A Tough Road for African Americans

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Aug 25, 2008 12:32 PM
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a Hillary Clinton delegate was called an "Uncle Tom" by Barack's erstwhile mentor, Emil Jones.

In the meantime, the LA Times ran a story about TV One and BET denying they're "Obama cheerleaders."

It strikes me that it's entirely natural that the nomination of Barack Obama would be a matter of great pride among African Americans of all political persuasions and views -- it's a moving testimony to how far an historically oppressed people have been able to rise in an opportunity society like America's.  But that doesn't mean that all blacks necessarily will (or even should) vote for Obama based only on his race.

There's an unfortunate tendency in some quarters to try to impose a certain group-think on African Americans (the same phenomenon we've seen with over-the-top attacks on Justice Thomas).  Why, exactly, does Emil Jones think it's appropriate to characterize someone as, essentially, a traitor to her race just because she might not initially have supported Barack Obama? 

Why does BET and TV One think that they should be taken seriously as other mainstream journalistic sources when they're not even willing to cover the Republican National Convention and give the other side of the story?  TV One chairman Johnathan Rodgers said such coverage ""[j]ust by definition"  "doesn't fit into our mission" because "[t]here's no need for us to bring a presence to an event if there's no African Americans involved."  Tellingly, TV One wouldn't even cover the convention if Condi Rice were named veep -- although, Rodgers conceded, they would probably cover her acceptance speech.

Most Republicans -- and I daresay, most Americans -- believe this election should be color-blind, and that the candidates should be voted up or down based on their policies and their characters, not their skin colors.  Given that African Americans are still a minority, it would make sense especially for black liberals to share this view.  Why?  Because if there is still significant racism in this country (which most liberals must believe; otherwise, what's the justification for affirmative action?),  they would have a greater stake than anyone in making sure that the alleged racism doesn't unfairly penalize their candidate.

Covering only the Democrats (or demeaning any African American who didn't originally support Barack) sends the message that there's only one platform, one party and one candidate that blacks have an interest in and can legitimately support.  Not only is that limiting and insulting to African Americans, it suggests that color is the only revelant factor in one's political thinking.  What a shame.