Friday, November 14, 2008

Infuriating irony: Iowa and California, black and white

In Iowa, a heavily white state, voters launched into the world the dream-filled vessel of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president whose imminent administration holds so much promise.

For years, Hawkeye Staters, president makers that we are, have been targets of the media elites from the coasts and the lefty blogs of the D.C.-New York corridor, people who arrogantly pound computer keystrokes about us without working to see what’s in the heads behind the feed and tractor hats of those voters now having coffee or maybe a beer outside of Templeton, Iowa, at the Corner Station — or a thousand places like it.

Iowans, the white lot that it is, went for Obama in overwhelming fashion in the general election, after being there for him in the Iowa Caucuses nearly a year ago. Iowans aren’t blind. Iowans saw Barack Obama as a black man, because that is, after all, what he is. But Iowans saw more than just that, and with their most powerful property in a democracy, the vote, lined up and went to the polls for now President-elect Obama. No state was as important as Iowa. Obama himself has said as much.

As our European-descended populace, with their German and Irish names, cast ballots for Obama, African-Americans and Hispanics in California used their votes to reveal themselves as something far different: bigots.

By large margins Hispanic and African-Americans in California voted in favor of a ugly amendment to that state’s constitution that kills the right of gay couples to marry. Had blacks and Hispanics not been allowed to vote on Proposition 8, it would have failed and gays would be able to marry. Whites and Asians voted against the ban — or with gay marriage — 51 to 49 percent.

Here is the Bakersfield Californian newspaper:

Exit polls showed that 70 percent of black voters and more than half of Hispanic voters backed Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.

For years, as a co-owner and columnist of my family’s newspaper, the Daily Times Herald, I have used its editorial pages to fight prejudice. I have called out my own for our failings in this area, whether it is with the slow-footed acceptance of a growing Hispanic community or hostility to those of other races that emerge.

What I would hope to see, instead of apologists in the black and Hispanic communities on cable and the Net making excuses for the bigotry of their people on Proposition 8, is instead a mirror-in-the-face self-reckoning. Prejudice based on sexual orientation is just as awful as that based on skin color.

My friends and neighbors here in Carroll County sent a message Tuesday. And so did the blacks and Hispanics of California.

Iowans helped you tear down a barrier just as California’s blacks and Hispanics threw in with forces erecting one for another minority group.

It is an infuriating irony.

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