Obama and the African American vote: changes since 2008?

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by Kenya Abbott, Jr.

In the 2008 election, there was a rise in the number of African Americans that came out to vote.
Studies showed that in 2008 Barack Obama received ninety-five percent of the black vote.

While African Americans were not the only ones who voted for Obama, there was an overwhelming amount of African Americans that participated in the political process compared to previous elections.

Obama’s historic event, becoming the first black president, played a huge role in this “black vote.”

Ricky Whidby, a recent graduate of Michigan State University, believes that there is a sense of personal pride that African Americans receive from participating in the voting process especially since African Americans weren’t allowed to vote at one point.

“Not voting would be an injustice to their memory,” Whidby says.

Rashad Timmons, a sophomore at Michigan State University, also believes that it is critical that African Americans vote because of the historic background that exists.

“As black man, I do feel a connection to Obama, but that doesn’t mean that’s why I am voting for him.” Timmons says.

This past summer, Obama was criticized for not attending the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Convention, saying that Obama was taking the “black vote” for granted.

However, Obama campaign spokeswoman Clo Ewing writing in a CNN article that said, “President Obama does not take a single vote or support from any community for granted.”

In the same CNN article, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said, “I can certainly tell you that from a practical, political standpoint, [President Obama] probably could afford to take it for granted because once again, he’s going to get well over 90% of the African-American vote.”

The general view is that black people will vote for Obama, but race is not the only factor behind the black vote.

Britney King, a senior at Michigan State believes that when considering politics voters should listen to the ideas of the presidential candidate without ever having to see the face.

“Issues matter more than anything,” King says.

Barack Obama Represents Black People

It is hard for one man to represent an entire race of people, but often times Obama has been criticized for not doing enough for black people.

“It is extremely tough to collaborate with others in government that may not understand or know the struggles of black people,” Timmons says.

So is Barack Obama a representation of black people?

“I believe that Barack Obama exemplifies the ideas and beliefs that many blacks hold in their lives and he has faced issues that many minority groups can relate to, but like all other racial populations, the black population has many facets,” Whidby argues.

Black Problems of America

Studies show that since Obama took office in 2008, problems of African Americans have gotten worse.

About 2.3 million people in prisons are black, median annual household income for blacks are at about eleven percent and the employment rate for young black men who have dropped out of school are at about twenty-six percent.

But in reality, can one man be responsible for all the problems of one race?

The answer is no.

“A real presidential leader is not concerned with race, but concerned with problems of America. However, if some of those problems happen to affect a certain group of people, it does reflect a problem that the nation has to deal with,” King says.

Black Turnout in 2012

Obama’s concern is not with getting African Americans to vote for him, it is getting the same turnout, if not more, than he had in 2008.

While African Americans are not feeling obligated to vote for a black president, not many of them are voting for Romney as studies have shown.

That would be like voting for Herman Cain, a previous Republican candidate, just because he was black.

“Just because somebody is a part of your race does not guarantee they have your best interests in mind,” Whidby explains.

African Americans today aren’t as simplistic as voting for one solely based on the color of their skin.

“Barack Obama is an intelligent man that seeks to fight for American issues, not black issues,” King says. “I’m voting for him because of his platform, not because he looks like me.”

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