The “RACE” For The Presidency

Why is it that people feel the need to select some unimportant phenotypical characteristic and deem it significant enough to vote for an individual? We saw it in the Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama. Except, instead of race being the sole factor it was also gender.

Will race matter behind the voting curtain?

By Michael A. Matteo

I must say that I find my self extremely perplexed regarding people’s attitudes about the upcoming presidential election as it relates to race. On the one hand, I have read numerous articles that take the point of view that the fact that Barrack Obama is the first “African-American” presidential candidate makes it some kind of momentous event for “African-Americans.” Actually Mr. Obama isn’t the first “African-American” presidential candidate. Dr. Lenora Fulani was the first woman and “African-American” to get on the presidential ballot in all 50 states in 1988. Barrack Obama is, however, the first “African-American” to be nominated by a major political party.

On the other hand, I have heard people say to me that America isn’t ready for a “black” president and when “white” people step into the voting booth they will vote for the “white” guy. I like to think that people with this type of myopic attitude are a very small percentage of those who actually get out and vote because they are stuck at home waiting for their hooded robes to come back from the cleaners.

If Obama loses, will there be people who cry that he lost because America is inherently racist and couldn’t tolerate a “black” man being president? Will people vote for or against him solely because of the pigmentation of his skin? I’m sure both cases will find a minority of misinformed people who do take these actions. But what about the majority of Americans who vote? Will race matter when you are standing there, alone, staring at your ballot?

Several years ago I co-authored a book, “The Politically Incorrect Jokebook.” In the book I poked fun at the fact that there is really no such thing as a “black” or “white” person because melanin is a chemical in the body that is responsible for skin pigmentation. The darkest a person can be is dark brown and the lightest “white” person will still have some color. Referring to a dark skinned person as “African-American” isn’t accurate either because a Caucasian with ancestry in any African nation who is American is also an “African-American.” Is it accurate to say that every dark skinned person has his or her ancestral origin in Africa? A person who believes that humanity started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden could make a compelling argument that we should all be called “Eden-Americans” since that is where they believe their ancestry began. Thus, I came up with the idea that since people are the color they are based upon melanin, the best terminology to describe people is melanin positive and melanin negative. Given this indisputable fact we might consider referring to Obama as the melanin positive candidate and McCain as the melanin negative candidate. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it when you say, “Barrack Obama is the first melanin positive candidate to receive a nomination by a major political party,” does it?

Why is it that people feel the need to select some unimportant phenotypical characteristic and deem it significant enough to vote for an individual? We saw it in the Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama. Except, instead of race being the sole factor it was also gender. How many times did I hear that, whoever won the Democratic primary would make history, because they would be either the first “African-American” or first female presidential candidate?” Sorry Hillary, but even if you had won the nomination you wouldn’t have been the first woman to run for president. The first woman to run for president was Victoria Claflin Woodhull who ran on the Equal Right’s Party ticket in 1872.

Sex, race, or the size of a candidate’s big toe is not a reason to vote for or against a candidate. Personally, I’m far more concerned upon their brain than their gender or skin color. I want to know their views on the issues that are important to me like foreign policy, economics, and how many lobbyists are pumping money into their campaigns. I’m concerned with their voting records when they were in Congress, and how closely their ideologies reflect my own as it relates to the role of government in my life.

Anomalies and “firsts” are great to view in museums and at the circus, but I would much rather have a president in office who reflects my views than one who is a mirrored reflection of my own race or gender.

Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books. E-mail him at:

3 thoughts on “The “RACE” For The Presidency”

  1. Mike,
    I loved your column. Everything you say about race and skin color and its unimportance is true, and I applaud you for it. However, I think far more people use race and gender as pejoratives than you might believe. Racisms and misogyny are so much more subtle in 2008 than in 1958. They are far less socially acceptable, but they are there nonetheless.
    As far as “firsts,” I believe they are significant. As the first African American nominee of a major party, Barack Obama has already advanced the cause of social justice. I read a recent poll that suggested that more black children believe they can be president, in large part due to Obama, than at any other time. Whether he becomes president or not is immaterial. In this case “first” does matter. Do you agree?
    Potter Earle


  2. Dear Potter,

    I’m glad that you enjoyed my article. I would agree with you that racism and sexim are not nearly as overt today as they were 50 years ago. I would also agree that there is a great deal to do re: racism and misogyny in America today. As my article stated, using ones race or sex as a basis on whether or not to vote for them is the equivalent to buying a car solely based on the color of the paint of the car and not making sure the engine is sound. It is not a very sound or logical idea.

    As for “firsts” we must agree to disagree. I don’t believe that any “social justice” can be achieved re: simply nominating a man or woman based on their race or sex. And I am not saying this is the case re: Mr. Obama. I am saying that too much has been made about race and that those who applaud his nomination because he is a “black” man are as bad as those who won’t vote for him because he is a “black” man.

    If you were to say to me that Mr. Obama was nominated because he believes X or Y view on a particular issue then I will say that it is either a good or bad thing based upon my own views on those issues. At the very least I am taking something relevant, his views, (vs something irrelevent, his race) and comparing them with my own views when I step into the voting booth.

    The fact that a poll suggests that more “black” children believe they can become president because of Mr. Obama may appear to be encouraging but really is a step backwards. These children are looking in the mirror believing that they can be president because they are the same color as Obama. Does this mean that the only positive role models for these children are “black” men like Obama? Can a man or woman of a different color also be a positive role model to them? I would hope so. Does it mean that “white” children should believe they can become president because George Bush is “white?” Why aren’t these children being taught that they can achieve things in life based upon what goes on within their mind, by their behaviors as well as the content of their character instead of the color of their skin?

    I have always been taught to take pride in what I do and not in what those who are from my ethnic background, religion or race because they are supposedly role models for me. Perception and beliefs are very powerful things and I believe it does a disservice to children for them not to be told that race either viewed positively or negatively is the reason why they should or should not strive to attain some goal. If a “black” man were a criminal should “black” children look at themselves and believe that they too will end up being criminals? Personally, I will continue to judge people not by something based upon a chemical in their body that regulates pigmentation but by how they act, think and behave.


  3. Mike,
    I think you are able to take a dispassionate, wholly intellectual view of things when most people, especially the kids in the Obama example, aren’t. Jim Abbott, a former major league pitcher with one hand, inspires disabled kids every year with speeches telling them they can be whatever they want despite their disability. Our intellects may tell us that these kids shouldn’t believe their disability is any hindrance at all. But reality proves otherwise. Black kids are treated differently by white people in subtle ways that they eventually pick up on. Obama is a wonderful counter to that treatment. He inspires and helps them believe that color doesn’t matter.


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