By Wes Kerrick–
A panel of four local experts last Thursday analyzed the role they said racism played in the recent election. Beginning at 11:45 a.m., lunch was provided to the roughly 30 attendees, who sat around tables in U of L’s Cressman Center for Visual Arts.
Coordinators Marian Vasser and Clest Lanier gave introductory remarks. Each panelist then spoke in turn.
Former Courier-Journal editor, David Hall, summarized the luncheon’s tone when he rhetorically asked, “Was race a factor in this election? Does the sun come up in the morning?”
Attendees included state Rep. Darryl Owens, Louisville Metro Councilman David Tandy and local Obama campaign worker Keidra King.
“What we have had is some of the most vicious name calling,” said Betty Winston Bayé, former Courier-Journal columnist and 2013 inductee into the National Association of Black Journalists.
Name calling, she said, makes it clear that racism was a significant factor. “Those of us who are old enough, we know it when we hear it and when we see it.”
Hall said he was frightened by the self-delusion he said pervaded the Romney campaign. “I got so nervous on election night, before Michigan was called, that I got in the car and I came downtown and I got 10 White Castles.”
“And I will tell you all that I ate all 10 White Castles, and then I had two Alka-Seltzers.”
Hall criticized Romney’s post-election comments that Obama had won by giving “gifts” to minority groups.
In reality, Hall said, “He gave them the prospect of empowerment.”
“This election showed that white male voters will no longer dominate the election,” said John Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.
Obama was the choice of 93 percent of African American voters and 71 percent of Latino voters.
As panelists spoke, attendees applauded comments they found particularly engaging. Panelist Raoul Cunningham is chapter president of the Louisville National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
He said conservatives perpetrated a movement to diminish the black vote by passing voter identification laws. “We had a rash of voter suppression at this election,” he said.
“We’re a group of people that are living with the grievances and fears and prejudices that belong in the past,” Hall said.
The key in solving racial problems, he said, is willingness to engage others in discussion. “You can’t be afraid to fight it out.”
Johnson said Kentuckians need to elect more senators and representatives who are concerned about helping the state’s poor.
Cunningham said Kentucky has the nation’s highest number of African Americans who are restricted from voting because they are convicted felons.
“We should put a stop to that,” he said, by passing legislation what would restore the vote to felons once they are released from prison.
The luncheon was held by a U of L organization called NETWORK, which stands for New Energy To Work Out Racial Kinks.
Photo courtesy of ProgressOhio