George Graham

I Hope This American Election Is About More Than Race

I hope the U.S. general elections will be about issues vital to the nation and the world. This is such a crucial time in history. With international conflicts and climate change threatening the earth’s survival, the future of mankind could very well hang in the balance. But, let’s face it, the elections – especially the presidential election – seem scarily racial. It looks as if this contest might boil down to a segment of White America versus the rest of us.

In an article published today, Associated Press Writer Nancy Benac observes that the Republican Convention “has a decidedly homogenous look to it, coming hard on the heels of a Democratic gathering where minorities were prominent on the podium and in the crowds.”

crowdI wondered about that “homogenous look” last night as I watched the convention on TV. The delegates seemed to be cut from the same pattern. Most of them were middle-aged or older and, to put it delicately, well nourished. Their hair was generally light-brown or blond (a few heads were gray). As the camera panned across the audience, I saw a sea of pinkish-white faces, seemingly painted from the same palette. I saw no trace of ethnic diversity. Here’s what Benac reported:

The Republican National Convention showcased a Native American color guard, a black preacher and video footage of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, all part of its effort to present the GOP as a picture of diversity. What it hasn’t offered is many minorities speaking from the podium in prime time, or sitting among the delegates…

The predominance of white faces on the podium in St. Paul was reflected in the faces staring back from the audience. About 13 percent of GOP delegates identify themselves as belonging to a minority group, according to convention organizers, who provided no further details on the ethnic breakdown.

Of the 2,380 delegates at the convention, only 36 are black (1.5%), according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. And a CBS-New York Times survey of delegates found 93 percent of delegates are white and only 5 percent are Latino. 

I am not accusing White America of being racist. That’s a different topic. Indeed, I could just as easily accuse Black America of racism. I will be surprised if less than 90 percent of the black vote goes to Barack Obama. And I know of many white “liberals” who plan to vote for Obama.  His victory in the Iowa caucus shows he has many white supporters. But I see a racial element in this election that I have never noticed before.

Looking at the assembled Republican delegates on television last night, I was convinced that this is a party not only of a distinctive socio-economic group but also of a racial subgroup. It could be that in America middle-age white people are so advantaged that they are over-represented in the Upper Middle Class, and that what I am seeing is not so much a racial divide as an economic divide. It could also be a generational divide.  Young Americans of all races were conspicuously absent from the convention.

Two-thirds of the American population is white. That means non-whites would lose if votes were cast on a strictly racial basis in November. The question is how many white Americans identify with the delegates at the Republican Convention? I don’t think any of those delegates were laid off recently or lost their homes to foreclosure.

The people on the podium certainly weren’t short of cash. Nearly all were millionaires – some many times over. From the tone of their speeches, I gathered they represent the business world, the successful business world. This could, after all, be a contest between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” and I am certain the “have-nots” outnumber the “haves” in today’s America.

We’ll have to see what happens. I am sure MSNBC’s Chuck Todd will break it all down for us after the elections.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com