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The Amazing Race

The New York Times has been running a series of articles about race and how both campaigns have avoided the topic. The article The Times published yesterday, In Voting Booth, Race May Play a Bigger Role [www.nytimes.com] asserts that the public discourses ignores race. The worry, according to the article, is that race is is actually huge factor for people and avoiding the issue now means huge surprised on November 4. This is also referred to as the Bradley Effect—when voters tell polls they are voting one way (for Obama, for example) and then when they fill out their ballot behind a curtain, vote another way (McCain), because they are secretly racist.

I have no doubt that many people will poll one way and vote another, although I am not so certain that it will only go in one direction. I also believe that there are many people who feel pressured by their communities and families not to vote for the half-black candidate, but when they draw the curtain at their local elementary school, they will go with their heart and vote for him.

I completely agree it would be a mistake to overlook the significance of race in this election. I don’t agree, however, that it has been overlooked. In fact, there seems to be ample mention of race in on the campaign trail these days.

In reference to the debate tonight, McCain said he was going to “whip” Obama’s “you-know-what.” [ap.google.com] Is that not a nod to what McCain’s white predecessors did to their black counterparts in 19th-century America? Seems like an overt, if not audacious, nod to race.

Sarah Palin has also been extremely vocal about race. She’s always asserting her bias toward rural America, where four out of five people are white. “I love ‘Small Town USA’ because hardworking, good American (families), you just get it,” Palin said on Sunday during a stump speech in Clairsville, Ohio. When looking at the demographic breakdown and the whiteness of her crowds, it’s hard to argue that she is not also talking about race.

And doesn’t “terrorist” pretty much mean Muslim extremist when you say the word in this country? It at least conjures the image, and “terrorists” something both she and her crowds yell out frequently. Of course, if you add the word “domestic” before “terrorist,” it means a white guy, but the kind of white guy who is crazy, violent and is probably in bed with the other kinds of darker-skin terrorist from our “enemy” countries (which are filled with people of other races).

I suppose it’s true that none of the candidates have directly said “Don’t vote for that guy, he’s black,” or “I know you might be afraid of voting for me because I’m black,” but those are not the kinds of ideas that penetrate the psyche of most people—they’re too easy to ignore or discount. However, the way in which McCain and Palin talk about race is much more insidious and much more of a threat to the election than any Bradley Effect or the lack of a national discourse about “black” and “white.”

–Jamie Wong