Has Obama Narrowed Our Discussion of Race?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hermene Hartman was an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama in 2008. In fact her magazine, N’DIGO, was the first to publish his image on its cover back in 1997. Since then, her enthusiasm has faded.  

Earlier this month we spoke with Ms. Hartman about how she thinks there has been "disappointment in Barack Obama as an African American" and that "there’s been no focus and deliberation with the black community."

Her comments elicited a widespread backlash, including people who told her she should not be saying these things about an African American leader — even if they believed them to be true. This brings about interesting questions concerning race in this election. Do members of the African American community feel a duty to vote for Barack Obama? Can they even criticize him, let alone declare support for Mitt Romney without fear of reprisal?

Recently, actress Stacey Dash tweeted: "Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future." Alongside the tweet she added a photo of herself in a red bathing suit standing in front of the American flag.  She received a number of comments in response, many of which attacked her identity as a black woman.

Hermene Hartman is back to discuss the responses she’s heard since making her original comments on our show. Also discussing the issues of race in the election is Renee Amoore, deputy chair of the Pennsylvania Repubrelican State Committee, and founder and president of the Amoore Group.

Renee Amoore has certainly felt the pressure to support Obama in her career as a Republican. People often ask her, "How could you be black and not vote for him?" She responds, "I'm a small business owner, and I don't agree with his policies, and I have a right to disagree with him."

Though Hermene says she will likely vote for Obama in spite of her disappointment, she thinks both candidates need to focus more on the issues, and talk openly about what they will do to for the urban, black community. "We've just had a presidential debate, and Big Bird becomes the star of the show? Give me a break. We've got to talk about real issues that affect people." 

Renee agrees that there needs to be more substance - in the debates, and in the office itself. "We keep doing this, as minorities in particular, which really frustrates me - why keep voting that person in that's not doing what they need to do?" she asks. 

But Hermene says that Romney, too, has been silent on the issues that affect the urban black community. "We've got an unemployment rate in the black community of 14 percent - that's the national rate - and the unemployment rate I think is 7.9 right now. Who's going to address that gap?" Hermene asks.

Renee Amoore thinks the Republican Party does not get the credit that it should for the work that it does for African Americans. "We're always being called racist," Amoore says, confirming the point made in our round table with Ohio voters. "And I've been black a long time, I know I'm not a racist."    

So what are the chances that Hermene will vote Republican in this election?

"I'm not voting race, I'm not voting party, I want to vote on issues, and the issues are not being fully addressed to me," Hermene says.  


Renee Amoore and Hermene Hartman

Produced by:

Jen Poyant and Ali Rahman

Comments [32]


all the time i used to read smaller content that also
clear their motive, and that is also happening with this article which I am reading at
this place.

Mar. 06 2013 11:45 PM

Wow. Hockenberry sounded like a car salesman: "What would it take for you to drive this candidate home today?" While I realize the program isn't technically "news," I still expect some journalistic restraint on the part of the host to avoid ganging up with one guest to pressure another guest. I'm glad to see that other listeners noticed the bias as well.

I wasn't able to listen to the rest of the program or to comment on this the day of the show, but I was hoping to read today that the remainder of the show contained some balance in the form of a similar segment with an Obama/Democratic representative and an on-the-fence voter leaning toward Romney. I'm very disappointed.

Oct. 12 2012 02:58 PM

Shame on you John Hockenberry, in what possible journalism principles do find it fair and partial to take sides and attempt to try to convince a person--on air mind you--to commit to one political side? Wow.

Oct. 12 2012 10:43 AM
larry fisher from brooklyn

I listened to this segment a second time. John was not too harsh on hemene...I think she felt betrayed by obama but still thought he is the best candidate for the election. Obama has a track record of helping bafrican americans in chicagvo and romney doesn't...it doesn't matter that she is mad at obama and disapointed. She is still comitted to his leadership. I could be wrong of course but I doubt it

Oct. 11 2012 06:50 PM

The most outrageous and one-sided interview I have ever heard on NPR. I once had a lot of respect for John Hockenberry, but after this badgering performancnce, that is a thing of the past.

I can't imagine The Takeaway doing a piece involving a morman Democrat badgering a Morman Romney leaning Republican off the fence for Obama. But it would amount to the same thing.

Fox News would be proud.

