White People and Obama

Obama with A LOT of white people*

Barack Obama’s ascendance to the Presidency nearly four years ago sent a signal to the world that Americans were ready to accept a non-White person as their leader. In the eyes of the world, this mostly meant that White Americans were ready to accept a non-White leader.

I have argued for years that the rest of the world considers the US to be a lot whiter than it actually is. Phrases like “he looks American” only really make sense to non-Americans, and by this logic, Obama does not “look” American.

I was surprised to find out how much of this “real” America actually supports the President. In 2008 candidate Obama garnered 41 percent of the White vote. To put that into perspective, he won nearly 44 percent of the vote in Texas and 43 percent of Mississippi.

This year, Obama’s prospects among Whites are looking much worse. The most recent polls indicate that less than 38 percent of Whites support Obama against Romney – nearly 56 percent support Romney. To put that into perspective, in 2008, 45 out of 50 states supported Obama by more than 38 percent. Continue reading “White People and Obama”

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Human Development Index among red and blue states

It’s easy to get confused by the endless red-state blue-state rhetoric during this election season (which is to say, the past six years). It’s worthwhile to take a look at how people live across the divide.

In this week’s New Republic, Jonathan Cohn’s Blue States are from Scandinavia, Red States are from Guatemala explores the historical roots of this great American divide. Cohn argues that there are affectively two countries in the United States. In one, government is seen as a mechanism to ensure that as many people as possible have their basic necessities taken care of. This is expensive. In the other “country”, government costs very little and provides very little.

What are the consequences of this divide? As Cohn points out “by nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states…The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue. Since it’s difficult to measure “nearly every measure” the next best thing is to look at the American Human Development Index developed by the Social Science Research Council, and inspired by the global HDI commissioned by UNDP. The AHDI takes into consideration things like health, education and overall standard of living.

The following is a list of the states (and DC) with the highest AHDIs and the states with the lowest AHDIs.

American Human Development Index 2010/11
12 Highest 12 Lowest
Connecticut  6.30 
 North Carolina  4.64
Massachusetts  6.24  New Mexico  4.56
Washington, D.C.         6.21  Montana  4.49
New Jersey  6.16  South Carolina         4.36
Maryland  5.96  Tennessee  4.33
New York  5.77  Kentucky  4.23
Minnesota  5.74  Oklahoma  4.15
New Hampshire  5.73  Alabama  4.09
Hawaii  5.73  Louisiana  4.07
Colorado  5.65  Mississippi  3.93
Rhode Island  5.56  Arkansas  3.87
California  5.56  West Virginia  3.85

With the exception of two swing states, every single one of the top AHDI states is blue. There are zero red states at the top – the highest ranked red state is Alaska, coming in at number 17. Continue reading “Human Development Index among red and blue states”

Searching for Sugar Man

For every genius we have, imagine how many countless others have slipped through the cracks and gone unnoticed. By accident and political circumstance, one such artist was given a second life half way around the world.

Imagine for a moment that you are an American folk singer in the early 1970s. You put out two albums that, according to your producers, will make you bigger than Bob Dylan. Everyone in the industry thinks you’e a genius. And then nobody buys your records. The public ignores you. The music labels are dumbfounded but have no choice to drop you and move on.

At the same time, your first album, Cold Fact, somehow makes it to South Africa. Unbeknownst to you or anyone in the music industry, your songs explode in popularity and provide the anti-establishment anthems for an entire generation. In South Africa, you are bigger than Elvis and the Rolling Stones, and nobody outside of South Africa knows this, including you.

How is this possible? Continue reading “Searching for Sugar Man”

Don’t Google Image Search Asians

Two weeks ago, I posted a couple of thoughts on the Asian American community. During the writing process, I did a Google image search for Asian – the results were almost entirely pornographic in nature. Since Google’s algorithm shows results based on popularity, my search results suggest that when people do an image search for Asian, they are almost always looking for pornographic images.

This got me to thinking – what are people looking for when they search for other communities? I use the term community very loosely – any group of people that can be described using any word, whether accurate or not. I did an image search for a bunch of people, mostly by nationality to see what was popular. Here’s what I found:

Is Superman American?

He was born far away but came here as a baby. For some, he’ll always be an outsider. 

Over the weekend, a few friends and I were playing a guess-who game in which each player must figure out the secret identity that they have been assigned  by asking yes or no questions. When it was time to play Clark Kent, someone asked “Am I American”? At first, the group responded with an unsure medley of yes-no-maybe. Then, it seemed as if everyone simultaneously remembered that Superman was born on the planet Krypton. The group almost unanimously answered that Clark Kent was, in fact, not American.

I insisted that Superman was American. After all, this was the guy who fought for “truth, justice and the American way”. My claims were roundly dismissed. I kept silent for not wanting to give the player too many hints, but had wanted to ask whether by the group’s logic, I too would be considered “not American”. Clark Kent arrived in Kansas as a baby whereas I immigrated from India at age 4. Was I even less American than this non-American? Of course not.

Obviously, a Saturday night party game is not the best test  for the boundaries of perceived national identity. Most people, Americans and Indians included, perceive me to be more American than Indian. But I wonder if the group’s answer to the question that night means anything? Did they merely forget that immigration and assimilation apply to the comic book world as well? Or did they merely slip and revert to a bygone era in which the place of ones birth was all that mattered?

Perhaps I was guilty of a false equivocation – rather than being an issue of American v. non-American, this was an issue of human v. non-human. I.e. Superman can not be considered a citizen of any country on earth. But that of course is wrong, Superman was a US citizen – otherwise, he would not have been able to renounce it. Much to the dismay of Fox News and conservative American, Superman renounced his US Citizenship in April 2011. So I guess I was wrong, but not for the reason I had anticipated.