How unthinkable it was, not so long ago, that a presidential election would pit a candidate fathered by an African against another condemned as un-Christian.
Yet here it is: Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney, an African-American and a white Mormon, representatives of two groups and that have endured oppression to carve out a place in the United States.
How much progress has America made against bigotry? By November, we should have some idea.
Perhaps mindful of the lingering power of prejudice, both men soft-pedal their status as racial or religious pioneers. But these things “will be factors whether they’re explicitly stated or not, because both Obama and Romney are minorities,” said Nancy Wadsworth, co-editor of the anthology “Faith and Race in American Political Life.”
Mormons are 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center. African-Americans are 12.6 percent
“Americans like to obsess about ways that people are different,” said Wadsworth, a political science professor at the University of Denver. Voters of all types say that a candidate’s race or religious beliefs should not be cause for bias, “but Americans are really conflicted about this, and they talk out of both sides of their mouth.”
In an October 2011 Associated Press-GfK poll, 21 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to cast a presidential vote for a Mormon. Four percent said they would be less likely to vote for a black person. An AP poll during the 2008 campaign found that nearly 40 percent of white Americans had at least a partly negative view of black people.