Voters Discuss The Influence Of Race On Politics How does a person's experiences — or lack thereof — with people of other racial backgrounds affect the way they vote? NPR talks with two listeners of different races about their views on the issue of race and how it is playing out in the campaign.
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Voters Discuss The Influence Of Race On Politics

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Voters Discuss The Influence Of Race On Politics

Voters Discuss The Influence Of Race On Politics

Voters Discuss The Influence Of Race On Politics

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Bruce Hanson says he considers himself an independent but says he's been swayed by Republican candidate John McCain. Courtesy of Bruce Hanson hide caption

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Courtesy of Bruce Hanson

Raul Sanchez says he wants politicians to take Latino voters more seriously. Courtesy of Raul Sanchez hide caption

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Courtesy of Raul Sanchez

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The two listeners interviewed for this piece wrote about the way race could influence their voting in this year's presidential race.

Bruce Hanson of Maine wrote that he isn't sure how to tell if he's a racist and how race will figure into how he votes in the election.

Raul Sanchez of Seattle wrote that Latinos need to feel more valued by politicians.

The 2008 presidential election comes at a time when Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States — more than 45 million people. As Weekend Edition Sunday studies the intersection of race and politics in an ongoing series, host Liane Hansen discusses the issue with listeners. This week, she speaks with Bruce Hanson of Augusta, Maine, and Raul Sanchez of Seattle.

Hanson says he has spent his whole life not having to deal with the issue of race because he's a white man in a state where the population is nearly 97 percent white. Sanchez, who is Latino, says he feels people like him are largely invisible in the presidential election process.

They discussed their views on race in this excerpted conversation.

Liane Hansen: Raul, Latinos such as yourself ... make up the fastest growing minority population in the U.S. Why do you feel like Latinos are invisible to politicians?

Raul Sanchez: Well, first of all, there comes this stigma with the prejudice and who they are and the assumption that not too many are interested in politics, and also they probably believe that they can't vote. It's just a bad assumption.

So whenever the campaigns go out and they try to target the Latino population, they go to specific places where it's been prearranged. I'd like to see them go out on the streets, say downtown L.A. On main street there, go to the small communities where they could develop the interest of the Latino people into their candidacies, whether Republican or Democrat.

Hansen: Do you think a black president would make Latino issues more prominent?

Sanchez: For one, he's a Democrat. Secondly, he's a person of color. This is what I hear as the common denominator among my friends that are all Latino from whatever country of origin. They're happy to see a person of color to be a president.

Hansen: Bruce, the title of your post on our Web site was "How can I tell if I'm a racist?" Explain to us why you asked that question.

Bruce Hanson: Well, it's because I have no exposure to people other than my own race so how can I tell? It's kind of like when you visit a doctor and they ask you if you're allergic to something and you haven't had it. How do you know?

Hansen: You told our producers that you consider yourself an independent. But in this election you're going to vote for McCain. Did race have anything to do with your decision?

Hanson: No, no, no. Even with my eyes shut, I still probably wouldn't vote for Obama. I just don't like the sound of what he's saying. I like John McCain better. Put it that way. It has nothing to do with race whatsoever.

Hansen: Both of you have said different races don't really communicate well with each other. Now you have the floor. Raul, do you have a question for Bruce? Bruce, is there something you'd like to ask Raul?

Hanson: Raul, I'm not sure what your neighborhood is like. I'd just like to ask what it's like to live in a multiracial neighborhood because I've never done that.

Sanchez: Well, it's very interesting. Where I work ... there are people from China, Korea, there's an Egyptian fellow. There are people from — one Japanese guy, a Hawaiian guy, a fellow from Chile, a lady from Bulgaria, a fellow from Ukraine. You can hear all the accents. And the common denominator is everybody speaks English the best they can to be able to work and cooperate and be productive.

Multiculturalism is one thing that's made this country what it is. I don't have to feel I have to be watchful of the African-Americans on the street. Because once you get to know someone and eat with them, sit alone at the same table and eat with them, it's incredible. It's beautiful

Hanson: It sounds wonderful. You know, I've never really had the experience of living in a melting-pot type culture. It's always been sort of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant/Catholic. In the early '60s, our family went to visit cousins in Massachusetts, and we went to the Boston zoo. And while I was walking down the sidewalk, a black man was walking toward us. The only experience I'd ever had with black people at that time was watching them on TV rioting and seeing policemen who I'd always thought of as authority spraying them with hoses.

So somehow in my 8-year-old brain, I assumed there was something to be afraid of. So as the black man approached, I crossed the sidewalk to the other side. I think that's the most embarrassing thing I've ever done in my entire life — and if I ever get the chance to go back in time and undo something, that's probably the thing I'd like to undo most.