Even in 21st Century, race an issue in Youngstown elections

MACK

The November elections are still a few months away but we already know, race will play a significant role in who wins. News Outlet reporter Andrew Donofrio brings us the story and the many voices of race and politics.

 

Brenda Mack, president of the Mahoning County Black Republicans, doesn’t vote based on race, but admits that a lot of other minorities do. “Bottom line is that blacks just don’t trust people of non-color,” she said. — Photo by Andrew Donofrio/TheNewsOutlet.org

Brenda Mack, president of the Mahoning County Black Republicans, doesn’t vote based on race, but admits that a lot of other minorities do. “Bottom line is that blacks just don’t trust people of non-color,” she said. — Photo by Andrew Donofrio/TheNewsOutlet.org

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This election is going to be rationally motivated. I mean it’s just a matter of the way that the wards in the city… (Joyce Kale-Pesta)

I think that some elections are racially motivated…(Brenda Mack)

Tito is going to prevail in the predominantly African-American wards in the city and McNally will prevail in the…(Bill Binning)

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Many people feel uncomfortable talking about it because they’re afraid that their views will be interpreted as having a racist edge. (John C. Greene)

Blacks just don’t trust people of non-color. There is a mistrust there. Some it’s justifiable and some of it…(Brenda Mack)

Campaign messages tap in to how we were raised into those deeper values. (John C. Greene)

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(Tony Affigne) For any ethnic group, we tend to understand the life experiences of people like ourselves; we tend to misunderstand the life experiences of people unlike ourselves. Sometimes these create biases and stereotypes, which make it difficult to truly evaluate candidates fairly.

This November, as voters cast their ballots, there’ll be an elephant in the room, but it won’t be a Grand Old Party mascot. Instead, it’s the unspoken impact race and ethnicity has on their choice of candidates.

Race is defined by physical features like skin color, while ethnicity is defined by our cultural identities. Both play a significant role in elections. John Greene, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics in Akron, says many people don’t want to discuss it.

Because they have a sense that this is a sensitive issue, and that there are dominant views in American society that might be critical of what they might say. People have different experiences; and so, they see the world through a different lens. Where you have two candidates – maybe equally qualified – that can’t transcend these kinds of social distinctions, and so then, then it can become quite polarized because different groups of voters will see one candidate as much more acceptable. 

Brenda Mack, president of the Mahoning County Black Republics, says if a white candidate and a minority candidate appear evenly matched, minorities tend to vote along the race line.

Certainly, a lot of minorities will vote for someone based on the color of their skin, and a lot of times without doing the homework on that candidate.  

East Side resident, Rhonda Burt:

More than often, white people have always had chances at everything, so as a black person, I would vote for a black person that has some experience, that knows what he’s doing. So, you’re expecting a black candidate to care about issues that are going on in the black neighborhood because they’ve dealt with that type of thing.

The “us and them” voting mentality in the Mahoning Valley has thrived, said Joyce Kale-Pesta, director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections. “It’s a sad thing … but that’s the reality of it.”

The “us and them” voting mentality in the Mahoning Valley has thrived, said Joyce Kale-Pesta, director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections. “It’s a sad thing … but that’s the reality of it.”

Joyce Kale-Pesta, director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, says in the Mahoning Valley an “us and them” mentality has been passed down through the generations.

Mahoning County is different than any other part of the state. I go to all kind of conferences and I talk to people, ‘Oh, you still vote that way. You mean, your people still think that way.’ Oh yeah, they still think that way. It’s just our upbringing, I think. It’s just our parents and our grandparents. You know, we’re a working town.

South Side resident, Jessica Moody:

That’s a textbook mentality, because it’s like you’re looking at the cover of a book, but do you ever stop in the middle and read the pages. What can you do to help me to help make where I live better? That has nothing to do with color.

North Side resident, Joe Parent:

There’s so much that goes into voting. There’s so much that goes into campaigning and winning. I think they want it to be simple. I think any white candidate would want to say, ‘OK, I know I’m going to get the white vote. What do I have to do to get the black vote? I think that’s why they get surprised a lot in elections because it’s not simple.

West Side resident, Patricia Sveth, who is 58 years old, taught at East High School:

Particularly, watching two almost three generations come through the school system and how the students have changed. They’re a lot more open-minded I would say. Things that concerned even a generation before them like, let’s say, sexuality or even race doesn’t seem to affect them.

 (Joe Parent) I know that it doesn’t matter to me. I voted for mayor Williams, and I would not have voted for Sammarone.

Williams is black; Sammarone, White

My generation … Parent is 29-years-old … you’re going to win us by hitting our topics. We we’re raised differently. We went to school differently. I don’t think race is nearly as much of an issue.

(Patricia Sveth) We’re being blended now more and more. That I think class will be a bigger issue than race and ethnicity in the future.

Again, Jessica Moody:

Where the younger generation is concerned, we’ve seen some major changes along racial lines. We’ve seen some crazy changes. And to me, that’s saying they’ve closed a lot of doors on racism, and they’re opening a lot of other doors to say, ‘People are people.’”

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Reporting for TheNewsOutlet.org, I’m Andrew Donofrio.