Has Obama Narrowed Our Discussion of Race?

Email a Friend

Hermene Hartman was an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama in 2008. In fact her magazine, N’DIGO, was the first to publish his image on its cover back in 1997. Since then, her enthusiasm has faded.  

Earlier this month we spoke with Ms. Hartman about how she thinks there has been "disappointment in Barack Obama as an African American" and that "there’s been no focus and deliberation with the black community."

Her comments elicited a widespread backlash, including people who told her she should not be saying these things about an African American leader — even if they believed them to be true. This brings about interesting questions concerning race in this election. Do members of the African American community feel a duty to vote for Barack Obama? Can they even criticize him, let alone declare support for Mitt Romney without fear of reprisal?

Recently, actress Stacey Dash tweeted: "Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future." Alongside the tweet she added a photo of herself in a red bathing suit standing in front of the American flag.  She received a number of comments in response, many of which attacked her identity as a black woman.

Hermene Hartman is back to discuss the responses she’s heard since making her original comments on our show. Also discussing the issues of race in the election is Renee Amoore, deputy chair of the Pennsylvania Repubrelican State Committee, and founder and president of the Amoore Group.

Renee Amoore has certainly felt the pressure to support Obama in her career as a Republican. People often ask her, "How could you be black and not vote for him?" She responds, "I'm a small business owner, and I don't agree with his policies, and I have a right to disagree with him."

Though Hermene says she will likely vote for Obama in spite of her disappointment, she thinks both candidates need to focus more on the issues, and talk openly about what they will do to for the urban, black community. "We've just had a presidential debate, and Big Bird becomes the star of the show? Give me a break. We've got to talk about real issues that affect people." 

Renee agrees that there needs to be more substance - in the debates, and in the office itself. "We keep doing this, as minorities in particular, which really frustrates me - why keep voting that person in that's not doing what they need to do?" she asks. 

But Hermene says that Romney, too, has been silent on the issues that affect the urban black community. "We've got an unemployment rate in the black community of 14 percent - that's the national rate - and the unemployment rate I think is 7.9 right now. Who's going to address that gap?" Hermene asks.

Renee Amoore thinks the Republican Party does not get the credit that it should for the work that it does for African Americans. "We're always being called racist," Amoore says, confirming the point made in our round table with Ohio voters. "And I've been black a long time, I know I'm not a racist."    

So what are the chances that Hermene will vote Republican in this election?

"I'm not voting race, I'm not voting party, I want to vote on issues, and the issues are not being fully addressed to me," Hermene says.