For a while now, I’ve written about how the demographic increase in the size of the Latino American and Asian American populations will inevitably also lead to increased political, economic, and cultural power and influence as well. I also hypothesize that one example of this burgeoning political power was how Latinos and Asians voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in the presidential election and as a result, helped to put him over the top.

In other words, Latino and Asian American voters are becoming increasingly important as voting blocs — a sizable constituency group that, if mobilized to voter overwhelmingly for a particular candidate, can make the difference between victory and defeat in a close election. For years, groups such as African Americans, Jewish Americans, and “NASCAR dads” have been important voting blocs.

To reinforce this notion of the increasing political power of Latinos and Asian Americans, as first mentioned by Seth Hoy at the Immigration Impact blog, the Census Bureau has just released detailed voter data from the 2008 election and among other things, they show:

  • Latinos represented 7.4% of all Americans who voted in the 2008 election (about 9,745,000 out of 131,144,000 total voters). This represents an increase from being 5.4% (about 5,934,000) of all voters in the 2000 election.
  • Asian Americans represented 2.8% of all Americans who voted in the 2008 election (about 3,627,000 out of 131,144,000 total voters). This represents an increase from being 1.8% (2,045,000) of all voters in 2000.
  • Non-Hispanic Blacks comprised 12.3% of all voters in the 2008 election, an increase from 11.5% in the 2000 election.
  • Conversely, non-Hispanic Whites made up 76.3% of all voters in 2008, a decline from 80.7% in 2000.

The data comparisons between 2000 and 2008 clearly show that Latinos and Asian Americans (and to a slightly lesser extent African Americans) comprise an ever-increasing proportion of the American electorate. Just as important, their power as a voting bloc are increasingly becoming evident as well, as noted by the following quote from the Immigration Impact blog post:

In Indiana, Obama won by roughly 26,000 votes, and received the votes of nearly 24,000 more Latino New Americans than John McCain. Similarly, in North Carolina, Obama won by approximately 14,000 votes, yet received the votes of nearly 26,000 more Latino New Americans than McCain.

We should note that Whites are still the largest racial voting group by far. Nonetheless, the rise of Latinos and Asian American is likely to become even more pronounced as both both groups continue to increase in population size, particularly among those who become naturalized citizens and the second generation (the U.S.-born).

The other interesting trend to note is data that shows Latino and Asian American voters are increasingly voting Democratic as well.

With these demographic and cultural shifts in mind, the fundamental nature of the American political landscape is likely to continue to change for generations to come.

On the heels of Don Wakamatsu becoming Major League Baseball’s first Asian American manager, two new Asian Americans are making news for being the latest political pioneers. First, Retired Army General Eric Shinseki has been nominated by Barack Obama to be his Secretary of Veteran Affairs:

Shinseki [is] the first Army four-star general of Japanese-American ancestry . . . [and] a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy. . . .

Shinseki’s tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.

[T]he general was marginalized and later retired from the Army. But Shinseki’s words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a “surge” of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence. . . .

Shinseki, 66, is slated to take the helm of the government’s second largest agency, which was roundly criticized during the Bush administration. . . . Veterans groups also cheered the decision.

Secondly, Republican attorney from Louisiana Anh “Joseph” Cao has just become the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress:

In the 2nd Congressional District, which includes most of New Orleans, Cao won 50 percent of the vote to Jefferson’s 47 percent and will become the first Vietnamese-American in Congress. His only previous political experience was an unsuccessful 2007 bid for a seat in the state legislature. . . .

Republicans made an aggressive push to take the 2nd District seat from the 61-year-old Jefferson, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office. . . . Greg Rigamer, a New Orleans political consultant, said his analysis showed turnout in predominantly white sections of the district was double that in black areas. He said that helped push Cao to victory.

Once General Shinseki is confirmed by the Senate, he follows in the trailblazing steps of Norman Mineta (Secretary of Transportation first under Clinton, then G.W. Bush) and Elaine Chao (Secretary of Commerce under G.W. Bush) as one of the first Asian American presidential cabinet members.

Shinseki’s nomination could not have gone to be more courageous and deserving person. He showed tremendous bravery and integrity in standing up to the Bush administration and then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld by putting facts before politics.

Even though many liberals like me and other Americans from all backgrounds opposed (and continue to do so) the U.S.’s entry into Iraq, as many analysts point out, it was the U.S.’s underestimation of what it would take to secure the country after overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s government that is responsible for the mess we face today.

General Shinseki’s career has been one of blazing a new trail for Asian Americans and while the task ahead of him is daunting, I have every confidence that he will effectively tap into his decades of determination and experience to do a great job in serving our veterans, who put their lives on the line to protect all Americans’ right to disagree with each other within our democratic system.