Oct. 11 2012 06:10 PM
Kaela from Yorktown

I have never called into a radio station left a comment. I'm incensed by your broadcast it was a on sided political attack against an uniformed and a very weak opposition. In fact Hermene Hartman recognized an Ally in the moderator when she said, don't worry we will get her.
I am a middle class femaile black woman and I would vote for President Obama because::
1) he has saved the economy. All you have to do is look at Europe as a control experiment. They pursued an Austerity agenda which is what Romney says we need. He would have let the Auto industry fail and he thinks we have too much regulation of business. Oh yes too much regulation is why the financial crisis occurred! The US economy is on its way to recovery unemployment is less than 8%.
2) he is persuing a middle class agenda he has promoted access to healthcare ( removing pre existing conditions) and higher education (college loan reform ). A strong economy needs a 100 % healthy educated population.
3 ) he cares about women and the choices they make.
Romney is the most dishonest politician I have ever experienced- all you have to do is watch his own videos. Romney vs Romney he contradicts himself all the time and so cannot be trusted.

Oct. 11 2012 04:07 PM
Katherine Jackson from New York City

This was a shockingly biased and uninformative segment, in which Hockenberry and Renee bullied Hermine, who is "on the fence" about who to vote for. None of the crucial issues were raised. There was some vague talk about Romney having an "urban agenda" that no one has heard about before, and featured Allen West, of all people, as an advisor. No one said what they meant by an "urban agenda," a term that was magically blended with "small business," as if the two were inextricably entwined, totally ignoring all the other aspects of urban employment (and other) problems. There was no one speaking in support of Obama's policies -- it was all vague Romney and let's see if we can push Hermine over the edge.

Yesterday, we heard from a whole lot of Romney supporters in a town in Ohio. I believe there was one (Black, of course) Obama supporter. In response to the charge of racism among some Republicans, one of them said there's same problem on both sides since Blacks mainly vote for Blacks. Excuse me? How many opportunities have Blacks had to vote for Blacks? And are the motives behind each set of voters the same? Is it really racism that leads Blacks to vote for Blacks in the rare instances that they have that chance????

These are depressingly un-nuanced conversations, and they are NOT conversations that are representative of a cross section American voters. For example, why mostly Romney supporters in Ohio, which Obama is favored to win? Why these particular people have been selected escapes me.

This program is NOT up to the standards of WNYC. And not
because it isn't privileging liberal views. But because it's simply not up the level of the other programs on WNYC.

Oct. 11 2012 03:40 PM
oscar from ny

Race shouldnt be a factor, i think our differences shouldve been settled this century.
What does bother me is this discussion about taxes and how presidential hopeful romney singles 47% of americans out. Why doesnt somebody do something about this, in school when were little they teach us sex education they gives us day after pills, condoms, hitler, if taxes are a mojor contribution to this society than they should start teaching us all the basics how to manuver the taxes, taxes should be personilized so ppl wont acuse us of beign bums.

Oct. 11 2012 03:31 PM
David Bush from Shohola PA

a whole lotta kool-aid being pushed here

Oct. 11 2012 03:21 PM

This was ridiculous, it sounded like fox news, one sided and uneducated. It was just Obama bashing. So frustrating!

Oct. 11 2012 03:20 PM
Judy Stadt from Spring Valley, NY

What a ridiculous show. You have two women who talked and talked and didn't say ONE thing. Waste of air time.

Oct. 11 2012 03:20 PM
Susan Voss-Rothmeier from Portland, OR

I think Hermene expected to have her own personal community organizer for Chicago in the White House when Obama won. However, since he had other matters to tend to as the leader of the free world, he couldn't continue the job of fixing Chicago anymore. But fixing the urban policies of one specific city is not the job of the president of the country. That's the job of a city's mayor and city council. Hermene needs to direct her disappointment there. However, if she is looking for just policies for the middle class and low income, then Obama's her guy. It's certainly not Romney whose primary focus is supporting the wealthy.

Oct. 11 2012 02:43 PM

Why did you NOT ask Renee Amore what it would take for her to vote for Obama. And why in the world did you have an exchange between a woman who claims to be on the fence and one who is adamantly Romney? Why did it seem as if only Hermene Hartman was being pilloried?

Oct. 11 2012 02:24 PM
James Harrison from Portland, Oregon

So John Hockenberry and a black conservative try to badger a progressive black woman into supporting Mitt Romney for president and ... that's the whole segment?

Did that really happen, or did I just hallucinate it?

Could The Takeaway really be that slanted in one direction?

Or are you also going to air a segment in which John Hockenberry and a white progressive try to badger a white conservative into voting for Barack Obama?

