Saturday, October 20, 2012

At Least Black Conservatives are Unhappy: New Research Suggests That African-Americans Feel "Less Empowered" Under Barack Obama

Hailed by some as the “end of race as we know it” and the beginning of a “post-racial” America, the 2008 election of Barack Obama sparked a measurable bump in feelings of political empowerment among black Americans.

But those sentiments have faded considerably over the last year or so, according to a new analysis of political survey data, with the sharpest declines in perceived political power coming from blacks who identify themselves as conservatives or “born again” Christians.

“The election of a black American to the U.S. presidency did seem to empower African Americans, causing an increase in levels of perceived freedom,” writes James L. Gibson, PhD, the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government and professor of African and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

“But that increase seems to have been epiphenomenal, with perceived levels of freedom after 2009 soon reverting to their prior level. The boost in empowerment that earlier research has documented may be of little long-term consequence. Instead, ideology and religiosity are now fairly strongly connected to perceptions of freedom among black Americans.”
Something fun and short for the weekend.

As Pastor Manning says, you blacks are an incorrigible group of people! What can possibly satisfy you? What would make you happy? How do you define political empowerment?

Professor James Gibson at Washington University would seem to agree:

While some pundits characterize the black electorate as a monolithic voting block ready to back Obama no matter what, Gibson’s analysis reveals a black America fractured by surprisingly diverse political viewpoints. 
Key findings include: 
Electing an African American to the presidency raised black perceptions of political freedom, but only for a fairly short period. By 2011, perceptions of freedom among blacks were at the same level as in 2005. 
Black Americans still perceive much greater constraints on their political freedom than do white Americans, especially in situations where political actions could be perceived as questioning government authority. 
• 67.7 percent of whites assert that the government would allow them to make a speech in public, whereas only 45.7 percent of African Americans hold this view.

• 14.8 percent of whites assert that hardly anyone feels free to speak their mind; 22.1 percent of blacks hold this view. 
Perceptions of freedom among Christian fundamentalists (irrespective of race) are among the most constrained in contemporary American politics. 
Black perceptions of political freedom have decreased significantly among fundamentalist blacks, especially those who consider themselves to be “born again.” 
Conservative blacks and liberal blacks perceived equivalent levels of freedom prior to the election, but after, conservative blacks felt markedly less free than liberal blacks.
Blacks are equally divided, with half who perceive constraints on their freedom and half who do not. 
By far, the most powerful predictor of levels of perceived freedom is education: Poorly educated black Americans do not believe that they have the freedom to participate fully in politics.
As a social scientist, I love empirical research that informs our conversations about politics, race, and the Age of Obama.

Whenever possible, I try to have our conversations here on WARN informed by the same rule.

Many black Americans cried when Barack Obama was elected. However--and this is a key modifier--we approached that moment with far more cynicism and realpolitik than our white friends and allies. As a community we are far less naive, and much more sophisticated about the realities of power, than most white Americans are by necessity. If Obama lost, black Americans would have smiled, and therefore won either way, because his getting that far defied all expectations.

Like our Jewish brothers and sisters, black folks (and other people of color to varying degrees) are possessed of a darkly cynical, and practical, sense of humor. African Americans have to laugh to keep from crying because our community has witnessed some of the most bizarre occurrences in human history--we were owned as human chattel in the world's "greatest democracy," have only been full citizens for less than fifty years, and one our tribe somehow managed to ascend to the presidency.

We learned to balance our smiles and cries as a means of maintaining our sanity in ways that white folks in America, and those otherwise racially privileged, have not. That is why black Americans are the moral and ethical conscience of a nation; those others are (quite frankly) very weak, and subsequently do not have that honorific (or the burden which comes with it).

Dr. Gibson's research leads me to a counter-intuitive finding.

When--and trust me, it is not "if"--Barack Obama loses in November, it will be white liberals and white progressives who are far more surprised and upset than black and brown folks about the outcome. This is easily explained: given black and brown folks' intimate familiarity with the absurdities and contradictions of American democracy, nothing surprises us; nevertheless, we remain hopeful dreamers.

Is that a blessing or a curse? I am unsure.

By comparison, white privilege works on both the Left and the Right. In practice, this means that many white folks (and yes, not all of them) have been acculturated to believe that life somehow always works out in the end to their advantage.

