How Race Plays in the 2012 Election

Globe and Mail contributor Imani Perry breaks down how race and the election intersect.

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Associated Press polls show that as the country's first black president nears the end of his first term, anti-African-American sentiment is up across the nation. Effigies of the president and other targets were seen in North Carolina, and the stereotypes many blacks thought we'd outpaced, like the welfare queen, reappeared. Imani Perry parses these moments in relation to race and the impending election in the Globe and Mail.

The truth is, Americans are quite ambivalent about the value we place in "equality." Americans love the ideal, but many also fear it. They worry that if we pursue racial equality, it might negatively affect their standing in society. And so we find ourselves with hysterical clinging to the status quo through lynched President dolls, and fearmongering about the havoc of the ghetto and the teeming "illegals" reaching into suburbia's pockets at the bidding of a "socialist" President.

The great irony is that policies set with the intention of addressing racial inequality and poverty are avoided by both Democrats and Republicans, even as the Democrat at the helm, Barack Obama, is a person of colour. The most loyal constituents of the Democratic Party, African Americans, have nearly double the unemployment rate of their white counterparts, one-twentieth of the wealth, a lower life expectancy and a vast overrepresentation in the criminal justice system for drug crimes, despite a lower rate of drug usage.

These are just snapshots of a society in which the accident of birth can operate as a winning or losing lottery ticket, again and again. African Americans know this. And yet the political mobilization to advocate for measures to address discriminatory practices has waned in the black community. This is the crux and crisis of the post civil rights condition. We have tacitly consented as the Democratic Party capitulates repeatedly to the forces that say that "you can't win" with race-specific policies, or with measures that address poverty. In exchange, the party is racially inclusive from top to bottom, even as the society is not.

Read Imani Perry's entire piece at the Globe and Mail.

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