Even before Matt Drudge linked to it, I knew that my latest story would anger some liberals and black people. My job is to report what people of all backgrounds are thinking and feeling about race. Many people who find a particular belief offensive—in this case, that some black people vote for Obama mostly because he is black—assume that I share the belief that is being written about, or at least want to promote it.
Here’s one such response I got last night:
You should be very proud that your shallow story is being used by partisan Republicans to claim to white voters that black voters are being racist. You could have written a much longer and serious story that might have explored various "dog whistle" (if you do not know the phrase refers to you might do a little reasearch) that Republicans are using against the man they call the "food stamp president". And that pehaps black voters have noticed. Or compare Obama policies versus Romney policies on dozens of issues of concern to black voters and consider whether black voters might believe Obama's policies are better for them in the same way that, perhaps,companies that pollute believe Romney's policies are better for them. Or you might consider whether Supreme Court decisions are important to black voters and they would rather Obama name justices than Romney (you may not realize this, but black voters do know about the Supreme Court.) Or dozens of similar major issues.
If I say you are a lazy reporter, am I suggesting you are black, with the same dog whistle John Sununu employed when he said Obama was lazy? No, I am just saying you are a lazy reporter, which I just did, not knowing or caring about your race, though I suspect some black voters (correctly) were offended by Sununu's dog whistle comment.
Did you send your story to Matt Drudge? Or your editor? Or the Romney campaign?
(a white man who does not appeciate dog whistle politics or stories such as yours).
I understand where he’s coming from—the same place that conservatives were coming from when they were angered by my piece a month ago exploring whether white people oppose Obama because he is black. I expect this kind of thing. Maybe I encourage it with my writing style for these pieces, which is factual reporting combined with a heavy dose of analysis (which is prettyclose to opinion). So I’m not mad at the man who sent the above message. We had an email conversation, although he probably ended up madder than when we started.
However, I was mildly surprised that a good number of conservatives, and one or two blatant racists, responded negatively to this article. Like so:
Blacks vote for obama because they are inherently dumb. Look in the mirror and then read your own piece believing someone else wrote. Dumb, right? It is the best interest for you and others who still enslave the Black race for your own benefit that you keep them thinking of themselves as a lesser people. Whitey is the evil boogie man.You tell them, your dumb, uneducated because you were slaves, had to ride the back of the bus. Of course 95% of those you convince where never there. Today it is the Black race and Black so called leaders who are the RACIST of the 21st century. Educated Blacks go one of two ways . They get out of the ghetto and Ghetto thinking, become productive and asimilate into the general productive population, or like yourself, they prey on their own race as slave masters.
I hate the N word, but you and your kind are that.
Or like so:
I appreciate the overall subject of your article. I reject its conclusion; that it's right, or at least understandable that black voters will vote for black candidates simply because they are black, but it is wrong for white voters to vote for white candidates because they are white. … I don't know your race or background, but I can easily see your politics by the piece you wrote. Whoever you are, you have done a disservice to your profession with ignorant misstatements of historical fact, one-sided quotes and uncrticial thinking. You have perpetuated the false and illogical principle that it's okay for today's American blacks to view politics through race-colored glasses, but it's wrong for any other race to do the same.
It’s believed that people read and remember news/information that reinforces the beliefs they already have. But what about a balanced story like mine, which presents both sides of an emotional issue? It seems to me that some people can selectively read a single article and extract what they like or dislike, while simultaneously ignoring/debating the information that counters their preconceived notions.
I try not to be that person. I find it healthy to assume that I'm wrong a good portion of the time. That way I can keep searching for truth.
Some conservative folks gave this video a ride recently, which upset some liberal folks. Yawn. To me, it was reminiscent of Bill Maher's "Mississippi" takedown:
You know how they do: Let's interview some people who will say things on camera to embarrass the other side.
That said: Few may notice that Obamaphone Lady's style of speak and swagger are straight hip-hop. Substitute the name of any rapper or neighborhood for "Obama" and it still fits perfectly. She got remixes online already. Tell me she wouldn't fit into this video right here:
Come to think of it, haven't rap videos been used as political ammunition before, too? Is the Obamaphone Lady all that different?
I first read about the Obamaphone Lady in James Taranto's column. He notes that she is voicing a half-true urban legend Taranto "had previously heard from conservative friends": Obama started the free-phone program. The federal program to subsidize phones for low-income people dates to the 1980s; Obama expanded it to cell phones in 2008.
I've had lots of conversations with conservative people about poor people who have cell phones (also tattoos, nice sneakers, cigarettes, Haagen Daz, etc). It feels wrong to many of them when people receiving government benefits have such things. This is one reason the Obamaphone Lady got so much play from folks like Drudge and Limbaugh.
Last thought: The way the Lady used the phrase "low minority" made me pause.
Jesse Washington is a Senior Writer for ESPN's TheUndefeated.com