Posted by: constantinakatsari | January 14, 2013

Race issues and presidential elections

With all of the coverage of the presidential race in America recently, it got me thinking how Abraham Lincoln would react to seeing a black president being re-elected into office. After the struggles Lincoln faced during the 19th Century it could be argued that if he could see Barack Obama in office now he would view it as a positive change in America.

Throughout Abraham Lincoln’s life he witnessed racism towards the black population. He grew up in Kentucky surrounded by slave holding and was often privy to seeing slaves being exploited by men in the south. Lincoln was one of the first voices for the abdication of slavery in America after observing the south and the state of affairs that took place there.
It seemed though that Lincoln was fighting an uphill battle concerning the abolition of slavery and the recognition of the black population. The case of Dred Scott V Sandford in 1857 provides us with an insight into the attitudes of the people in America. The case was a landmark decision by the Chief Justice Roger B Taney stating that “Blacks were not citizens, and derived no right from the constitution.” Taney went on to condemn the black population further, “blacks were beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race.” So, having lived in a society that viewed the blacks as a race to be dominated and kept away from obtaining citizenship, how would Lincoln view America now, with a Black man as President?

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, to an American mother and a Kenyan father. He is the first African American to hold office in American. In May 2012 Obama publically supported the legalisation of same sex marriages, and implemented the awarding of citizenship to foreign people if they have been educated in the American schooling system. It may be thought that America has come on leaps and bounds since the presidency of Lincoln, not only is slavery non- existent, black people and foreigners are now able to obtain citizenship and positions of power in America.
However, has America really changed all that much?
Recent newspaper coverage in the Daily Mail reported on racist slurred being tweeted after the re-election of Barack Obama. These tweets saying “it’s called the white house for a reason” and using derogatory terms when referring to Obama have been seen to be localised mainly in the southern areas of America. Mississippi and Alabama were recorded as having the highest proportion of racially offensive tweets following the election, shortly followed by Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee. The measurement of these tweets is collective, so it could be one individual posting a lot of tweets rather than a lot of people. Nevertheless the tweets are originating from southern states, most of which voted for Romney, showing a lack of growth in the racial opinions of the south since Lincoln’s time.
The Democratic Party have changed their political ideals in the 200 years since Lincoln was President, for it was the democrats that Lincoln was fighting against for the abolition. Now the political roles have completely switched with the Republican states having racist attitudes and the democrats electing an African American into office.

Overall I believe today, as in the 19th Century, the south seem to still be possessing highly racist and anti-black feelings. There may not be the same degree of active slavery in the 21st century but the underlying factors of slavery were racism and that is ever present in today’s society as it was in Lincoln’s time. Therefore, would Abraham Lincoln see 2012 America as a transformed country, or would he just see the same racism in the south, and the same fights against the black population?

By Jenny Carlin

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