The blues sensibility means that black Americans will "keep on keeping on," as we always have been, after Obama is not reelected. I do worry about my white friends and allies though: do they have the coping skills to deal with the disappointment that will come when their Great Black Hope is struck down by Mitt Romney? And in which direction will their anger, and subsequent resentment, be directed towards?


nomad said...

'The blues sensibility means that black Americans will "keep on keeping on," as we always have been, after Obama is not reelected.'

You mean after the riots?

nomad said...

And what's Romney going to do with all those executive powers that got expanded under Obama? Bet he's salivating over that kill list.

fred c said...

Don't worry about me. When President Obama was elected I expected him to get a much harder time from the opposition than Mr. Clinton got, and I expected his election to cause an exacerbation of the ever-present racism in America. I've never been big on hope.

All in all, I think that he's done a good job, especially considering the circumstances, within the range of action that he can somewhat control. I'd like to see him get a second term, but let's face it, people in hell would like some iced tea. We don't always get what we want.

Do you think, Professor, in the long run, that it will be a good thing to have had a Black president? A net-positive, somehow, big picture wise? I think it will be. Consider the nature of American self-promotion, American propaganda. The very people who have been working night and day to eliminate Mr. Obama and end his presidency will soon be using the fact of his existence to prove that America is a wonderful, enlightened place.

Unknown said...

Obama's election has been a net negative. For the reasons I outline here:

Why I Won't Vote (For Obama)

And another fellow outlines here:

The Obama Placebo: What should Obama's presidency mean to people of color?

As Cynthia McKinney has said:

Sadly, now much of Black America has chosen to abdicate its moral responsibility and spend whatever moral credit they have earned globally in support of an African descendant President who has ripped to shreds the Bill of Rights...

As Alice Walker intimates in her recent poem (whole thing's worth listening to):

You ask me why I smile
when you tell me you intend
in the coming national elections
to hold your nose
and vote for the lesser of two evils.
There are more than two evils out there

And for all the similar reasons Glen Ford and Cornel West have been taking the President to task since and before his election.

(to be continued...)

Unknown said...

But it's not just about Obama. I'm also reminded of Malcolm, and what he said in his 1964 Ballot or the Bullet speech:

In Washington, D.C., in the House of Representatives, there are 257 who are Democrats. Only 177 are Republican. In the Senate there are 67 Democrats; only 33 are Republicans. The party that you backed controls two-thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and still they can’t keep their promise to you.

‘Cause you’re a chump.

Anytime you throw your weight behind a political party that controls two-thirds of the government and that party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race.

Take a look at the House/Senate distribution right after Obama's election:

House: 256 DEM / 179 GOP
Senate: 59 DEM / 41 GOP

What was that about chumps again?

The reason black people have a blues mentality is because they keep on falling prey to the silver tongues of these Washington elites, as if they ever have or ever will have our best interests at heart.

You know the expression, "Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?" Applies to black folks and the Democrats' ability to rely upon their vote no matter WHAT they do on a policy level.

They joked that CLINTON was the "first black president", why, because this dude could play the sax? You know what else he plays? Black people. Because while they were so busy fawning over him, he was doubling up on the racist drug war to win over poor, racist whites. The black vote was a guarantee, so...

Obama shored up their vote even tighter.That expression - about cows and milk - usually refers to sex, and guess who always gets fucked?

I don't understand what it is about Obama that makes us turn our backs on, turn our minds off, and close our eyes and ears to the our intellectual and cultural heavyweights past and present, who are practically screaming across time about this Manchurian candidate and the institution he represents.

There's a meme going around amongst racist white folks: "It's called the white house for a reason..." Yeah, because it's the seat of white supremacy, which black people continue to uphold like Atlas...

Freedom? Political power? In a police state where with the same breath as he decries the murder of Trayvon Martin for political points, Obama also gives himself the power to assassinate US citizens or indefinitely detain them for just about any reason at all - reasons inevitably connected to any attempt by people to garner any serious political power, or undermine the current system?

It's a fucking illusion.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised you are so convinced that Romney is going to win. The most reliable empirically based statistical analyses--such as Nate Silver's--currently give Obama about 2/3 likelihood of winning the electoral college.

Anonymous said...


