Reason Enough?

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a "black issues" think tank, estimates that Barack Obama could receive 94 percent of the black vote, the highest since President Lyndon Johnson was elected in 1964. I find being one of the six percent who isn't voting for him liberating, however. Freed from the tyranny of basing my worldview entirely on my skin color, I'm allowed to be the unique individual that God made me. Unfortunately, most black Americans view this election from a single lens, that of race. If you don't support Barack Obama, you're a racist. If you don't support Barack Obama and you're black, you're a self-loathing, Stephin Fechit Uncle Tom - and those are the nice things they'll say about you. Just ask James T. Harris who Heidi Thiess saluted as "a black man who dares to be a Republican in the Age of Obama."  Because he publicly implored Senator McCain to "take it to Obama," he has been under constant attack.

Just ask Huntley Brown, a black Christian pianist who wrote a personal e-mail to friends expressing why he wasn't going to vote for Barack Obama. That e-mail made it into the blogosphere and before long he was under attack. "I am not a politician. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I am a Christian independent who just loves the Lord," he said. "The sad part is I have been getting hate mail and my family is being harassed. As you can imagine, not everyone is happy with my e-mail. God bless you richly." I presume he's speaking of the one true God, not the god of Rev. Jeremiah Wright who hates America and white people.

I've had black friends tell me that Barack Obama's race is sufficient reason for blacks to vote for him because it begins to address past wrongs and builds our children's self-esteem. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a courageous man of the civil rights era and someone esteemed by John McCain, insulted many of us when he equated our expressions of discontent over the notion of an Obama presidency with the segregationist tactics of the late Alabama governor George Wallace. He has further declared Barack Obama's election "a down payment...an installment, on making the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. and a dream of America real." Dr. King's dream, however, was for us to be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. I'm not allowed to evaluate Barack Obama's character or principles, however, without being insulted for my lack of racial pride. Who is truly the bearer of the great man's dream?

As a conservative who just happens to be black, I've learned first-hand that identity politics in the black community only goes so far. Here in Maryland we had an opportunity in 2006 to elect the first black U.S. Senator in our state's history, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Pennsylvania and Ohio could have elected their first black governors, Republicans Lynn Swann and Ken Blackwell respectively. I was a Republican candidate for the Maryland Senate running against a white 30+ year incumbent who was ambivalent at best to black interests. Blacks voted against their own in droves that year, however, with one black pastor in our state declaring from the pulpit that "your skinfolk ain't necessarily your kinfolk." Funny that the IRS let him off the hook since it was clearly an endorsement of Michael Steele's opponent, who was white. Seems the race card has only one side to it. When my black friends say I should support Barack Obama because he's black, perhaps my response should be "my skinfolk ain't necessarily my kinfolk."

Who are my kinfolk? My kinfolk are people who believe what's on the inside matters more than what's on the outside. My kinfolk put their relationship with God before their race. My kinfolk believe in forgiveness and reconciliation, following the example of Christ, rather than carrying grudges and looking for payback. My kinfolk believe in the dignity of every human being, born and unborn, and would never consider the killing of innocent children a sacred right. My kinfolk believe we have an equal right to pursue happiness, not a right to have it guaranteed by taking from some and giving to others. My kinfolk believe our nation's success comes from its people, not its government.

The great thing about my kinfolk is there's no ethnic or racial litmus test to be included. It's really all about character. Here, the dream still lives.