Hillary’s Appeal to Black Voters

On his first visit to Selma, Ala., Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) came face-to-face with Democratic rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.). At the 42nd anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march, Obama said the current generation needs to honor the civil-rights movement by taking responsibility for rejecting violence; cleaning up “40-ounce bottles” and other trash that litters urban neighborhoods; and voting in elections. He added that parents have to “turn off the television set and put away the Game Boy and make sure that you’re talking to your teacher and that we get over the anti-intellectualism that exists in some of our communities where if you conjugate your verbs and if you read a book that somehow means you are acting white.”

Even though Obama and Cinton both have a natural appeal among American black voters, can Obama make statements to American blacks that Sen. Clinton would feel politically incorrect if she were to make? The New York Times’s Lynette Clemetson notes, “When whites use the word [“articulate”] in reference to blacks, it often carries a subtext of amazement, even bewilderment … Such a subtext is inherently offensive because it suggests that the recipient of the ‘compliment’ is particularly different from other black people.” Many blacks see this word as it relates to them as a way of saying they are unable to speak with fluency and coherency. It is baffling why American whites are so guarded in what they say to American blacks when American blacks are not at all guarded in their remarks commenting on whites in America. Obama stated at the march, “If it hadn’t been for Selma, I wouldn’t be here. This is the site of my conception. I am the fruits of your labor. I am the offspring of the movement. When people ask me if I’ve been to Selma before, I tell them I’m coming home.” Although many whites served and died in support of the civil-rights movement throughout our history, it would be politically impractical for Hillary or anyone to tell American blacks to take responsibility for their own lives and claim that the government does not owe them everything.

Are whites afraid of being labeled racists and that something bad will happen if they say what is truly on their minds as it relates to blacks, or is it their innermost guilt? Inquiring minds would like to know.

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