Regarding Anh “Joseph” Cao, I have to admit that I had never heard of him until news of his recent victory, nor did I know of his candidacy for Congress. Further, as a liberal, I do not anticipate that I will support many of his political positions and policies.

Nonetheless, as an Asian American and particularly as a Vietnamese American, I am thrilled that he has just become the first Vietnamese American member of Congress. As I wrote previously, Vietnamese Americans have a well-documented history of crossing political party lines to vote for Vietnamese American candidates, although we should note that in contrast to most Asian Americans who identify as liberal or Democrats, Vietnamese Americans are the Asian group most likely to identify as Republican/conservative.

Cao joins fellow Republican Bobby Jindal (an Indian American elected as Governor in 2007, and was mentioned as a possible Vice Presidential pick for John McCain) as emerging Asian American politicians in Louisiana. (By the way, for whatever reasons, Louisiana seems to be emerging as an incubator for young Asian American politicians these days).

What is notable about Cao’s victory is that, as the quote from the AP article above notes, his victory is the result of enormous support not necessarily of Asian Americans, but from Whites in his district. In other words, despite the fact that there is a large Vietnamese American community in New Orleans, Cao’s victory resulted from the overwhelming support of Whites.

The point is, Cao’s victory represents the “mainstreaming” of Asian American politicians and how they are able to both leverage the collective resources of their ethnic community and at the same time, broaden their appeal to Whites and other non-Asian voters in order to propel them to victory.

Does this sound familiar? It should because it’s basically the strategy that helped Barack Obama become our next President. I know that Obama’s appeal and victory are more complex than that, but the point I’m trying to make is that “minority” candidates understand that their “dual identities” as both a person of color and as an mainstream American can be both an advantage and a challenge.

That is, just like Barack Obama experienced, his non-White identity led to charges that he wasn’t really “American” by some extremist critics, but that same identity helped him appeal to the growing racially diverse population here in the U.S. At the same time, he showed the country that in terms of his ideals and dreams for the country, he was just as “American” as anybody else — White or non-White.

As such, Obama’s example is likely to be used a model for many minority politicians for years to come. Eric Shinseki and Anh “Joseph” Cao are the most recent examples of this idea and I wish them both the best success in their new positions and thank them for being role models for all Asian Americans.

American racism is getting more coverage on the mainstream news than it has since the Civil Rights era.   And, that’s not surprising given antics like this image included in a mailing from the Chaffey Community Republican Women, a regional arm of the GOP in California (more on the story and image source here).  For her part, the group’s president, Diane Fedele, draws on the rhetoric of “race-blindness” to defend her actions.  She reportedly said that she received the illustration in a number of chain e-mails and decided to reprint it for her members in the group’s newsletter because she was offended that Obama would draw attention to his own race. She said she doesn’t think in racist terms, pointing out she once supported Republican Alan Keyes, an African-American who previously ran for president. She continues this “race-blind” rhetorical strategy when she says:

“I didn’t see it the way that it’s being taken. I never connected,” she said. “It was just food to me. It didn’t mean anything else.”

Now, the somewhat encouraging news is that lots of people are pointing out this overt racism and calling it what it is, including those on rather mainstream (albeit left-leaning) blogs and cable news networks.

However, the way stories like the one about the circulation of this image of “Obama bucks” are overly focused on individual racism, rooted in psychological explanations.  For example, Fedele made the top of Olbermann’s “Worst Person” list on his nightly broadcast, as have others in this political season who’ve been guilty of engaging in the most overt racist tactics.  And, in a perfectly fine piece at the Huffington Post, Peter Wolson has a thorough discussion of the psychology of “othering.”   I don’t disagree with either of these. Indeed, I welcome more discussion of American racism in as many venues as possible.  The problem with these is that the focus on the individual and psychological aspects of racism within a larger political discourse of “race-blindness” elides the way in which racism is systemic, built in, institutionalized, and structural.

The focus on the individual expressions of overt racism and the psychological roots of such expressions also forestall any sort of discussions about responses to racism by society as a whole. To illustrate this, note the contrasting response to individual racism in Denmark recently.  A 33-year-old woman was convicted under Danish laws against racism after posting racist remarks on her personal web page (she was given a fine).   Unfortunately, in the U.S. we seem reluctant to adopt such a societal-level response to overt expressions of racism, even in this political season and even when many, many people see such expressions as wrong and immoral.   Instead, there is a knee-jerk, libertarian response to any call for accountability under the law for such expressions in the United States.  In point of fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has made a number of decisions that restrict certain types of racist speech that don’t make a contribution to the public sphere.    Yet, prominent figures such as Rush Limbaugh, get away with what amounts to enciting racist hatred with their speech, such as this recent tirade against black children allegedly “raised as militants.”

