Professors, Faculty Discuss Obama Election, Aftermath

This story was written by Meryl Dakin, The Student Printz


Civil Rights groups are calling the election of Barack Obama as President the biggest step forward for America, and some are going so far as to say that racism is dead.

Amy Miller, a sociology professor at USM, disagrees.

"I do think it's easy to say that because (Obama) could get elected then that is a sign that all racial inequities are over, and that there's no more racism or problems," Miller said. "But it's still not completely fixed. There are still racial problems in this country; they're just not of the same sort they were a generation ago."

Miller believes the election may have been a catalyst for students to begin the race discussion. She said an open conversation about race would be helpful to the campus community.

Myron Lott, co-founder of the Black Studies Student Association, agreed with Miller's idea.

"I do believe there should be more open discussions about racial harmony on campus and maybe we, the USM family, could use this topic as a springboard to address any racial issues," Lott said.

Lott said he was not aware of any racial incidents on campus resulting from the election.

"I didn't notice any difference among students on campus," he said. "I believe that everyone seemed to accept the outcome gracefully."

Miller agreed that she had not heard of specific events but said she was watching Facebook the night of the election, where "statuses were crazy, blowing up about things one way or another."

Recent conversations about race have revolved around the November election, and some have charged that race acted more in Obama's favor than against him. Miller doubts that being black is what got the former Illinois senator elected as Commander in Chief.

"It is making too much of it to say that if a high percentage of African Americans voted for Obama, they did so because he's black," she said. "That's a little ridiculous, because there are a high percentage of African Americans who vote for Democratic candidates anyway."

A CNN.com poll taken during the Democratic primaries supported Miller's statement. The October 17th article said Obama's chief opponent in the race for candidacy, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, was gaining support among black registered Democrats and black women in particular. At that time, the poll read that among black Democrats, Clinton led Obama 57 percent to 33 percent.

Miller thought that even though race was definitely a factor, her concern was that "we spend too much time talking about that people voted for somebody because of their race and too little time talking about why all these racial slurs and jokes and things are still coming out in 2008."

Miller suggested that students at USM hold forums modeled after those held by the BSSA last year.

"It would be a very interesting forum to have something like 'Does the election make us think more about race?' or 'How has the election affected the way we talk about race relations on campus?' and get students talking about it," she said. "I think it's a good time to think about change and what we would like to see different in our society."

To research different ways of initiating racial discussions on campus, visit www.cultureprep.com, a website founded by cross-cultural relations authority Peter Vogel.
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