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How Racism Crippled the Electoral Process

WI Assistant Editor | , Shantella Y. Sherman | 11/7/2012, 2:42 p.m.

Many Americans Admit Being Unable to See Beyond Candidates' Race

One Sunday morning in 2009, following the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Andrew Manis became incensed enough with the racist attitudes of Macon, Georgia denizens to pen a commentary to whites asking that they 'get over' their fear, anger, and white supremacists feelings toward Blacks. The commentary, entitled "When Are We (White People) Going to Get over It?," was picked up by the Macon Telegraph and in short order Manis, an associate professor of history at Macon State College, had received more than 5 million hits on the piece through Google.

Manis' editorial begged the questions: "How long? How long before we white people realize we can't make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can - once and for all - get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color?"

Far from being some red faced Southerner feeling the pangs of white guilt, Manis cited the manner in which white conservatives consistently blocked any legislation they viewed as beneficial to non-white Americans, even during the Clinton administration, and the largely coded bigotry that appeared in popular culture during Obama's 2008 bid for the White House. Three years later, Manis, 58, told the Informer that while he cannot clearly gauge whether racist attitudes increased or decreased with Obama's presidency, the nation is hardly a post-racial society because it elected Obama.

"Just because it happened to elect one Black man as president does not make America a post-racial society. To say we are a post-racial society would make as much sense as saying Pakistan is a place where gender equality flourishes because Benazir Bhutto was their head of state. Or that Israel is a paragon of gender equality because they elected Golda Meir. White America continues to pretend that it is just an accident that African Americans remain about twice as vulnerable in statistics related to economic success - about twice as bad as for white people and that it has been that way for more than 50 years," Manis said.

A recent Associated Press poll supports Manis' position, finding that four years after Obama's election, the majority of white Americans express prejudice toward Blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not. In all, 51 percent of whites expressed explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of whites with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election.

Had it not been for Jeremiah Wright, Obama may not have addressed race, "blackness" or any issues that were specifically germane to people of color during the 2008 election in Manis' estimation. Still, roughly 57 percent of whites over the age of 29, voted for [John] McCain.

"There is this idea that a Black president is going to hurt us, and take our money and give it to his people and that he is going to make us hurt the way we made his people hurt. There is some guilt there, some recognition that white people have historically made Black people hurt in this country. You get this language and when [Rush] Limbaugh says that one cannot get a job in the Obama administration unless they hate white people, one has to ask from where this is coming?" said Manis, who is Greek.

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