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Race complicated subject in Denver

August 25, 2008 8:12:41 PM PDT
With an African American on the verge of receiving his party's nomination, this is historic, not only in terms of presidential politics, but also in terms of America's march toward social justice. But when a reporter pops the race question at this convention, he has to pick his spots.It's not the Reverend Willie Barrow's first convention, but it's already the most meaningful:

"It's a strange kind of freedom. It's strange but it's great," Barrow laughed.

The 84-year-old civil rights activist was born in racially segregated Texas in the 1920s. She's there this week to see a black man nominated for president:

"I grew up on a farm milking cows and picking cotton. Now I'm picking presidents," Barrow said.

And the significance is not lost on younger African-American delegates.

"Our children have to leave this convention and this moment in American history and say, 'All things are possible,'" said Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D) Chicago.

But WVON-AM radio host Roland Martin said Sen. Barack Obama strategists do not want racial pride or racial matters of any kind to dominate convention news. Case in point: Sunday's "Uncle Tom controversy" in the Illinois delegation.

"The last thing you want to hear during the convention, is to be sidetracked, some nonsense that has nothing to do with message," Martin said.

Non-black delegates interviewed said their support for Obama had nothing to do with race and everything to do with values.

"I think we have to get people to focus on what really matters. And what really matters is our country is struggling," said Dan Hynes (D) Illinois Comptroller.

But Kentucky Congressman John Yarmouth said white support for a black candidate won't come easy in the rural parts of his state.

"People really don't have a lot of exposure to African Americans, so they still lack a certain comfort level," said Yarmouth.

But Barrow said enough people of all races have already responded to Obama's candidacy to forever change her outlook on race in America.

"I don't have nothing no more unless I have a mixed crowd. There's got to be white women, got to be black women, got to be Hispanic women, we got to get together," she said.


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