The Politics of Race

A white Democratic senator named Mary Landrieu is almost certainly being voted out of office in Louisiana as I write this blog. And I read somewhere that it’s because white voters have turned against her party.

Surely, that’s an oversimplification. But there could be truth in it.

During my 16 years here in Central Florida, I’ve noticed a shift in our local politics.  There used to be several white faces among the Democratic candidates. But now not so much.

The Democratic Party seems increasingly to be the party representing black and Hispanic Americans, while white Americans cling to the Republican Party.

It could be a Southern phenomenon. Lyndon Johnson observed when he signed civil rights legislation back in the Sixties that he was losing the South for the Democrats. But I suspect there’s much the same kind of racial politics in non-Southern states, too.

I am not sure why, but  I see the racial divide widening in America.

Does it have anything to do with the election and reelection of the nation’s first black President? Perhaps. Ironically, I had perceived Barack Obama’s election as a sign of racial maturity in America, but it could turn out to have the opposite effect.

Whatever the reasons, the situation does not augur well for Democrats. The American population is more than 60 percent white, despite the ongoing demographic trend toward diversity. It will be a while before non-white voters outnumber white voters.

Of course, recent examples of the judicial system’s unequal treatment of black Americans are aggravating racial tensions. White law enforcement officers are getting away with the unlawful execution of unarmed black citizens. And black citizens are also far more likely to wind up in prison than white citizens (if they don’t wind up dead).

Media outlets are contributing to the sad state of affairs. Demagogues -white and black – whip up racial animosity on the air, in print and on the Internet to build their audiences at the nation’s expense. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The US Constitution gives them that right.

Tribalism is a powerful instinct. People are prepared to overlook their economic interests to side with those they regard as their own kind. It’s not a thought process. It’s a gut feeling. They might not even be aware that they’re doing it.

The overwhelming support white working class voters gave Republicans in November is a case in point.

The natural response from those outside the tribe is to close ranks too. Bigotry begets bigotry. Hostility breeds hostility. Violence triggers violence.

I am writing this blog at this time because I am troubled by the hostility that I observe on social media, on television, in street protests and all around me.

I don’t know what the answer might be, but I believe it’s time for thinking Americans of every shade and creed to add their voices to the national debate.

It’s time for the calm voice of reason to prevail.

Click for more on the Mary Landrieu’s runoff race.

Click for an example of racial hostility.

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

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