Progress on Race

23:58 Sun 09 Nov 2008. Updated: 17:18 28 Jan 2009
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While Obama’s election is a sign of racial progress in the United States, Bernard Chazelle presents some interesting demographic statistics about how his victory came about.

Here’s one number that might surprise some people: whites voted for McCain 55% to 43%. (Note: I don’t buy into the suspect concept of “whiteness”, but this kind of breakdown is still significant given how many people categorize themselves, and others, this way.)

Given the amount of self-congratulation I’ve seen in the media, you’d think that white people in this country were far so far in the majority for Obama that racism was clearly dead… but the numbers don’t support that. What they do support, as Chazelle points out, is that white people are no longer a sufficient majority in this country for a relatively narrow majority of them to carry the vote against a candidate sufficiently supported by other groups.

That’s still important. That’s still good news, presenting a lot of opportunities for greater tolerance and less prejudice. But it’s not evidence that white America has suddenly embraced a black liberal, or that (no matter what Obama himself says, incidentally) race is “over” in America.

(One other good sign that must be noted: the only white age group to vote for Obama was the 18-29 range, 54%-44%. Hopefully means the young are more tolerant, and will remain more tolerant.)

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