Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=215117
Story Retrieval Date: 11/27/2014 11:12:21 AM CST

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Do blacks like Obama because he’s black? That’s just a part of it

by Eunji Kim
Feb 6, 2013


Owusu Thomas, a 48-year-old African-American cab driver of Lakeview, is clear who he supports.
President Obama, of course.

Any of his customers would say so—they see a photo of the president on his windshield in prime view.

Thomas said he didn’t vote for Obama because he is black.

“Why do we vote for white presidents then?” Thomas said. “If only black people liked him, he wouldn’t have won the election.”

He voted for him, he said, because he agreed with his policies.

And he wasn’t alone: In 2008 and 2012, more than 90 percent of African-Americans voted for Obama.

Shena Pearson, a 22-year-old barista of Englewood is one such voter. She said she believes Obama was able to capture these votes not because of his race, but because of his policies.

“Obama represents all of us,” Pearson said. “If he was white, I would still like him.”

A political scientist says research supports Pearson and Thomas.

Scott Althaus, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said a voter’s reason for liking or disliking goes beyond simple dimensions such as race.

“African-Americans tend to vote for all candidates,” Althaus said. “It’s not only about race.”

In fact, African-Americans didn’t support all black political candidates.

Just ask Herman Cain and Allen West, both of whom failed to win enough African-American support.

However, others, including African-Americans themselves, believe otherwise.

African-Americans—like author Ron Christie and actor Samuel Jackson admitted they voted for Obama because he is black.

“[Blacks] voted for [Obama] because he’s black,” African-American author, Kevin Jackson, has said.

The chairman of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dick Simpson, said because Obama is African-American, blacks believe that he has faced the same problems and discriminations that they have in history.

“Race is not the sole reason,” Simpson said, “but it is part of the reason.”