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Choice of firsts for African-American women

The Daily ItemLYNN – Barbara Barton calls herself the quiet sister among a pack of five female siblings, but she wasn’t shy in voicing her views a month ago during a sisterly debate over the merits of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”They were all for Obama, but I said we need experience,” she said.In a year when Democrats are attempting to elect the first woman or first African-American president, African-American women are faced with a political choice and a test of allegiances as they discuss Clinton’s and Obama’s merits and shortcomings.In Barton’s view, a fundamental question overarches all the talk: “Is the country ready for an African-American or woman president? I don’t know.”Democrats and unenrolled voters across America will provide an answer next Tuesday when they vote in the nation’s mega primary. The definitive answer will come in November when the Democrat nominee’s name appears opposite the Republican presidential choice.For Barton, the Obama-Clinton debate is set against the backdrop of her family’s contribution to civic service and commitment to civil rights. Family matriarch Virginia Barton’s home is a shrine to “The Movement” with a faded Segregation-era sign for a “colored waiting room” prominently displayed on her parlor wall.Virginia Barton met Hillary and Bill Clinton four decades ago at an Arkansas convention and liked their way with people.”They didn’t seek out the most important people. They hung with us.”She supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign at the outset of the election season, but Obama’s oratory swayed her to the point where “I fell in love with him.””I said, ‘He’s too young’ but the more I learned about him the more I liked him.”Virginia Barton said her positive views of Hillary Clinton were clouded two weeks ago by some of the former president’s remarks in the South Carolina Democratic primary.”I was shocked and disappointed. I felt like he was slapping (civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther) King aside.”Barbara Barton shares her mother’s sense of outrage, but her aunt, Dorothy Taylor, is not as upset with Clinton’s forcible campaign style. She is undecided when it comes to assigning her allegiance to the woman or the African-American candidate.”I still like her but I’m hearing the truth from him. It will be a hard decision,” Taylor said.Obama’s candidacy is a trigger for impassioned discussion among young African-American professionals said Housing Authority neighborhood housing services manager Brandi Walker.”Some of my friends get angry when I say I’m undecided. They say, ‘Are you serious?'”Conversations with relatives and friends suggest many African-American women are “stuck in the middle” when it comes to Obama and Clinton, Walker said.”A lot of women I have spoken to say you have Hillary Clinton standing behind Bill Clinton’s shadow. She needs to step up to the front.”The biggest election concerns for Walker are affordable housing, health care, education and youth violence. She has yet to hear either Democrat explain their views on those topics definitively enough to capture her vote.She plans to spend some time this weekend studying both candidates’ views and plans to pick a candidate by Monday. Barbara Barton knows when she will make her choice.”When I go to the polls Tuesday, I’ll make up my mind.”

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