I see Obama winning by a landslide. Romney's too much of a lightweight to compete on that level. Obama's been using his campaign dollars to kill the ground game. Romney thinks he can just dump money and expect to win. Romney needed 20 million in one state to beat Gingrich. If Newt gives you a hard time, the president's going to present some difficulty.

If the president does lose, we have the white liberals to thank. They've been more of a pain than anything. It goes from the elected officials that didn't stand with him when they had majorities to everyone of those assholes that went on tv to say how much Obama sucks. The democrats not having their shit together has set progress back as well.

Razor said...

Nomad's point regarding what would Romney do with the expanded facist presidential powers that have been created under this "fake" black protector of American freedoms, is precisely why everything Kermit O says is true.

What we should have seen as treasonous to not only America but to the majority (recent observations and studies on display here indicate that the black community itself is critically divided along economic and social lines with starkly differing interests) black community has muffled by the antiquated and out-of-synch leading voices ostensibly representing that community, ie. Dr. Eric Dyson, Rev. Al Sharpton, damn near every black Congress-person and Senator, big city mayors, ect.. The small black politically connected elite class has fared very well under Obama, though they have become morally bankrupt along with him. Their collective mantra is " it's every person for themselves", following Obama's lead. For them post-racial-Obama era means the end of any real sense of shared identity or responsibility, exceptto use the race card within that same community to benefit the. To me, they are not much better than these black republicans. Like Obama is to Romney, when you strip away the pretense, there isn't much difference, when it comes to the "others" who are vulnerable and dispossed.

I have been one of the number of blacks who while vehemently opposed to Romney and the Republicans, I am more afraid... and ashamedand pissed off...of the damage that Obama is able to accomplish as a slave-catcher in political black-face, that I believe that we as a community and nation would be better off dealing with America's nose-dive without the cover and distractions and illusions of Obama.

And black folk by now should be ready for that. We had our moment in the sun with having attained having a black face in the highest office in the land. Trust me we paid dearly for that privilege. Remember the initial elation of the prospect that President Reagan would select a Black Supreme Court Justice, only to have our feeling severely...and irreparably... damaged when that justice turned out to be Uncle Clarence Thomas. Reagan gave black folk what they desired, a black Supreme Court Justice...that demented, sadistic mother******. Well, it's no difference with President Obama. If Thurgood Marshall could be resurrected for one hour he would spend all of it repeatedly slapping the Hell out of both of them.

If Obama loses the election, which I hope, to spur change along, it will force a stronger alliance between a liberal and working class whites and blacks out of pure necessity, as it did for a time in the labor movement. More whites will realize that a black president is not the source of their problems and recognize that the old white supemist model will not work as it once could. There will be is the elite have been planning for and have used Obama very well in the process.

For the majority of black folk we will wake up from our self-induced stupor.

Black Sage said...

What is wrong with us Black America (not African Americans)? America as a country will never place the Black Americans in a position to be totally free of the White man’s over-hyped and perceived authority. How many times have we as a group have been told that we’re a free people or at least placed on equal citizenry status with Whites, let us take a truncated look at the more salient junctures because there isn’t enough space provided within the four corners of this document for a full exploration as it relates to the betrayal of Black Americans since the inception of this perpetual Land of the Slaves?

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – January 1st, 1863.

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Field Order #15 (proposition to free all alsve) – January 16th, 1865

Lincoln was assassinated April 14th, 1865. Prior to him reviewing and perhaps, implementing the proposal.

Pres. Andrew Johnson, a southern sympathizer, abruptly declare end to Reconstruction Dec. 1st, 1865 – Damn near 14,00 former slave holders of the Confederate regime were given the green light to reclaim their land that they were confiscated during the Civil War. Former slave were just short of literally being re-enslaved who had briefly inhabited the plantations and other land as their own.

Black Codes November 1st, 1865 – Southern legislatures implemented Black Codes specifically targeting former slaves in their attempt to re-establish

13th Amendment December 18th, 1865 – Prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude

February2nd, 1866 – Frederick Douglass and his delegates meet with Pres. Johnson and advocated Black suffrage. Pres. Opposes the right for Blacks to vote and their meeting end in controversy.

Civil Rights Act of 1866 – Supposedly gave Black Americans equal rights just as Whites have been enjoying. Pres, Johnson opposes the bill because he didn’t believe that Blacks deserved the right to become citizens.

