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February 15th, 2008
06:53 PM ET

Soledad O'Brien: Conversation on Race

I'm standing around with some other moms after drop-off at my boys' school.  We have a few minutes, it's a relatively warm morning, and it's the day after the most recent primary – which means we are talking politics.

They always ask me who's going to win, knowing full well that I've got no clue, and I'd never even hazard a guess. 

Our conversation quickly turns to race:  One of the moms is Cuban-American – and a big Obama supporter.  Her father, she tells me, is not supporting Obama.  "It's racist" she insists. "He's an older man, who will never ever vote for a black man.  Won't happen." 

This is a curious conversation for me.  I'm black and Latino (my mom is Cuban, and now a naturalized citizen) and this isn't the first time I've heard this.  Especially now as the Latino vote is so critical.

Will Latinos support Obama?  Why is there an assumption that not supporting the black guy is racist?  And really, what Latinos are we talking about?  Latinos aren't some monolithic group that marches in lockstep to the polls. 

And what about the role of immigration?  Exit polls show it trails other issues – and just like all other Americans, Latinos are voting on issues that affect them at home: The economy, health care.  But don't we always talk about how immigration is THE issue for Latinos?

My girlfriend, who is black and Puerto Rican, rolls her eyes.  "Illegal immigration is not my issue!  Puerto Ricans ARE Americans! Hello!."  She says it's competition for jobs that's the reality.  Her father's side of the family (the Puerto Rican side) is all for Sen. Clinton.  Her mother's side – the African-Americans – all for Obama.

"It's not racist, it's practical.  You vote for who speaks to you."

– Soledad O'Brien, CNN Anchor

Program note:  “Uncovering America: Race, Gender and Politics” airs Friday on 360° at 10p ET

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