Thursday, November 27, 2008

Little Obamas

I'd meant to write about this NY Times article a while back, showing significant increases in black elected leaders who rely on white voters:

In 2007, about 30 percent of the nation’s 622 black state legislators represented predominantly white districts, up from about 16 percent in 2001, according to data collected by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research group based in Washington that has kept statistics on black elected officials for nearly 40 years.

In the 1980s, few black state legislators represented predominantly white districts, said David A. Bositis, the senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies who conducted the most recent study of black state legislators.

By 2001, that number stood at 92, according to Tyson King-Meadows and Thomas F. Schaller, political scientists at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who analyzed statistics from the joint center and other sources. In 2007, the figure was 189, Mr. Bositis said.

All of this is a very welcome development - but why is it happening? Some possibilities:

1. White racism has decreased significantly from the 1980s and even from the 1990s so that white voters are now increasingly willing to elect black leaders.

2. White racism hasn't changed that much - some white voters have been ready to elect black leaders for ten or more years, but it takes time for black candidates to establish themselves and run for office.

3. The change isn't just in white racism but in how whites and blacks interact. White conservatives often point to the success that recent immigrants from African and the Caribbean have here as proof that white racism isn't the problem, it's African-American culture that's the problem. My guess instead is that something about the culture of how whites and blacks interact feeds into white racism, while recent African immigrants aren't part of this response. Now, maybe, the negative white-black interaction is starting to fade.

4. Some combination of the above three.

Option number 4 is the easy one, of course. Option number 2 is the most likely given the rapid rise in black leaders, and is the least good of them all in terms of positive trends, but it's still good and something to be thankful for.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.