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Southern states defying race stereotypes

(Credit: Politirazzi)

By Matt

The most interesting “ism” at play in this year’s presidential race is racism. It is an issue that has at times shadowed and at times come to the fore of Barack Obama’s campaign. While he might have hoped to settle the issue of his race with his speech on the matter several weeks ago, it is unfortunately likely that it will surface in some serious (as in attention-grabbing) way again.

Rather than focus on the obvious racism question — something to the effect of “Will racism keep Obama from winning?” or “Can whites overcome their animus to vote for a serious black candidate?” — I’d like instead to ask whether Obama’s success in several former Confederate states says something about racism in this nation more broadly. A common notion (or stereotype) is that feelings of animus toward members of minority races are more prevalent, naturally, in the South. But do Barack Obama’s primary victories in places like, among others, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, speak to a heretofore unrecognized evolution of our fellow Americans below the Mason-Dixon line?

(continued) Do those historic victories symbolize the acceptance of black leadership by white majorities in what are often considered by New Yorkers to be backward, hateful, redneck states?

It is of course impossible to proclaim racism’s death based on the results of primaries where voters are self-selecting and motivated by various interests. Barack Obama has asked for a fair shake in the election — to be judged on his record. On their face, don’t the primary results in such backwoods “red” states at least beg for our Southern neighbors, long ridiculed as gun-toting hate-mongers, to be given the same chance?

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