Oct. 11 2012 01:52 PM

That was the worst thing I've heard on NPR in years. And don't congratulate yourself on stirring things up and being innovative. Letting uninformed people have the mike, say things that are false but never corrected by the media, is the new American Way. You have joined the ranks of Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. There is subtle racism at work in this too that makes my skin crawl. Let's watch the poor misguided black people fight each other for fun -- John's chuckle at the end was telling. I hope you don't sleep a wink until the election.

Oct. 11 2012 01:47 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I think we are all on the fence and it is electrified...

Can someone fact check about the stimulus package which Hermene says didn't get to Chicago. I'm sure it didI also need Renee's facts checked about Romney's Cabinet having African Americans in it (0r what is this group of African Americans that she speaks of?). I'm sure it doesn't.

Oct. 11 2012 12:48 PM
Constance from Ann Arbor, MI

Please share this with your guests who think nothing has been done locally during the Obama administration: http://www.barackobama.com/local And by the way, none of your guests noted any specific policies that do or don't help small businesses. I just heard "I don't like his policies..." Which policies? Don't spread rhetoric if you can't back it up.

Here are some specifics to support the fact that President Obama's policies HAVE made a difference.

(PS...I do agree that I don't want to hear about Big Bird or any other small, distracting issues. Let's get both candidates to speak to the real stuff WITH SPECIFICS. Do they not get why the Bill Clinton convention speech was so successful??

Oct. 11 2012 12:20 PM

"And the Black community has a problem with President Obama's intention to redefine marriage."

I can point to a lot of white folk who have the same problems, but why make things complicated.

Oct. 11 2012 12:20 PM

"The show (amazingly on NPR) was willing to openly discuss how the Black vote is very difficult for Republicans to get this year, because blacks will support a black candidate that they don't even agree with based on solidarity."

:-) This is a funny line. Black people only support a black pol because of solidarity. Sure. So all those black votes for Clinton, Gore, and Kerry were based on melanin. Maybe the GOP has a problem with the black vote because too many in the party feel a need to race bait, from lowly Arkansas pols to people running for president (Paul and Gingrich come to mind).

Oct. 11 2012 12:12 PM
Ilyn from Providence RI

Disappointed that you didn't have well-informed participants in a conversation about who is/isn't helping the black community in America.
Yes, we are all disappointed that the economy isn't booming. But, wait, does anyone remember that we were on the verge of a very real depression, not just a serious recession, when the President took office? How would black people or any other group for that matter have fared without any stimulus package, without all the efforts the President made to keep unemployment benefits coming despite Republican roadblocks, the payroll tax cut, and on and on. How about his efforts to keep Medicare from sliding into a "voucher" shell of a program? Aren't all of those efforts worth something to the black community? And on the Republican side, what about Paul Ryan's budget which the Republicans and candidate Romney have embraced...with serious plans to gut Medicare for the poor, the disabled, and children; deep cuts to education, food stamps, all these "entitlement" programs intended to keep people from sinking lower and lower into poverty while they insist on continuing tax cuts for the rich people and oil companies who pay little or no taxes. Someone needs to look at the 47% video and take in not just the words but the conviction behind that sincere Romney message that a lot of people in America are just not worth bothering about.

Oct. 11 2012 11:53 AM


Oct. 11 2012 11:29 AM
RD from MA

I was very disappointed with the harassing tone this story took. I feel that if you are going to be noncommittal, you should have had someone loaded with information on BOTH sides.

Oct. 11 2012 11:24 AM
Katherine from Miami, Florida

I agree with "SPS from Brooklyn's" comments - and I'm not hearing any of these people that are being interviewed about "why vote for Obama again when he hasn't done anything", well, remember that the President just doesn't get to do what he wants - its having to deal with Congress and let's face the truth - this Congress has stated that they will not now or ever pass anything Obama or the Democratic Party wants. They are being so obstructionst during this Adminstration, its just ludicrous. The Republican Party as it is today, will be the downfall of this country if nothing is done to stop them.

Oct. 11 2012 10:51 AM
Colin from Brooklyn

I am a Democrat who is not happy with with the Obama Administration with respects to the black community. Whenever the right wing says boo and accuses the administration is doing "too much" for blacks the president's first response is to throw a black person under the bus i.e. Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod. And when they do something for the black community it is done as part of "stealth agenda" i.e. the channeling of more more money to HBC's but keep such actions under wraps.

Miss Amoore has done nothing repeat nothing to address the all out racist elements that controls her party. I speaking of the Dixiecrats who and left the Democratic Party since the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and since the late '70s and '80's has taken over leadership of the Republican Party. She as part of Pennsylvania state party leadership endorses the recently enacted the voter suppression laws that would disenfranchise hundred of thousands of black voters in urban areas such as elderly black people who migrated from southern states who don't have state sanctioned birth certificates. Besides what specific policies Miss Amoore says is hurting small busineses?? The Republicans always says that Obama's policies are bad but never name which one specifically.

