When Is It O.K. to Vote Your Race?
The Times recently published a series of interesting articles about the role that race is playing in the current presidential election.
Saul Anuzis, the Republican chairman in Michigan, said he had become accustomed to whispered asides from voters suggesting they would not vote for Mr. Obama because he is black. “We honestly don’t know how big an issue it is,” Mr. Anuzis said. But Representative Artur Davis, an African-American Democrat of Alabama, said race was no longer the automatic barrier to the White House that it once was.
“There is a group of voters who will not vote for people who are opposite their race,” Mr. Davis said. “But I think that number is lower today than it has been at any point in our history.”
What’s interesting to me, and often goes unspoken, is that the “group of voters who will not vote for people who are opposite their race” may better describe black voters than white voters.
Granted, black voters often don’t have the choice of a black candidate to vote for. But consider what happened in this year’s Democratic primaries, when they did. Among black voters, Obama ran up lopsided victories against Hillary Clinton in almost every state. Here are some of the most skewed:
+ In Pennsylvania, Obama won 92 percent of the black vote and 40 percent of the white vote.
+ In Indiana, Obama won 92 percent of the black vote and 39 percent of the white vote.
+ In Illinois, Obama won 94 percent of the black vote and 62 percent of the white vote.
+ In Ohio, Obama won between 87 percent and 91 percent of the black vote* and between 34 percent and 44 percent of the white vote*.
+ In North Carolina, Obama won 91 percent of the black vote and between 33 percent and 40 percent of the white vote*.
*In some exit polls, race is paired with sex but not given as a total. In Ohio, for example, Obama did better among black women than he did among black men, and better among white men than among white women.
So in these states, several of which happen to be heavily contested in the upcoming election, more than 9 of 10 black voters voted for the black candidate, whereas anywhere from 3 to 6 out of 10 white voters voted for the black candidate.
These numbers are even more off-balance than the numbers on black-white TV viewing.
This also reminds me of the discomfort that white sports fans feel when they want to cheer extra loud for the one or two white guys on an N.B.A. team. Is that racist — or just voting your race?