Compromise of 1877 – A congressional back-room plan that gave the Presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes although it was clear he had lost to Samuel J. Tilden. President Hayes agreed to withdraw federal troops from the south so that Republicans could remain in control of former Confederate states: South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana. Thereby, bringing an end to Reconstruction and essentially leaving the former slaved to fend for themselves. All of the civil rights, including land, that the former slaves had gained after they took a shellacking from Union troops, were slowly taken away and this period ushered in the Jim Crow law era.

Black Sage said...


14th Amendment January 1868 – A Reconstruction Amendment which included a Due Process Clause that required all states to treat all their citizens equally.

Fast forward to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – The US Congress said that this bill would outlaw discriminatory acts against, racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities and women.

Fast forward again to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – Yet again, this bill supposedly outlawed discriminatory voting practices and widespread disenfranchisement of Black Americans.

Here ye here ye, hopefully I’ve been able highlight the reasons as to why a win for Romney or Obama truly doesn’t matter. This racist-ass collective empire will never live up to its full creed. Therefore, I consider my vote to be too precious to give to either one of these crooked, oligarch controlled presidential candidates. They’re looking out for their own legacy. Whoever is elected will patently, albeit begrudgingly shove a few crumbs off of the table for their voting factotums merely to show their appreciation for the electorate in displaying their voting ignorance as a thank you gesture.

The only political party that is worthy of my vote is the Green Party. At least they have the courage to state in part within their political platform:

“We believe that the leadership on the question of what our nation owes to this process of right ought to come from the African American community, whose right to self-determination and autonomy to chart the path to healing we fully recognize”.

Alternatively, we need to better organize ourselves and take this self-determination issue to the International Court of Justice. By leveraging this self determination issue as a Human Rights issue instead of a Civil Rights issue, it’s much more likely that we could get some traction as being one of the most despised groups of people on the planet, to bring some form of acknowledgement or redress to our collective plight. Hell ……., lets get the international community involved to bring sanctions against this empire for continual violations of Human Rights.

In summary, it’s foolish and a sure sign as the international community looks from afar, that a state of schizophrenic has set in amongst the Americans electorate in general if we continue to vote for either one of these so-called front-running presidential candidates.


Unknown said...


That's what I'm thinking. That a Romney win will get it out of people's heads that "change" is even possible under the current system. I don't WANT him to win so much as I want either this Empire to collapse, or for dissent to reach a critical mass.

I've heard an alternative argument in favor of Obama, though. It's that liberals and black folks would finally be forced to acknowledge that he doesn't make a difference either. If things tank, as they will under either candidate, then liberals can just blame "The Republicans". But if it's Obama, then they have little excuse.

However, I'm more in favor of the Romney argument, because I think people underestimate just how much race influences people's perspective, especially the large majority of poor/lower-middle class whites. I'd rather them not be able to blame our woes on black people - and make no mistake, their hatred for Obama is a proxy hatred for all of us.

@Black Sage:

I love your idea of making it a "human rights issue" instead of a Civil Rights issue, but what kind of organization would that require? Black folks in the US are notoriously disinclined to mobilize for anything, and that's no surprise given the extreme levels of economic, social, and emotional depression that plagues us as a group. Nothing we do seems to make a difference, and we know better than to invite the clubs and guns of the police, which would be so much more severe than they were for the white folks of Occupy. do we make it an issue large enough for the international community to take notice? And, can you be sure that anyone in the rest of the world would even care? As you point out, we are despised the world over, so who would rally alongside us? If we made it about ending capitalism, we might find allies amongst fellow anti-capitalists in Latin America, may of whom recognize their African descent, but...who else?

Anyway, I'd like to close by saying that some of you folks on here give me hope. Even though I know it to be true already, it's nice to have it affirmed that there are black folks who are activated in the knowledge that the change we need has nothing to do with these corporate jerk-offs.

nomad said...

"there are black folks who are activated in the knowledge that the change we need has nothing to do with these corporate jerk-offs."

That is reassuring. We on the internet have the capacity to see (if we want to). Alternative media exposes the game. Sadly, most blacks are still benighted by MSM. They are enthralled to the fabricated myth of the champion of the people. The Great Black Hope. "He's doin the best possible job under the circumstances." "Oh, he cain do it by hisself." "If only his hands weren't tied by the obstructionist opposition."

