13 June 2008

Race and West Virginia

Folks continue to sift through the results of West Virginia's May 13 primary, questioning what role race played in the lopsided victory of Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, sent a reporter to Williamson (among other spots) to tackle the topic. The resulting article quotes such local residents as Johnny Telvor, who says the election of Obama as president means "We'll end up slaves. We'll be made slaves just like they was once slaves."

The article hits several other aspects of the debate, and essentially reaches this conclusion:

The difficult truth is that Appalachia is unusual mostly because many people here are willing to openly talk about what some of their fellow citizens are secretly thinking. In exit polls of the recent primaries in Kentucky and West Virginia, one in five Democrats confessed to pollsters that race was a factor in their voting choice.
To help make that point, it quotes Professor Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University and "expert on racial politics."

"'West Virginia and Kentucky were just more honest than other parts of the country. A lot of other people know it's not socially acceptable to mention that sort of thing," she told the newspaper.

The article is discussed on The Rural Blog, based in Kentucky. The author notes his recent column in the Louisville newspaper, in which he argued that "if Obama asked one of the black mayors of overwhelmingly white towns in Kentucky, 'They might tell him that when folks know you, they're willing to vote for you. When you're a silhouette or a cartoon, they're not even listening.'"

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