Facing Race Conference: Race and the Elections: Nov. 4th and Beyond

By Jonathan Adams Nov 15, 2008

Experts: Media perpetuated race-based vote myth Leslie Fulbright, Chronicle Staff Writer Saturday, November 15, 2008 The idea that Americans would not be able to get past racism and elect a black president was a myth largely perpetuated by the media, said panelists at a national conference on race Friday. The panel, titled "Post-Election Reflections: Examining Race in the Presidential Campaign," looked at how the media addressed or avoided issues of race. Some speakers in the discussion said the press perpetuated the idea that some groups of people would not vote for Barack Obama because he is African American. Sylvia Manzano, an assistant professor of political science at Texas A&M University, said the media generated the idea that Latinos wouldn’t vote for an African American man even though surveys proved that wasn’t the case. Although Latino Democrats favored Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary, she said it wasn’t necessarily because they were racist but because they preferred her as a candidate. Many still gave Obama favorable ratings. "A vote for Hillary was not a vote against Obama or against an African American," Manzano said. "But promoting the idea that we don’t get along sells papers." The Facing Race conference, at the Marriott hotel in downtown Oakland, was organized by the Applied Research Center, a public policy institute that uses research, advocacy and journalism to promote racial justice. The three-day event began Thursday. Also on Friday morning’s panel was Mark Sawyer, an associate professor of African American studies and political science at UCLA. Sawyer said Obama used race to his advantage as a way to embody change and make an emotional connection to voters of all races. The negative elements of race were not really a factor in the election because none of the issues, like crime or affirmative action, were central to the Obama campaign, Sawyer said.