Black Sage said...

@Kermit O, Very true, it would require an organization that has pledged outright resistance and a conviction amongst themselves to remove imperialist, monarchy and oligarchy types of governments, even to the point of risking their own life in the process. One way is to engage in simultaneous mass protest in front of the White House, US Capitol building in Washington, DC and on the steps of state capitols as well. I’m almost certain that a prolong protest will eventually garner international attention and perhaps support as well. A little embarrassment goes a long way. Even further, the people must be informed at city hall meetings, through utilization of ham radios, the internet, community centers, local churches and at any other place where there are usually gatherings of the neglected, disenfranchised, wary and poor peoples.

If you’d peer back through the annals of the history of resistance, there is one thing that’s always consistent with social movements; they eventually reach a critical point!

It appears that Gil Scott Heron’s dictum still holds true: Ni*gers are afraid of revolution!

Black Sage said...

@Thrasher, when the Occupy Movement was in fulleffect, I didn't see your Black-ass on television holding a sign or protesting in their support! That was basically a White social movement! They probably didn't want your sorry Black-ass anywhere near their encampment in the first instance! Move on SUCKA!

chaunceydevega said...

@Jeanine. That sounds horrible. I will take it at face value and not as some type of fictionalized white victimology porn more appropriate for Stormfront or the Free Republic.

1. You need to separate white people as individuals from whiteness as a social category.

2. Whiteness as a social category is prefaced on domination, privilege, the structural support of white mediocrity through the systemic disadvantage of non-whites, and where whiteness is a type of property that white people can access to various degrees.

Given that reality, yes, White People are very weak and do not have the coping skills of people of color. Look at the national crisis and state of emergency caused by this economy. White men in particular have been part of a boo hoo posse about their "diminished" status and loss during the Great Recession--black and brown folks have endured far more, for far longer without a tenth of that complaining. Ain't privilege grand?

While any given person irrespective of their race may have life difficulties and tragedies, Whiteness has hurt White people by not giving them the coping skills to deal with challenges, stress, anxiety, doubt, or loss in the same way that black folks, and other people of color who have been disempowered in this society have been able to negotiate it.

That isn't about color per se, but about the Other and those less powerful in any society. There lies one of the great ironies of many a society where the elites and those on top live in fear of their social lessers--the former have all the power and fear losing it; moreover, they know those little people behind the stove as Ellison said are stronger, smarter, and more adaptable than they are.

makheru bradley said...

This survey does not make any sense to me. I just can’t believe that many Afrikan Americans feel such constraints. Min. Farrakhan drew 10,000 people to the 17th Anniversary of the MMM last week in Charlotte, and I’m supposed to believe that 50 percent of us are saying the government will not allow us to organize meetings.

This survey says 77 percent of the Afrikan Americans polled in 2005 (under George W. Bush) felt “as free as they used to.” In 2011 that percentage had dropped to 56. This only makes sense if “freedom” is tied to economic status. Since 2005 Afrikan American unemployment has increased; our income has declined; our poverty has increased, and our wealth as a result of the foreclosure crisis has taken a devastating hit.

However, if this poll has any degree of accuracy, it’s bad news for Barack Obama’s reelection, considering the fact that he needs a base that is more enthusiastic about voting than they were in 2008.

OBTW, I’m surprised that you have not jumped all over this one CDV.

[The most recent national polls from four pollsters — Gallup, Monmouth University, Fox News and the Pew Research Center — all show Romney winning the white vote by more than 20 points. That’s something no GOP presidential candidate has done since Reagan’s landslide 1984 reelection win.]

That data is tailor-made for one of your sociological epistles.

chaunceydevega said...

@MB. Thanks for calling that out. I am tired of being right--this society is sick, sick, sick with racism and white folks who are going to do what they have always done--put race before class. I am going to try to get an interview with the author of the article/survey and see how he explains the data.

There is going to be a suicide watch on election night--it will be Obama's folks who are gonna need meds to keep from having mass suicides; it won't be romney's supporters.

makheru bradley said...

Regardless of who wins, is this the shape of things to come in America given its current unsustainable economic direction.

Eurozone Crisis: Hate crimes increase, extreme right strengthens as Greece economy sinks