A Thank You Note to White Voters

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While dodging those pigs I said would fly before a black man got elected president, I got to thinking about just who black folks had to thank for Barack Obama's historic achievement.


Obama and his brilliant staff are, of course, at the top of the list for mounting what was arguably the best presidential campaign in American political history.

And then there was our army of black voters who turned out in huge numbers and voted almost unanimously for our man.

But amid all our justified hooping and hollering, there's one group that I fear will not get its fair share of the credit for its essential contribution to this sweeping victory, a group we're more accustomed to blaming for all our woes than thanking for our progress.

I am talking, of course, about white folks.

Yes, white folks, the ones we thought would lie to pollsters about supporting Obama then pull the lever for his white opponent.

Not the majority of white folks, who voted for John McCain, but the millions upon millions of other white people, open minded and decent enough to give the brother a chance.

They deserve a big hand.

Of the 64 million votes Obama collected, the largest tally in history, by far the largest share were cast by white voters.


He racked up 43 percent of the white vote, equaling Bill Clinton's performance and easily surpassing Al Gore and John Kerry.

Without those white folks, Obama would have lost the election.

Obama knew that all along. He knew that there are not enough black and minority voters to win an election unless a substantial number of whites join in. That's why he downplayed racial issues throughout the campaign, focusing instead on a message of change that appealed to voters of every variety.


But his strategy would not have succeeded unless enough white voters were willing to look beyond his color and hear his message.

They were, and they did.

When I predicted in mid-September that the days when Republicans could win elections by stirring up white resentments were finally gone, some blacks thought I was being hopelessly naïve.


But as I wrote then, this is no longer the America that John McCain, Jesse Jackson and I grew up in. Coded racist appeals have lost much of their potency, especially among the young and the well-educated.

I don't want to go overboard about this because most white voters still backed the Republicans. Some of them fell for McCain and Sarah Palin's okey-doke because prejudice and reactionary thinking continue to play powerful roles in our politics, and they are not going away.


But that bad news should not diminish our gratitude for the white folks who had the courage and insight to cross the color line and join Obama's cause.

They helped him to recreate the sort of multiracial coalition that Martin Luther King Jr. led to the greatest triumphs of the civil rights movement.


Because of them, Obama was swept into the White House in what some regard as the greatest moment in black history since the Emancipation.

Because of them, Obama may have a chance to shape a political realignment as dramatic as the Reagan revolution, though moving in the opposite political direction.


So thank you, white folks!

We couldn't have done it without you.

Now, could you lend us a hand with these flying pigs?

Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.

is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.