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Politics and the...

Politics and the American Social Construct

The exit polls, taken immediately after voters have exited the polling stations, typically focus on the following categories: party identification, gender, race, age, income, and education. Media political pollsters were thrown a curve when the 2008 Democratic Primary Elections were held in Puerto Rico.

Data, identifying gender, age, income, and education were documented in the Puerto Rico exit polls, but the color distinctions that had been afforded such significance in the state primary elections were reduced to a non-issue in the U.S. Commonwealth located just 1,000 miles south of Florida. According to the 2000 census in Puerto Rico, 80 percent of Puerto Ricans classify themselves as White and 8 percent as Black. In the continental U.S., the ratio of Black to White is 80 percent to just fewer than 13 percent.

The questions of, did white voters vote for Obama or what percentage of support did he receive from blacks, was not presented as an issue of concern in Puerto Rico.

I found this rather amusing. The standard color-based shorthand used by American politicians and media to quantify populations goes out the window when the people speak with accents. The artificial color construct that is used to separate the fair-skinned Sean Hannity and the dark-skinned Barry Bonds would not apply to the fair-skinned Geraldo Rivera and the dark-skinned Roberto Clemente.

On the mainland, the latter would be identified as black and white Americans. In the commonwealth they are not considered black and white Puerto Ricans, they are referred to as Latinos, Hispanics, or just Puerto Ricans. Geography has replaced color as an identifier. To identify Barry Bonds as an American based on his geography would not be sufficient in the U.S.

My point is not to dissect the complex genetic pool or color-based politics of the people of Puerto Rico. Nor is it to explore the complex genetic pool of the U.S. Exit polls are used to collect demographic data about voters and to find out why they voted as they did. The question is, why has color become a major divisive issue used to manipulate the passions of the continental U.S. electorate, yet not a word was mentioned with respect to Puerto Rico?

Should we arrive at a period in history when it becomes profitable to exploit the color differences in the Commonwealth, black and white Puerto Ricans will appear out of the woodwork?