"Our race has been damaged. Sometimes to get back up to the level of respect and love, you've gotta stick with your own and build a certain amount of strength and community within yours so that other people can respect and honour your traditions."
The above was a comment made by a white preacher discouraging interracial relationships. "I disagree with them [interracial relationships]. It's a lack of self-love. It's a problem."
George W. Bush invited him to the White House in 2006 causing the predictable backlash.
But the preacher wasn't done: "every time we step out with some woman it's setting an example for our daughters and it's also representing something for our mothers. If you can't really love your own, how can you really love others?"
Loving your own. A lack of self-love when you date outside your race. The damaged race. These are vile, outside the mainstream opinions. Polls frequently show that upwards of 90 percent of Americans of all races approve of interracial marriage.
Of course the comments weren't made by any white preacher and Bush certainly didn't invite a bigot like this to the White House. It was rapper Common and the invitation was extended by the Barack Obama White House.
I'm not here to re-fight last year's controversy. I am an admitted fan of Common's music and yet I thought it was a travesty that someone openly racist in this way was allowed to visit our White House.
My point today is to illustrate how touchy race and charges of racism remain for white people and why backwards comments by pollsters such as the ones featured in Anna Sale's article about racism and voting should be discounted. (I want to note I'm a huge fan of Anna's and don't blame her for reporting on a meme).
According to Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler, "About one in five white Americans report opposing or somewhat opposing interracial dating, and since Obama’s election, these voters are more likely to vote Republican for the first time."
This is interesting right off the bat for three reasons:
1) 80 percent of Americans are ok with interracial dating. That's an astoundingly high number. Try getting 80 percent of Americans to agree on anything else. Gay marriage? 50/50. Abortion? 60/40. But interracial marriage is essentially a landslide in favor.
2) Let's assume that the 20 percent figure is correct and 1 in 5 white people oppose interracial relationships. Would it be surprising to learn that the numbers are only slightly lower for black people? That's right, 15 percent of black people oppose interracial marriage. One of them even got an invite to the White House. Actually, make that two of them. Common and Jill Scott are famous and open about their opposition yet few pollsters seek to find the trend of black people voting Democrat for the first time because there is a black candidate. Isn't that exactly the kind of racism they're implying is happening with white voters?
3) If these people "are more likely to vote Republican for the first time" that would mean that they were voting Democrat, third party or not voting before Obama's election. There was no evidence of that in the 2010 election. In fact, some of the biggest changes in that election were that Obama voters were having second thoughts about the party of the man they elected just two years prior. Did they suddenly become racists? See these stories for more: "Republican candidates siphoned off 12 percent of women who voted for Obama in 2008" and Previous Obama voters were disappointed in him and didn't vote.
Pollsters can tell the story they want to tell with their numbers. And "white people are racist" is always a convenient one to tell, especially when he have a flailing president beloved by the very college professors who translate these polls. The explanation can't be as simple as Obama isn't doing the job well, it has to be White People Hate Him Because He's Half Black. The numbers don't support it but that doesn't seem to matter at all.