For most of my adult life (over 50 years), I have listened to cries from various minority groups against the racism exhibited by white people in matters of politics, education, income and virtually every other aspect of our lives. I assumed some feelings of guilt; while I felt free of such intolerant feelings, I felt that my fellow Euro-Americans must be guilty. Ironically, I tended to forget that I, like all Americans, was part of a minority group.
Recently, on TV interviews of voters commenting on the Obama/McCain campaigns, I was surprised (and disappointed) to hear three African-Americans state that they were going to vote for Sen. Obama because he is black and because it is the first real chance to have an African-American president. On the flip side, I have never heard a Caucasian voter say that he/she would vote for Sen. McCain because he is white.
I began to wonder why anyone would cast a vote based simply on race (either way), rather than on policy and experiential reasons. I realized that most charges of racism were not rational. After all, I reasoned, even if 100 percent of African-American voters supported Sen. Obama, for him to be elected president would require a majority of white voters’ support. A majority of white Democratic voters spurned a Caucasian candidate (Hillary Clinton) to support the black candidate. So where does the real racism lie?
The advancements in the civil rights of African-Americans over the past 30 to 40 years could not have been possible if a majority of white Americans had not supported those rights and fought (and died) for them. I am not so naive as to deny that some degree of racism exists among a small segment of the white population. I do, however, feel it is time to give credit where credit is due—namely to the great majority of voters who believe that race should simply not enter into the subject of politics or our daily lives.
I’ve decided to unburden myself of the guilt that I’ve carried for years. I realize that every minority group—be it racial, ethnic, religious or other—will always claim to be discriminated against and claim that their group is entitled to more free benefits from other parts of society. Heck, if it works, why not keep it up?
Nevertheless, I would hope that those who say they will vote one way or another based on race (or other irrelevant criteria) will be a decided minority among the voting populace, and that they—and all voters—will ultimately vote not for what benefits them personally, but rather for what is best for our nation. Ultimately, it is the success and survival of our country that will enable us to reach the idealistic and personal pinnacles we are capable of.
— Walter M. Plaue