Racism not relegated to rural America

Published 10:29 am Thursday, October 16, 2008

U.S. Rep. John Murtha made a comment Wednesday about a region of his state of Pennsylvania that raised a few eyebrows.

Citing race as the lone factor why some voters in the western part of the state will not vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, Murtha said flatly the western part of the state is “racist.”

“There is no question that western Pennsylvania is a racist area,” Murtha said.

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And there we have it, the first honest comment made about race in the 2008 presidential election. The 300-pound gorilla has finally been noticed and some voters have been called out for their warped perspectives.


But what is unfair about Murtha’s commentary is that it labels an entire region of the state. Certainly, the entire western part of Pennsylvania is not made up only of racists. There are good, fair-minded people in that part of the state, but Murtha’s point is taken.

He believes in the rural part of the state that there is a larger percentage of people who will not vote for Barack Obama because he is black. Sound familiar?

There is not much demographical difference between western Pennsylvania and southeastern Ohio. Those very same comments could have come from any number of representatives from around the country.

But there is an ugly truth for many regions of America — some rural, some not. That is that tolerance is more difficult to find in areas where there are lower levels of educational attainment.

Does that mean everyone in western Pennsylvania, southeastern Ohio or other areas is uneducated or intolerant or not open to diversity? Of course is doesn’t.

But from a purely political standpoint, the racism factor has to be taken into account. How does the racist vote affect this election?

Now that Murtha has shown the courage to be honest, obvious though it may be, the uncomfortable truth about the nation’s progress in race relations has further revealed itself.

It should be noted that racism does not just live in rural areas.

Oh no.

The notion that metropolitan areas are somehow shielded from this ugliness is nave and false.

America stands just weeks away from the possibility of a monumental moment in history. In a country that once had the Three-Fifths Compromise, a black man is a half-step away from the highest office in the land.

But even if Obama wins, that should not be an indication that America’s issues with race are somehow instantly resolved.

That day will only come when our leaders are elected on their merits and not their skin color … by everyone.