Yes the Obama Adminstration has not done enough for the black community but that does not mean that blacks should go for the snake oil and tokenism that the Republicans are selling.

Oct. 11 2012 10:09 AM

I was pleasantly surprised that The Takeaway was willing to have a "discussion no one wants to have." The theme of this program was not which candidate was better; it was "Do people support their candidate on the basis of race alone?" The critical comments below seem to be from those that felt there was no true discussion of the candidate's positions, but that wasn't the purpose of the show.

I will be the first to say that what was lacking was any discussion of what Romney's urban task force was planning TO DO (not just the mere fact it exists). Renee Amoore promised she would "make sure" that information got out, but why didn't she use a national forum like this talk show to just tell us now?

Meanwhile you can't fault the host for leaning on Hermene Hartman. He did not ask Ms. Hartman if she would vote for Romney, instead he asked that given she has already admitted herself that Obama has no effective urban agenda, would she be willing to vote for Romney if he presented an urban agenda that she agreed with? Three times he asked her this and not once could Ms. Hartman say yes. For Ms. Hartman to basically say (and this is NOT a direct quote but a summation of what she was saying) "I will vote for Obama even if after 4 years he has offered no effective urban plan, but I will only say I will listen (not vote, mind you) to Romney if he presents an effective plan" is very telling, and that's all the show's host was trying to emphasize.

The show (amazingly on NPR) was willing to openly discuss how the Black vote is very difficult for Republicans to get this year, because blacks will support a black candidate that they don't even agree with based on solidarity. I am not saying this is a good or bad thing; I am saying this is why Romney hasn't clearly addressed urban issues because he feels this will not help him get elected - and this is a shame because every politician needs to address this, including Obama!

Oct. 11 2012 10:07 AM
norris from miami

Iam a contributor and supporter of public radio. I cannot believe the way the women who was on the fence about Obama was being continuously harrassed to change to vote for mitt Romney but you did not do the same with the republican. I don't think this was correct or even appropriate. I no longer will be listening to this show

Oct. 11 2012 09:55 AM

The way John Hockenberry (sp?) was pushing Hermine just a few minutes ago started resembling Rush Limbaugh! What the heck? That's not your job, and if this show is heading in that kind of direction, I won't be tuning in any more!

Oct. 11 2012 09:30 AM
Rita Smith from Detroit, MI

I turned The Take Away on and off in the first 5 minutes. The initial discussion is ridiculous. Are you planning to have a white Romney supporter on who supports him because they don't trust a black person being president, then have another white person defend their decision to trust a black person? The initial premise of the discussion was wrong on so many levels, it was not worthy of being on Public Radio. Are you planning to have Romney supporters on to defend his urban agenda, what about his rural agenda, etc.? John, I always felt many of your comments were not appropriate, but the balance with Celeste kept me listening, now I have no reason to listen.

Oct. 11 2012 09:27 AM
sps from Brooklyn

John Hockenberry (sorry for lack of spelling), that was the worst thing I have ever heard on this program. I'll put forth that, as much as I have disagreed with President Obama in various ways, I am still on his side. Romney is a candidate without a core, and I can throw all sorts of references behind that claim.

What you just put on the radio was like an episode of reality television. You didn't moderate in the least, and you ended up pushing the woman "on the fence" about Obama about whether she would vote for Romney, without barely questioning the nonsense put forth by the lifelong Republican Romney supporter, who claims to be independent thinking (despite being a lifelong Republican).

I didn't have to study journalism to know that "discussion" was filled with a bunch of nonsense, with a bunch of from the gut, fact-less back and forth.

Please, do not ever put something like that on the radio again and pretend it is worth the attention of intelligent listeners.

Oct. 11 2012 09:26 AM

Mitt Romney has no urban agenda. Can Renee tell us what Romney's urban agenda is? Mitt Romney does not really care about the poor. He said so himself.

Oct. 11 2012 09:20 AM

The woman who said Romney has called together a "black task force" and says Allen West is on the task force does not make Romney look better to me. Allen West is not wrapped too tight. He said that most Democrats in Congress are communists.

Oct. 11 2012 09:17 AM
Ed from Larchmont

And the Black community has a problem with President Obama's intention to redefine marriage.

Oct. 11 2012 08:05 AM

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