Do black people support Obama because he's black?

By Jesse Washington

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 12:10 p.m. MDT

In this Sunday, March 7, 2010, file photo Stacey Dash arrives at the Elton John Oscar Party in West Hollywood, Calif. Dash, who tweeted an endorsement of Romney, was subjected to a stream of abuse from other African-Americans.

Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

Surviving slavery, segregation and discrimination has forged a special pride in African-Americans. Now some are saying this hard-earned pride has become prejudice in the form of blind loyalty to President Barack Obama.

Are black people supporting Obama mainly because he's black? If race is just one factor in blacks' support of Obama, does that make them racist? Can blacks' support for Obama be compared with white voters who may favor his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, because he's white?

These questions have long animated conservatives who are frustrated by claims that white people who oppose Obama's policies are racist. This week, when a black actress who tweeted an endorsement of Romney was subjected to a stream of abuse from other African-Americans, the politics of racial accusation came full circle once again.

Stacey Dash, who also has Mexican heritage, is best known for the 1995 film "Clueless" and the recent cable-TV drama "Single Ladies." On Twitter, she was called "jigaboo," ''traitor," ''house nigger" and worse after posting, "Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future."

The theme of the insults: A black woman would have to be stupid, subservient or both to choose a white Republican over the first black president.

Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul and Obama backer, called Dash's experience "racism." Said Barbara Walters on "The View": "If she were white, this wouldn't have happened."

Twitter users are by no means representative of America, and many black Obama supporters quickly denounced the attacks. But for people like Art Gary, an information technology professional, the reason Dash was attacked is simple: She is a black woman supporting a white candidate over a black one.

"It goes both ways," said Gary, who is white. "There is racial bias amongst whites, and there is racial bias amongst blacks. But as far as the press is concerned, it only goes one way."

Antonio Luckett, a sales representative in Milwaukee who is black, called the attacks on Dash unfair. But when people speak out against a symbol of black progress like Obama, he said, "African-Americans tend to be internally hurt by that."

"We still have a civil rights (era) mentality, but we're not living in a civil rights-based world anymore," he said. "We want to say, 'You're black, you need to stand behind black people.'"

Luckett said one reason he voted for Obama in the 2008 primary against Hillary Clinton was because Obama is black: "Yes, I will admit that."

Is that racism? Not in Luckett's mind. "It's voting for someone who would understand your side of the coin a lot better."

Such logic runs into trouble when applied to a white person voting for Romney because he understands whiteness better. Ron Christie, a black conservative who worked for former President George W. Bush, finds both sides of that coin unacceptable.

"It's not the vision that our leaders in the civil rights movement would have envisioned and be proud of in the era of the first African-American president," Christie said.

Martin Luther King Jr. fought Jim Crow laws, which deprived blacks of political rights after Reconstruction, upheld by Southern Democrats. But black voters switched after Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the 1960s civil rights legislation and Republicans successfully pursued the votes of white people who disliked the civil rights agenda.

Since then, Democrats have persistently wooed black voters with programs and platforms that African-Americans favor, and the party has been rewarded every four years.

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