Comedian | Professor | Writer
(& Smartest) Arab
In 2008, as an Arab American and person of color, I voted for Barack Obama. I didn’t vote for him because he was a Democrat. I didn’t vote for him because he was a community organizer. I didn’t vote for him because he was young, or educated, or magnetic. I voted for him for one reason and one reason only. I voted for Barack Obama because he’s black.
According to the Pew Research Center, in the 2008 presidential elections, almost every black voter cast his or her ballot for Barack Obama. That statistic surprises no one, I presume. But more interesting than that number is the rate that other minorities and people of color voted for the first black president.
Latinos voted for Obama at a clip of 67%. 62% of Asian voters supported him. That means that he registered 6.5 million out of 9.7 million Latino votes, while scoring 2.1 million out of 3.3 million Asian votes.
At the same time, he received 15.1 million out of 15.9 million black votes in 2008. That’s a rate of 95%. Those kinds of numbers make Bashar al-Assad jealous.
Voter turnout among black voters was up 15% in 2008 as compared to 2004. Asian voter turnout increased by 14%, and Latino voter turnout rose a whopping 27%.
When 2008’s black, Latino, and Asian voters were taken together, 23.7 million of the 28.9 million voted for Barack Obama. In other words, 83% of these minority voters went for him.
Also, there may be as many as 7 million Muslims in America, and, according to a poll conducted by the American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights and Elections, 89% of Muslim voters cast their ballots for Barack Obama in 2008. I’m not sure whether or not that statistic includes the president himself.
On the other hand, out of the 100 million white Americans who voted in 2008, again according to Pew, only 43% voted for President Obama. And that number most likely includes voters who are legally considered “white,” like Arab Americans, who, according to the Arab American Institute, voted for Obama at a rate of 67%. 28% voted for John McCain. The rest voted for their brother Ralph Nader. That’s how he got his 1%.
We can probably safely assume that Mr. Obama also received the lion’s share of votes among other “white” communities here, like Iranian Americans and Turkish Americans. Probably Chechens too. So, in reality, if we were to only imagine those white voters who were really think of as white in this country, that 43% number might drop considerably.
If it weren’t for those 100 million pesky white voters, Barack Obama wouldn’t have had to campaign at all. His blackness would have taken him straight to the White House.
So, we have 83% of recognized minorities (black, Latinos, and Asians), 89% of Muslims, and 67% of Arab Americans, all voting for Barack Obama in 2008. Many of the white voters who chose him most likely also did it for the same reason as their fellow Americans of color. Why did they all vote for him? Like me, they did it because he’s black.
Should the president be speaking more loudly and forcefully about the unnecessary criminal killing of black men at the hands of police throughout America? Yes! And why should he? Because he’s black, and that’s why we voted for him.
Should the president be commenting about how race is at the center of certain issues even when it might not be fashionable to do so? Yes! And why should he? Because he’s black, and that’s why we voted for him.
We voted for him because we thought, as a black man, he would bring a unique perspective to leadership that had been so glaringly lacking before he took office.
Since Barack Obama was elected, racial issues in America have been addressed less than they were before. Is he afraid that people might think that if he talks about race, that he is simply doing it because he’s black? Well, to those of us who voted for him, it seems that is precisely the case. In doing so, he is contravening the entire purpose for which we elected him.
Mr. Obama, we didn’t vote for you because racism is over. We voted for you because the road is still long. And you were supposed to be our leader in that journey.
We voted for you because you are black. We expected you to bring that to the office. We expected you to be the leader for us when Trayvon Martin’s killer was exonerated. We expected you to say that while we, as a nation of laws, must respect the verdict, we must also be outraged by it. We expected you to say that Trayvon Martin died because he was black, and for no other reason. We expected you to say that Mike Brown’s murder in Ferguson is, in fact, about race. We expected you to call for the arrest of Darren Wilson. We expected you to say that Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and the numerous other unarmed black men killed by police and others are victims of a society that sees them as threatening criminals, simply because of their race.
We expected you to say all of these things. We didn’t just expect you to. In fact, we needed you to.
As Cornel West declared early this week, it seems “we got played.” Rather than use the huge political capital that Americans of color and conscience overwhelmingly gave him when he entered office, he became a “neoliberal opportunist.”
Instead of representing and speaking for the people that actually voted for him, he is too busy trying to satisfy those that didn’t.
We elected a black president. And he has made fools of us all.