Identifying individuals who engage in overt racism is important, and understanding the psychology of such expressions is valuable, but coming to terms with American racism takes much more than that.  And, dealing with it will require a broad-based political will and systemic social change.   We’re not there yet.

The post American Racism appeared first on racismreview.com.

Over at Slate, Jacob Weisberg, raises some important points about the racial implications of Senator Obama’s campaign, especially why he might lose and what the impact might be. The latter question is one rarely discussed in the mass media so far.

Weisberg reiterates a point we have made with social science data on whites’ racist thinking on this site before:

To some white voters (14 percent in the CBS/New York Times poll), Obama is someone who, as president, would favor blacks over whites. Or he is an “elitist” who cannot understand ordinary (read: white) people because he isn’t one of them.

Then he discusses overt white-racist stuff that gets very little critical attention in the media or from politicians:

In May, Pat Buchanan, who writes books about the European-Americans losing control of their country, ranted on MSNBC in defense of white West Virginians voting on the basis of racial solidarity. The No. 1 best-seller in America, Obama Nation by Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D., leeringly notes that Obama’s white mother always preferred that her “mate” be “a man of color.” John McCain has yet to get around to denouncing this vile book.

Why don’t these pundits get the critical attention they deserve. Clearly, the media’s own racism seems to handicap them in an honest and critical examination of the racist ideas of such pundits.

In my view, in this country now we need to end this sweeping racism under the rug. We need a huge and candid public discussion of white racism, its great and continuing toxic reality, and of our need for anti-racist action on a large scale. And we need that large scale organizing for that anti-racist action now if we are to see a Black man as president.

Weisberg closes with some rather insightful discussion of the positive effects of an Obama victory, but then asks out loud about the impacts of his losing:

If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world’s judgment will be severe and inescapable: The United States had its day but, in the end, couldn’t put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

I am inclined to agree with all but the “crazy irrationality” part. Systemic racism is about material inequality, white power and privilege, and a strong white racial framing to protect white interests, now over nearly four centuries, and not about some wild-racist irrationality.

What do you think of Weisberg’s comments?

The post “Racism is the Only Reason McCain Might Beat Him” appeared first on racismreview.com.

In her “The Last Word” column at Newsweek this week Anna Quindlen gave us a new and useful concept to describe what many whites do—the “Caucasian card” (H/T Jose Cobas). When African Americans object to racist framing, antiblack commentary, or antiblack practices, whites accuse them of “playing the race card.” This is a white-framed, whitewashed phrase designed to deflect objections to everyday racism. It was doubtless invented by whites for that purpose. (Can anyone tell me its first use?) (photo: kevinthoule)

Quindlen cites the way that African Americans carry a heavy load of racial hostility and discrimination on their shoulders:

When one of the white guys blows an account, the office line is that he’s a loser. But when a black guy does it, it means that they—that’s the all-purpose “they,” sometimes used interchangeably with “those people”—don’t seem to be able to close the deal.

This burden of everyday racism makes a black person’s life quite different from that of a white person. Somehow most whites assume their lives are the same. They assert that blacks have equal opportunities compared to whites–in education, employment, housing or health care.

She later notes that Senator McCain justifiably likes to cite his long trials in a Viet Cong prison with it torture of a physical and psychological kind for five years. That, he and his supporters plausibly assert, “builds character.” But they forget or intentionally ignore the huge burden of contending with white hostility and discrimination that black men and women face (as well as other Americans of color). They face it for lifetimes, for far more than five years. This heavy burden often involves physical and psychological torture of its own kind. This should be fully recognized by the white media and voters, but is not.

Quindlen then comments on the McCain campaign’s reaction to Senator Obama’s recent and reasonable commentary on being viewed by many (whites) as not looking like other presidents on U.S. money and as being portrayed by McCain supporters and others as somehow foreign and “other.”

The man is black. His candidacy is indivisible from that fact, given the history and pathology of this country.… The suggestion of [his doing] something untoward was pandering to stereotypes and fear. Senator McCain was playing the Caucasian card.

She nails it this time. Whites invented the racist system of this country and have maintained that system, with great white privileges, since the 1600s. They have “played the white card” in every era. They played it in the abolitionist era of the 1850s-1860s, and they played it in the civil rights era of the 1950s-1960s. With no sense of irony, privileged whites (coming from what one blogger bobbosphere calls the “deal”) still play that white card today when they regularly accuse African Americans who critique the racist system and try to bring it down as “playing the race card” and being unfair to our “really democratic” system.

The post Playing the Caucasian Card appeared first on racismreview.com.