In our lab we have developed a model that examines cross-racial identification and have linked it basic cognitive processes. The model makes clear predictions about how faces of famous individuals who are of other-races will be processed. This is a clip from a blog that Kim sent as it is relevant to our model.
I hesitated about posting this section as I have concerns about even copying and pasting something that has the "N" word in it. However, since the text comes directly from Eric Deggans and I presume it is a direct quote from a movie...well I decided to edit the quote anyway.
Ask the white person nearest you whether these ideas make any sense.
The Do the Right Thing effect - I named this for the moment in Spike Lee's legendary film where he confronts a racist pizzeria operator with the observation that the guy makes awful comments about black people but loves Prince, Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson.
"It's different," John Turturro's Pino Frangione insists. "Magic, Eddie, Prince are not [ivylea]iggers...They're not really black. They're black but they're not really black. They're more than black. To me, it's different."
And that's a dynamic no one can measure. It's been my experience as the occasional object of racism that there are some folks who feel badly about the idea of black people, but those attitudes can change for specific black people they feel they know.
So there are probably some Democratic voters who don't see Obama as a typical black person, and don't transfer those negative, generic feelings onto him -- particularly because he doesn't fit the easy stereotypes, even of black politicians. And as long as Obama has been running for president, there are many voters who didn't really get to know him until he clinched the Democratic nomination in July.
It's something people of color face every day: you're a symbol to the world until you get famous enough that you're not.