Marking the 42nd Anniversary of a civil rights demonstration in Selma, Alabama, on March 3rd 2007, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took time from their busy Capitol Hill schedules to make heavily choreographed public appearances.
Why mark a 42nd anniversary? The obvious, but unsatisfying answer is that they are both in the thick of an early election year. The more satisfying answer is that both are desperately courting the African American vote. If being dark skinned was enough, then Obama should not be so desperate; however, Clinton is very popular among African American voters. Obama knows this and does… nothing.
In fact, Obama does not want to seem African American. Unlike Clinton, Obama chooses not to mention his most obvious demographic facet. He only answers to criticisms that “he’s not black enough” when brought up by others; this is a noble tactic in the face of ignorant comments, but is notable for his lack of bringing up his identity at all. Clinton’s website displays rather prominently a “Women for Hillary” clickable banner. In Obama’s website, you won’t find the word “black” or “African American” in the issues section. The only place you do find these words is in the comments section of the “blog” (a new feature for 21st Century presidential hopefuls) — notice that the blog is not written by Obama himself.
In the Selma visit, Obama takes great care to mention that the Civil Rights movement was for all Americans. True, but the struggle for African American voting rights was a very prominent feature. To play down this fact is noticeable in its obvious attempt to seem American, rather than African American.
Recently, Clinton has fell behind Obama in support among African Americans. Perhaps Obama’s strategy is working; play down the most obvious demographic facet and you will win support from people who look like you.