Barack Obama hit a wall with Latino and Asian voters last night, despite concerted efforts to court them and despite a surge of Obama support from whites. In California, his biggest loss of the night, white men overwhelmingly favored Obama over Clinton, according to exit polls, while Latinos voted against him 2:1 and Asians 3:1. In a state where Latinos and Asians were more than one-third of the voters, it was a tough blow, and one repeated in states like New Mexico and New York. It would be naive to blame minority-on-minority hate for all the Latino and Asian opposition to Barack Obama; after all, in California he ended up losing among whites, as well, thanks to strong Clinton support among women. But the stark political numbers make it much harder to deny the harsh reality and growing importance of anti-black racism among minorities, and should also be unsurprising to anyone who has closely followed American popular culture over the past two decades. Why we should have seen this coming, after the jump.
As usual, the culture got there first, and politics is following. Movies like Do The Right Thing and Crash and rappers like Ice Cube have been tackling the topic for years with a bluntness not seen in American journalism.
The news media still approached the topic gingerly prior to Super Tuesday; articles on the matter in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among others, acknowledged "tensions" between blacks and Latinos but held out hope that Obama could build support among Latinos before the election.
Some accounts have tackled the issue more enthusiastically. A January New Yorker article quoted a Clinton aide named Sergio Bendixen saying hispanic support for Hillary was "not slipping" as it was among whites and blacks because "the Hispanic voter—and I want to say this very carefully—has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.”
Writing in the New Republic, John Judis surveyed academic research on Latino attitudes toward blacks and cited, to take one example, a sociology study at Duke that found "58.9 percent of Latino immigrants, but only 9.3 percent of whites, reported feeling that 'few or almost no blacks are hard-working.'"
Perhaps the most notable story aired on NPR. Correspondent Mandalit del Barco talked not only to professors, authors and activists but also everyday Latinos. She had to set straight one handyman who said, ""I mean, like we're fighting over there in the Muslim world and we got a candidate that's Muslim." And she culled anonymous but recorded quotes from an NPR call-in line.
[Said one caller:] "I've had friends, individuals [who are] blacks, and we've gotten along fine. But as a community I just don't trust them."
Daniela, a caller from Mar Vista, shared with listeners. "To have a black president would, I don't know … what that would do. I don't know, the black community would just rise up and would feel like it owned the entire country!"
Spike Lee took some flack for the abrasive racial confrontations in Do The Right Thing when it first screened almost 20 years ago. But exchanges like the one in the clip below do not seem to have lost any of their relevance.