Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prejudice in Pennsylvania

Today, while driving home from the train station, I heard a segment on the radio that was interesting to begin with, but ended up being deeply disturbing. The segment was from All Things Considered, a tolerable evening program from NPR. The segment aimed to investigate race consciousness in the upcoming US presidential election. For this, they assembled a set of potential voters in the town of York, Pennsylvania. Of the thirteen people, seven were whites. The voters discussed the race of the candidates, denying that it had anything to do with who they were going to vote for. A tally at the end showed that a mjaority of the white voters were planning to vote for McCain and that all the non-white voters (Blacks and Latinos) were going to vote for Obama.

I will let the transcript tell its own tale:

Leah Moreland, a widow and former factory worker, says she grew up on a farm and was very sheltered.

"I really was totally unaware of prejudice," Moreland says.

...............................................................................................

Leah Moreland, the woman who said she grew up sheltered from prejudice, plans to vote for McCain. Party loyalty is also part of her decision. But her cultural compass also comes into play. She says her gut tells her not to trust Obama.

"I look at Obama, and I have a question in my mind," she says. "Years ago, was he taken into the Muslim faith? And my concern is the only way you are no longer a Muslim is if you are dead, killed. So in my mind, he's still alive."

Although Barack Obama has said repeatedly he is not a Muslim and has never been a Muslim, Moreland is still unconvinced.

"There is something about him I don't trust," she says. "I don't care how good a speaker he is, I just can't trust him."

It staggers my mind that in such an ostensibly enlightened discussion about prejudice against Blacks, prejudice against Muslims is accepted so easily. Cultural compass indeed.

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