A New, 'Post-Racial' Political Era in America

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr observes the ascendance of Barack Obama as a presidential candidate and wonders whether the U.S. is entering a new, "post-racial" political era.

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Senator Barack Obama received several high-profile endorsements today including one from a Nobel Laureate, writer Toni Morrison. It was Morrison who famously dubbed Bill Clinton America's first black president.

In a letter to Obama, she wrote this: In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender. And something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination, which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom.

Well, Senior New Analyst Daniel Schorr agrees with Morrison in part. He says Senator Obama's appeal seems to transcend race.

DANIEL SCHORR: Welcome to the latest buzz word in the political lexicon, post-racial. It is what Senator Barack Obama signals in his victory speech in South Carolina when he tells of the woman who used to work for segregationist Strom Thurmond and now, knocks on doors for the Obama campaign.

It is what makes Bill Clinton seemed disconnected when he compares Obama's campaign to the campaigns of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and '88. The post-racial era, as embodied by Obama, is the era where civil rights veterans of the past century are consigned to history and Americans begin to make race-free judgments on who should lead them.

Post-racial began to come into vogue after Obama won the Iowa caucuses and faired well in the New Hampshire primary.

The Economist called it a post-racial triumph and wrote that Obama seemed to embody the hope that America could transcends its divisions. The New Yorker wrote of a post-racial generation and indeed, the battle-scarred veterans of the civil rights conflict of 40 years ago seemed less enchanted with Obama than those who were not yet alive then. Ambassador Andrew Young, a one-time aide to Martin Luther King, argued that former President Bill Clinton was every bit as black as Senator Obama.

The nation may have a way to go yet to reach colorblindness. Exit poll data in South Carolina indicates that Senator Obama won 78 percent of the black vote, but only 24 percent of the white vote. But perhaps equally significant, Obama won 67 percent of voters in the 18-29 age group. The post-Selma generation, you might say.

The wish for a post-racial politics is a powerful force and it rewards those who seem to carry its promise, says Peter Boyer in The New Yorker. It may still be too early to speak of a generation of colorblind voters, but maybe color blurred?

This is Daniel Schorr.

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