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Race - a plus or a minus for Obama

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Race - a plus or a minus for Obama


Many African Americans have been galvanised, as never before, into voting in this year’s US presidential poll. The general feeling is that it is time to break with the past and, instead of abstaining, they will cast their votes.

“I think there is definitely a greater turnout among African-Americans because Barack Obama is African-American,” said sociologist Daniella Gibbs Leger.
“And you can’t deny that there is a certain amount of pride running through the community.”

One of many groups to have mobilised is the congregation of a 192-year-old Methodist Church near Washington. Here, some 90 percent of worshippers think they will back Obama.

“I am proud, I am happy,” said Pastor Robert E. Slade.
“It is about time that we have an African American, but I don’t see Obama as just an African-American. I see him as an intelligent man. One who deserves to be president.”

But a win for the Democratic candidate is not a dead cert, even with this support. Obama has been determined not to alienate white voters. Indeed, when protest groups back the black cause above others, he is keen to distance himself .

“The only way that we are going to solve our problems in this country is if all of us come together: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, young, old, disabled, gay, straight. That, I think, should be our agenda,” Obama has said.

But for 20 percent of the white electorate, the issue of race matters. Some voters interviewed in Oklahoma view the ethnic origins of the Democratic candidate as all important and a small minority were all too ready to use racial insults to express their feelings.

A young woman listening to their words commented:
“A lot of people are not going to vote for Obama because he is black and they think he is a Muslim.”

Things may be changing. After all, a black candidate for US president was unthinkable a few decades ago. But, for Obama to go all the way, both black and white will have to be brought on board.

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