's ways and yell at the tv every time they go into the vote breakdowns, because honestly what does that mean for those who have yet to vote? "my fellow (insert group) voted this way. I must keep up this trend." even in the privacy of a voting booth we must not go against the grain? Psh.
Anonymous said…
Howdy my American cousins! Good post Liz, you hit the nail on the head! The United States Administration treats all its subjects like they are all dumb, but their people are smarter than they think! They want people to vote on race lines so that only their kind of people get in office. That race card is so old fashioned and worn out. Barack transcends the race categorization thing, thats why he will do well!
Anonymous said…
I'm so disgusted with Tavis Smilie right now.... I don't even have words for his ridiculous self promoting campaign to shame people into attending his forum.
Lisa Johnson said…
This is such a good post. I totally agree. I could never vote for someone just based on race. There is too much at stake. It has to be about the issues. But if we can have a black president, then that's icing on the cake.

I wrote a similar post today about how we don't hear much about Asians and how they are voting and the assumption that Latinos won't vote for Obama. It really annoys me.
Liz Dwyer said…
I agree that it does challenge people to think outside their four walls a bit. I think it's happening more frequently because of all this and that people are across the board stepping back and not being "spun". You're right, who would've thought so many people in Idaho would come out to vote for Obama? Certainly not the "conventional wisdom". It's so easy for folks to go back to the same corners they usually fight from without really looking at why they're thinking what they do.

Last year I was super curious and wanted to go to the very first Obama rally here in LA but I ended up not going because I had a work meeting. The meeting was very boring and could've ultimately been skipped. Ah, regrets!

You ever have those moments where you know something is bothering you but it just finally crystallizes and you're able to articulate it? This post was the result of that.
I'm so glad you got to talking with your friend about this stuff. Those conversations where we open our hearts make all the difference.

The Joy,
The way some are trying to set it up now is that if you don't vote for Obama, then you're a sellout and have internalized oppression to the point that you want to lick the boots of any white candidate put before the masses. If you don't vote for Clinton, then you are, like Heart in SF said earlier, anti-women and more comfortable with male domination. McCain? I don't know...you're against family values and the elderly? And all of it is not true. Everyone has the right to search their conscience and vote accordingly.

Hello, not so anonymous British Cousin. I do think people here are wisening up. We've numbed by the drug of money and the pursuit of material things, but now that the good life isn't so good, folks are starting to sit up and wonder why they're paying so much at the gas station but oil companies post record profits. That's something that affects everyone regardless of color. Everybody's struggling with finding affordable housing. Everybody is wondering why folks just keep losing it and go and shoot up schools. Everybody's searching for meaning in their lives. Barack doesn't have all the answers and can't fill the void that so many feel in their lives. But he's speaking to the deepest longings in people's hearts and that means something.

Tavis' giving some sort of weird ultimatum Obama attending the State of the Black Union is just weird. Is he giving that same ultimatum to McCain? Huckabee? Or should McCain and Huckabee not care about the issues facing black people.

Tavis just needs to wise up and recognize that sitting at a forum for two days listening to so-called prominent black folks talk does not give someone a true understanding of what challenges black folks are facing. I think Obama has a pretty good idea what those issues are without going and listening to a bunch of grandstanding and verbiage. I mean, he is black so I'm sure he knows through personal experience. Or maybe that doesn't count because he didn't grow up in Robert Taylor Homes or Cabrini Green...

Anyway, it all just smacks of ego and bad intentions. I'd skip that mess too.

I'll come over and read what you wrote. I do wish I read more about issues and less conjecture and speculation. It's like gossip culture has infected our electoral process. I'm totally waiting for the, "I'm Obama's baby mama!" story to be floated. I'm sure some sort of lies are coming.
MartiniCocoa said…
This post is so on the point.

How do we break free? It will require
something that even in 2008, most people just aren't ready for...


Honest discussions about the past and present to figure out what to do for our shared future.

Which is something that can't happen with pundits or journalists or Tavis Smiley pretending that their chatter isn't tainted with bias, envy or downright stupidity.

And Liz
you've been tagged.
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