Friday, October 2, 2009

Race or Ethnicity

So I've been thinking about the issue of race versus ethnicity and how the discussion is always clouded by presumptions or judgments. For instance when Gov Paterson accused Dominic Carter essentially of behaving like an "Uncle Tom"- there was s brouhaha in the media for weeks. The implication behind the drama was that Paterson tried to drag race into a discussion to mask his dwindling support in the polls.

Next Obama gets involved and tries to "persuade" Paterson not to run. The chatter then surrounded the wisdom of the first African American President telling NY's first black governor what to do. Add on Obama's reluctance to support Thompson's mayoral run against Bloomber and you have a recipe for lots of analysis and chatter.

It seems that "minority" candidates generally expect the groups to which they are a member to "naturally" support their election ambitions but at the same time don't automatically do the same for their political brethren. Take John Liu, for instance. He endorsed Alan Gerson over Margaret Chin and John Choe over Yen Chou. Liu supported people of other ethnicities in both cases and in one chose a person of a different race than himself. And of course in both cases he chose not to support candidates not the same gender as himself. Yet both women and Liu were victorious because the ethnic, racial and gender groups they belong to came out in droves for them, along with other groups of supporters.

The question I pose is this: if elected officials feel no compulsion to support members of their own racial groups who run for higher office why should we the voting public blindly follow candidates who belong to our own respective racial groups? In situations where a member of a particular racial group is represented by a candidate, should that candidate expect a sweep of votes from his racial cohorts? What does it mean when people cross racial lines (or ethnic) lines to endorse similarly qaulified opponents? Are we persuaded or blinded by race? Or does race only matter when its the "tie-breaking" quality under consideration?

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