Some of last November’s election results and statistics are very telling for our understanding of current racial relations in America. So let’s take a look at a few of them.
In South Carolina, Tim Scott was overwhelmingly elected to the U.S. Senate by more than 60 percent of the voters. As always, whites were voting in higher numbers than others and older whites were voting in higher numbers still. What is noteworthy here is that Scott is the first black Republican to win a South Carolina Senate seat since the Reconstruction (in fact, he is the first in the entire South, not just South Carolina). But what is even more significant (and barely reported) is that 74 percent of the white voters voted for him rather than his white opponent. And whites who voted against Scott voted for the Democratic candidate.
Of course, South Carolina is one of the states that were fully covered under the special provisions of the Voting Act of 1965. Those provisions required that all covered jurisdictions get a federal government clearance on all changes to election laws with the justification that racism was historically strong in those places and minorities there needed additional protection from Washington, D.C. When the Supreme Court struck down this provision in 2013 (noting huge progress in racial relations), Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would be doing everything to watch those states and prevent discrimination there. He followed that promise and has sued several states challenging their voting laws. But should he?
The voting result in this year’s election in South Carolina clearly shows that the majority of white people did not take race into consideration when it came to voting (and, therefore, most likely, to anything else important in their lives). Even in the Southern states and among older white voters, who were always considered the most racist, it still holds true (as if the election and re-election of a black president was not enough to prove that), so there is no hidden racism here.
Mia Love in Utah
Another notable voting result is the election of Mia Love, who is black, to the U.S. House of Representatives. It is remarkable that she won in Utah’s 4th Congressional District, which is located in the heart of the state and is one of the most reliably Republican. Utah is a mostly white state with a black population of just about 1 percent. In addition to being black, Love is also the daughter of the immigrants, making her win a first in many aspects. And again, she easily won the race. So much for anti-black, anti-women, anti-immigrant Republicans!
And the two Republican victories mentioned above are not the only ones – for example, Will Hurd won in a southern Texas Congressional District.
So what does it tell us? First, it indicates that racism is mostly a thing of the past and people vote based on the real issues (or possibly, ideology) but not on the candidates’ skin color. People trust a person of a different race perfectly well to represent them in government. Second, Republicans are not any more racist as a group than any other party and accusations that they fight Obama because if his race rather than his policies are baseless. Third, gerrymandering and voter ID laws, again, have nothing to do with racism or discrimination, as many contend, and, instead, are purely political. So even if some of those things are wrong, it is not because they are discriminatory and therefore there is nothing for the Justice Department to do there.
I hate emphasizing the race of all of the above Republican winners – I do not care what color a person’s skin is as long as he or she is honest, smart, and hardworking. But Democrats keep bringing race into politics all the time and always point out the lack of diversity among Republicans as a proof of their racist nature. As the 2014 election results indicate, it is not Republicans’ racism but minorities’ devotion (based mostly on Democrat’s propaganda) to the Democratic Party that results in few minority Republican candidates.
A nonissue in Brazil’s elections
Here is one more related fact. I am not sure that many people noticed, but Brazil elected a president last October. One of the leading candidates in those elections, Marina Silva, is a black woman but, surprisingly to Americans, her race was a non-issue during the election, both before and after she lost: Neither she nor her opponents were bringing the issue up. For those who don’t know, Brazil imported more slaves than America and was the last country to abolish slavery; blacks still lag behind there in education and income. And yet, race was not an issue during the election there, which, I am sure, allowed people to concentrate on the country’s problems rather than on the color of people’s skin.
People like to refer to “living in the 21st century,” meaning that many things as we know them are (or are supposed to be) things of the past. Mentioning race everywhere as an important factor and looking for, and accusing people of, racism should also become the thing of the past – America is beyond playing the racial card. As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, let’s judge people not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character (and of course their actions). We will all win when it happens.
Ilya Gutman is an immigrant from the Soviet Union who now lives and works in Marshall, Minnesota.
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