Obama’s election is changing the politics of race

By | January 6, 2009

Peter Wallsten, Los Angeles Times

– With Senate leaders threatening to block Roland Burris from being sworn in today as Barack Obama’s replacement, many of his supporters see a familiar story of race and injustice.

An all-white club, they say, is trying to prevent a black man from gaining admission, as well as the power that comes with a Senate seat. Summoning a harsh metaphor from the nation’s racial battles, Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) even called the Senate “the last bastion of plantation politics.”

But the Burris episode has unexpectedly become the first example of how racial politics have changed with the election of Barack Obama to the White House.

Many black leaders, including Obama, have declined to back Burris, even if that leaves the Senate with no African American members. Some view his appointment by Illinois’ embattled governor as an odd playing of the race card. Others are renouncing the style of politics that highlights racial grievances and inequality, saying it can no longer work now that the nation has elected its first black president.

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