Political Prerogitives

During the past couple months it has seemed that almost every political pundit with access to a microphone and an audience has lauded the fact that American politics stand at a crossroads. No matter whom you favor, the reality stands that we may very well inaugurate a white female or a black male as the next President of the United States in less than a year’s time.

Yet things are seldom what they seem. These crossroads, which many allege are a sign of progress, may prove to be regressive. Editorials published in some of the nation’s top news sources argue that many middle to upper class white Americans will vote for Senator Obama because doing so quells any intrapersonal concerns of racism. Boiling Senator Obama’s candidacy down to feelings of white privilege that are difficult to shake is both insulting to his campaign and the very premise of progressive politics.

While choosing to vote for Senator Obama because of an individual feeling he evokes is not racist, it certainly is dangerous. This is not to say Americans should not support him; there is no doubt he is a very talented candidate. I am simply suggesting that the American people must elect him [or any other candidate for that matter] based on his qualifications and character, not because of any feeling of elation and racial equality he may inspire.

Certainly Senator Obama’s accomplishments are evidence of his ambition, his talents in concordance with the American ideal of progress. He stands alongside Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Norman Mineta, as some of the most powerful and influential politicians of color in America today. However we should never allow their contributions, their successes, to overshadow the racial gaps that exist in America today.

I believe voters risk sending a terrible message to the American people if we elect an individual on the basis of relieving us of the fear that we are racist. Voting for someone will not erase the racism – institutionalized, blatant and otherwise – that still pervades our society. In fact, I believe that electing someone simply because doing so is “progressive” runs the danger of sweeping the problems we face under the rug.

Senator Obama is undoubtedly qualified to be the next President of the United States. And many people – many of my peers, for that matter – have chosen to support Senator Obama because they believe in his enthusiasm for America and his vision for change that is likely unmatched by his cohorts.

Nonetheless, if elected, will Senator Obama feel comfortable addressing the racial inequities that jeopardize the future of America? I am convinced that Senator Obama’s experience more than prepares him to tackle these issues in a way that makes sense for our country. I am not, however, convinced that he will feel comfortable and empowered to do so when portions of his electorate voted for him as a result of their own personal struggle with racism rather than to combat the racism that plagues our society.